How to get a mirror finish on wood

Updated February 21, 2017

Glassy, reflective wood is the mark of a craftsman. Table tops, musical instruments, gunstocks and exterior wood doors are examples of mirror finishing. Glossy finishing takes more time and more preparation, but it's not hard if the proper steps are taken before applying the finish. Using high gloss lacquer is one way, but the proper sanding is required before applying any kind of top coat to achieve a mirror finish.

Sand the wood by hand, with the grain using the hand block with 100-grit sandpaper. Use short strokes, moving forward two inches at a time, then back one inch. Sand until the wood is completely smooth and blended without any visible nicks, scratches or dents.

Put the 180-grit sandpaper on the block and resand the surface. Put the 400 grit sandpaper on the block and sand one more time. Dust off the wood with a soft cloth. If the cloth sticks or any tiny threads hang up on the surface of the wood, sand it again and dust it off again.

Pour the lacquer into the spray gun canister. Holding the gun about 8 inches away from the wood at about a 30-degree angle, spray across the surface of the wood until it is completely wet with lacquer. Wait 30 minutes for the lacquer to dry.

Sand across the surface of the wood using 180 grit sandpaper held in your palm. Sand with the grain until the surface of the wood has a white, dusty look. Leave the dust on the wood, don't wipe it off. Spray the surface of the wood again until the wood is wet. Let the lacquer dry for 15-minutes.

Sand across the wood using the 400-grit sandpaper held in your palm. Spray the wood again. Let the lacquer dry for 15 minutes and respray. Check your finish after 15 minutes. If more gloss is desired, add one more coat of lacquer.


Sanding sealer is not necessary. Make sure that you are spraying at room temperature for best results. Don't ever wipe lacquer dust off, your hands or cloth can add contaminants that can ruin your final finish.


Always wear breathing protection around lacquer.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper, 100, 180, 400-grit
  • Cloth
  • Hand block
  • High gloss lacquer
  • Pressure pot spray gun, 1 qt
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About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.