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Interior clear timber finishes


Resene Popular Paint Systems –
Exterior and interior woodcare© (stains and clear finishes): training notes

This web page is an edited version of the Resene Best System Selling training notes provided to Resene staff and is provided to enable you to gain a greater understanding of the substrates and paint systems you may encounter in your decorating project. It is impossible to cover all decorating scenarios in a single document, so if you are in doubt about any aspect of your project please contact Resene for assistance.

How to polyurethane or varnish interior timber (clear finishes)

Note: Refer to the PDF flowchart for a visual of the steps below:


  1. Sand using 220 grit zinc stearate to remove any surface imperfections and wipe with a tack cloth to remove all sanding residues.

  2. Finish options:

  3. Apply a first coat of your selected system - Resene Qristal Poly-Flat or Resene Aquaclear gloss - as a seal coat BEFORE filling - refer notes.

  4. Fill any timber splits and nail or screw holes. See notes.

  5. Varnish/polyurethane options:

    1. Waterborne: Recommend 2-3 coats of Resene Aquaclear in satin, semi-gloss and gloss.
    2. Solventborne: Apply 2-3 coats of Resene Qristal Polyurethane in flat, satin or gloss.
    3. Heavy duty for table tops, vanity and bath surrounds: Recommend Resene Polythane or the Resene Uracryl system.

Old, clear finished

  1. Wash using mild detergent or Resene Interior Paintwork Cleaner to remove any surface contaminants, residues etc.

  2. Sand using 220 grit zinc stearate to remove any flaked or peeled areas and to provide a key for subsequent coats. Wipe with a tack cloth to remove sanding residues. Note: if completely stripped treat as per new.

  3. Varnish/polyurethane options:

    1. Waterborne: Recommend 2-3 coats of Resene Aquaclear in satin, semi-gloss and gloss.
    2. Solventborne: Apply 2-3 coats of Resene Qristal Polyurethane in flat, satin or gloss.
    3. Heavy duty for table tops, vanity and bath surrounds: Recommend Resene Polythane or the Resene Uracryl system.

Interior clear timber finishes


  • Resene Qristal Polyurethanes impart a yellow tone to timber so are suited to timbers with a yellow, orange or red undertone – such as Cedar, Rimu, Eucalyptus and Jarrah (see below) while Resene Aquaclear is water white and doesn’t accentuate the natural undertone of timber to the same degree, so is more suited to white (or pale) timbers such as Pine, Macrocarpa and Oak as well as composite boards – MDF and particle and strand board.

  • Resene Waterborne Colorwood is best applied in thin films by brush, before wiping with a clean lint free cloth – working the stain into the timber (or particle board), if the colour is too light build the colour up with a second application.

  • Resene Danska Teak Oil will accentuate the grain in most hardwoods and is best used under Resene Qristal Polyurethane.

  • If a waterborne and environmentally preferable system is desired (compared to Resene Danska Teak Oil and Resene Qristal Clear), we recommend Resene Waterborne Colorwood in either half or quarter strength Resene Red Beech or Resene Oregon before applying Resene Aquaclear.

  • Fill nail and screw holes with either a premixed coloured filler such as Coloured Wood Filler or putty mixed with Resene MPS Stainers.

  • The resins in Totara and Matai affect the drying of traditional polyurethanes including Resene Qristal Clear (but not Resene Polythane) and need to be sealed with a coat of Resene Aquaclear if using Resene Qristal Clear, or simply continue using Resene Aquaclear.

  • Jarrah has a magnificent reddish brown undertone, however over time it loses its redness but retains the less striking brown undertone. To overcome this Jarrah is often stained with a Jarrah stain (it is sometimes referred to as a dye) or Resene Waterborne Colorwood in full or half strength Resene Meranti.

  • Professional painters and furniture restorers will sometimes add a small amount of tint or stainers (usually Resene MPS Stainers) to polyurethanes such as Resene Aquaclear and Resene Qristal Clear. While this will not stain timber like Resene Waterborne Colorwood it helps eliminate any patchiness when used over a stain and can rejuvenate faded or bleached timbers – including aged Rimu etc. We don’t have formulas as such, but as a rule no more than a couple of mls (1 to 1.5 units per litre) is added. Also a small amount of Resene Waterborne Colorwood can be added to Resene Aquaclear to deepen and even out any patchiness in the stain.

  • If you want a wax finish or a suitable base for a wax (to be applied over), you can use 1 or 2 coats of Resene Qristal Poly-Flat as a base or alternatively if you want it to look waxed but without the hassle of waxing then simply continue with an extra coat or two of Resene Qristal Polyflat as it has a very similar look to a wax finish.

    Note: A wax finish is very difficult to clean off or strip if you wish to apply a polyurethane or paint system at a later date as neither system will stick to any wax residue. This is also the reason we recommend timber floors are sanded back to bare timber when recoating as wax based cleaning products will contaminate the surface.

Key accessories - essential to complete the job

  • 35mm-63mm PAL Legend brush for waterbased or PAL Premier Oval for solventborne – the brush size will depend on the project
  • Putty and/or Coloured Wood Filler
  • Resene Paint pot or pots (for decanting into)
  • Masking tape
  • Painters or latex gloves if using Resene Waterborne Colorwood
  • Sandpaper
  • 120-150 grit garnet for initial sanding
  • 220-400 grit zinc stearate for fine finishing and sanding between coats
  • Tack cloth (to remove sanding residue (important if using zinc stearate sandpaper)
  • Stirrer if using Resene Waterborne Colorwood
  • Clean lint free cloth(s) for wiping Resene Waterborne Colorwood (old Tee Shirts are ideal)
  • Turps if using Resene Qristal Polyurethane

Add ons - to make job easier or quicker

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