This is a three part mini-series, with a spotlight on protecting and enhancing your work. Products including varnishes, lacquers, sealers and polishes can all be used to offer varying degrees of protection to your pieces. These finishes can be categorised into three main groups: water based, oil based, and traditional spirit and Shellac based products. Part 1: Water based varnishes, lacquers and sealers are usually produced using acrylic mediums. They come in a range of finishes from flat matt to high gloss, with interior and exterior varieties, so there is almost certainly a product to suit your needs. They can be used to protect and enhance stone and wood flooring, walls and ceilings, furniture, kitchens and worktops, windows and doors and almost any other surface. The main advantages for using acrylic based finishes are: quick drying times, ease of use and clean up, low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) making them safer in use and to store and, most importantly, non-yellowing with age. You will be able to find a large selection of quick drying, acrylic varnishes, lacquers and sealers in all good DIY and hardware stores, online or at your local decorators merchant, where you will find more information on the right product for the job. Part 2: Spirit or shellac based sealers and polishes are made using natural ingredients which, when added to industrial alcohol, e.g. methylated spirits, produces a variety of finishes, commonly known as French polishes. They can come in a range of finishes and shades for different uses and can be bought either in flake form, or in tins or bottles, ready mixed to apply directly to the wooden surface. They can be used to enhance and protect most types of wood, on furniture, panelling, staircases, windows and doors and are generally very hard waring and easy to maintain. The main advantages for using these traditional, shellac based finishes are quick drying times and the beautiful, high gloss finishes that can be achieved. Producing a good finish using these products is not easy and can take a while to master. However, with a little training and a lot of practice, you should be able to achieve some great results. You will be able to find a large selection of sealers and polishes in most good hardware stores, online or at your local decorators merchant, where you will find more information on the right product for the job. Part 3: Oil based sealers, varnishes, oils and waxes are produced from a range of materials and have been used by trades men and women for many years. They come in a large variety of finishes and shades for different uses and can be bought ready mixed to be applied directly to wooden or painted surfaces and to natural materials like stone. They can be used to protect and enhance the natural beauty of furniture, panelling, staircases, windows and doors, both internally and externally and are generally very hard waring and easy to maintain. The main advantage for using oil based finishes is their ease of application, they are also very hardwearing and very readily available in most good hardware stores, online or at your local decorators merchant. There are some disadvantages however, many oil based products are produced in a non environmentally sustainable way, they are generally slow drying and will often change colour over time due to the oxidisation of the oils. Another negative can be the often unpleasant odour that is produced while drying. Producing a good finish using these products is not too difficult to master, with a little training and some practice, you should be able to achieve some great results. The popularity of these products is now falling though, due to the introduction of water based alternatives.