How to create the perfect finish on Richard Burbidge Stair Balustrade


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Once Richard Burbidge products have been installed they must be finished to seal the pores, protect the surface and give an attractive appearance. Successful finishing will depend on correct preparation of the surface, filling of nail holes and sanding to remove marks which have occurred during installation, for example. We recommend that all finishes are applied to test pieces so that the finish obtained is the one that you wish to achieve. Please read manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Richard Burbidge display models are spray lacquered. A similar finish can be achieved using brush applied methods:

  1. Sand the surface with a fine grade sandpaper. Traces of dust and grease can be removed using a cloth dampened with white spirit.
  2. First coat - mix together one part white spirit, three parts polyurethane clear varnish and if a colour is required one part spirit based wood stain/dye.
  3. Allow at least eight hours to dry. Lightly rub down using a fine grade wire wool and apply a coat of clear varnish only.
  4. Allow at least eight hours to dry and apply two further coats of clear varnish.

If you have access to spray facilities a clear finish can be achieved by:

  1. Rub down with 240 grit sandpaper and apply one coat of sanding/sealer.
  2. Allow to dry and denib/sand with a fine grade wire wool.
  3. Apply two coats of pre-cat lacquer (if a coloured finish is required use tinted pre-cat lacquer).

The following details are examples of some of the more popular ways of finishing. Of course, before applying your chosen finish (stain, paint or varnish) your timber product should be properly prepared. Pin/nail holes should be filled with a proprietary filler and the product sanded to remove blemishes that can occur during installation.

Note - Techniques such as rag rolling, marbling and graining can give a more decorative effect. Comprehensive details can be found in numerous books/manuals on wood finishing.



Available in clear matt, satin and gloss finishes and also tinted/coloured, varnish gives a tough, durable and hardwearing finish which requires minimal maintenance and is heat and water resistant. Coloured varnishes have the advantage of being suitable for application on previously varnished surfaces. When applying coloured varnishes you should note that as they do not penetrate the wood like a true wood stain/dye it is a good idea to finish with a couple of coats of clear varnish which will prevent colour loss due to wear and tear.

As well as polyurethane varnishes there are a number of acrylic/water-based varnishes which are solvent free, have a low odour and are extremely quick drying. They also have the advantage of easy brush maintenance and require only a quick rinse with water after use.


Oils can be used to seal timber. They do, however, tend to be used on hardwoods only as softwoods discolour and become dirty very quickly. There are various types available which are easy to apply, usually by rag or brush. Teak oil is quick drying whilst Danish oil has the advantage of being able to accept a varnish for added protection. Linseed oil is slow drying and tends to be soft.

danish oil

Example of a Danish Oil Finish

These will pentrate the wood and are used to enhance the colour and to some extent unify and neutralise the natural colour variations that occur in timbers. They tend to dry quickly and are usually applied with a cloth along the grain.
Before it is dry, excess stain/dye is wiped off with a lint-free cloth. Wood stains/dyes do not seal the timber and require a varnish or polish application to finish.

All in one finish enhances the colour of wood and is normally brush applied. Unlike wood stains/dyes it also seals the timber and is quick drying with further coats being applied after just two hours.

This gives a very good gloss finish. It is applied by building up in layers and is made from a mixture of shellac and alcohol, with a fair degree of skill required to achieve a good finish. French polish does not provide any real protection, with the surface not resistant to scratches, heat, water or alcohol and is normally applied to surfaces that receive little wear and tear. A modern alternative two part treatment is ‘plastic coating’, which does provide resistance to heat, liquids and scratches. 

This is best applied to coarse grained woods such as oak. A traditional mixture for liming oak can be achieved by mixing unslaked lime with water. Once applied and semidry any surplus is wiped off. When dry this is rubbed down with glasspaper and a coat of French polish is added, with a final coat of white polish to finish. Alternatively,an easier method is to mix white matt emulsion with water to the same consistency as milk and brush into the grain, wiping off before setting. To finish and seal two coats of satin
varnish are applied, giving an eggshell shine. Liming wax is also available, which is quick and easy to apply.