What Customers Mean by "Natural"

When customers ask for a "natural" finish, they mean a simple sealer and clear top coat no stain. April 30, 2006

What would you do if a customer wanted a natural clear coated maple finish? Would you stain with a natural clear stain first, or just seal and clear topcoat?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
"Natural" is a stain color. It doesn't mean the same as "clear." From the wording of your post, it sounds as though your customer wants no stain. Putting untinted stain base on before lacquering will bring out the depth and figure of the wood.

From contributor M:
Make up two samples, and then show it to your customer - they would know better than we would.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Seal and topcoat... that's what they asked for. "Natural" stain is really nothing more than a drying oil (e.g., linseed oil).

From contributor B:
Paul is correct. When our clients ask for "natural finish" it means sealer and topcoat.
Nothing better than doing a natural finish - easy money.

From contributor E:
I will agree with finishing it clear, as opposed to staining it with natural base stain, then finishing it clear. The variable is what is the clear finish. If you finish it with lacquer or conversion varnish clear, it really won't be clear. I always thought it was until I used acrylic urethane. Shoot 1/2 board with solvent topcoat - other 1/2 with water-borne urethane - and it will be obvious which is clear. Lacquer or c.v. look amber compared to acrylic urethane on maple. Give them A.U. They will love it.

From contributor G:
I have used a light tan colored stain called Natural. It had pigment in it, not clear base. Am I the only one who differentiates between natural stain and clearcoat finish?

From contributor B:
Yes, there is a stain called "natural." But my company interprets "natural finish" as sand, seal, topcoat.

From contributor M:
Water clear coatings have their place. I prefer them over the whites and light colored finishes, because they do not yellow the colors. But amber colored coatings actually enhance most woods and the stained colored finishes.