How a finish will stand up to use isn’t the only consideration, of course. The finish should be reasonably easy to apply, and most importantly should look good when it dries. There is a wide range in the appearance and ease of application among currently available products, and unfortunately, the failings of a few have generated a couple of common misconceptions. The first says that waterborne finishes are all but impossible to spray on. The truth is, many waterborne finishes spray exceptionally well. In fact, certain waterborne finishes have to be sprayed on for acceptable results.
The second misconception holds that waterborne finishes all have a hazy, bluish appearance when dry, and therefore aren’t a good choice for darker colored woods. Here again, it really depends on the finish. In reality, most waterborne finishes dry almost perfectly clear. What’s missing, for most woodworkers, is the amber tint that they’re used to getting from all oil-based “clear” finishes. In other words, most people have come to associate the rich, amber color that most oil finishes add to the natural color of wood with the “correct” result.
Looked at another way, waterborne finishes actually have an advantage over traditional oil-based finishes: They give you more control over the final appearance of your projects. In some situations – when you want to maintain the color of light colored woods, for example – the best appearance a finish can provide is none at all. In other words, the finish should be perfectly clear, and a waterborne will get you closer than anything else. In other situations, where the familiar amber color of an oil finish is a benefit, you have a couple of options: Most waterborne finishes can be tinted to the desired color. Better still, you can use Rockler’s WunderCote. WunderCote is an easy to apply wipe on waterborne finish that comes pre-tinted to emulate the color of a light amber oil-based finish.