Bob’s Miracle DIY Finish for Wood

This wipe-on finish is a great alternative to polyurethane. It’s easy to make and easier to apply than poly. Use this clear top coat on raw and stained wood.

You may also enjoy 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Use Polyurethane and Spray Polyurethane Rather Than Brush for Professional Looking DIY Furniture.

This wipe-on finish is a great alternative to polyurethane. It's easy to make and easier to apply than poly. Use this clear top coat on raw and stained wood.

Finishes like polyurethane seem so fussy and difficult to apply. “Don’t brush it too much.” “Don’t create bubbles because they’ll get trapped in the finish.” “Don’t let dust fall on it while it’s drying.” “Sand and reapply.” This all sounds like a lot of work to me!

Originally published February 26, 2015 updated January 15, 2019

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Have you had it with fussy finishes? Do you wish there was an alternative to polyurethane to use on stained wood projects? If so, I have the finish for you! It’s easy to apply and it looks great every time! Today I’m sharing the recipe for the clear wood finish I use on many of my DIY projects.

Years ago I took a couple of furniture making classes. Bob, the instructor shared with the class his recipe for the finish he uses on his woodworking projects. Bob’s DIY top coat was made with just three ingredients.

This finish was simple to make, easy to apply and provided a nearly foolproof finish every time. I’ve been using this finish on my DIY projects ever since I took those furniture making classes.

There’s probably a technical name for it, but in my workshop, I’ve always just called this top coat “Bob’s DIY Miracle Finish for Wood”.

Why I love Bob’s Miracle Finish

Why do I love Bob’s Miracle Finish so much? I can sum it up in one word. Forgiving! It’s so easy to make, it’s so easy to apply and almost impossible to mess it up. There are never any brush marks, we don’t have to sand between coats and it looks professional every time.

Plus, it’s a great finish for beginner’s because it’s so easy to use. It really is like a miracle!

Where Can You Use Bob’s Miracle Finish?

I need to give you a heads up about Bob’s Miracle Finish. It’s not as durable as polyurethane. It works best for projects that are used infrequently or don’t see a lot of wear and tear.

I’ve used Bob’s Miracle Finish for Wood on many of my DIY projects like my bar cart, chalkboard shadowbox, craft beer growler carrier, wine cabinet, and more.

Bob’s Miracle Finish Works Best on:

  • Occasional tables or side tables
  • Decorative items like picture frames, lamps or wood boxes
  • Floating shelves, etc.

Avoid Using Bob’s Miracle Finish on Surfaces That Require Durability:

  • Dining room tables
  • Countertops
  • Doors, trim and mouldings

Bob’s Miracle DIY Finish for Wood Recipe

1 part Gloss Spar Varnish
1 part Boiled Linseed Oil
1 part Paint Thinner

Making Bob’s Miracle Finish couldn’t be easier. All we have to do is mix equal parts of Gloss Spar Varnish, Boiled Linseed Oil, and Paint Thinner.

We could mix Bob’s Miracle Finish using an inexpensive measuring cup from the dollar store but I think the simplest way to mix it by using the marks on a mason jar.

To mix using a mason jar all we have to do is pour the Gloss Spar Varnish to the 100-ml mark, pour the Boiled Linseed Oill to the 200-ml mark, and then pour the Paint Thinner to the 300-ml mark. This gives us three equal parts of each ingredient.

A can of Spar Varnish, Boiled Linseed Oil and Paint Thinner

One important note when mixing Bob’s Miracle Finish is to make sure all ingredients are oil-based. Oil-based products and water-based products are not compatible which means they will not mix together.

How Much Should You Make at One Time?

We can make Bob’s Miracle Finish in larger quantities and store it for future use, but I recommend mixing it in smaller batches to use as needed.

Bob’s Miracle Finish acts like super glue and the lid of the mason jar is often difficult to remove after the mixture dries. When storing we need to make sure to clean any of the mixture from the rim before sealing. Sometimes I’ll put a piece of wax paper between the rim and the lid, but the lid can still be difficult to remove.

Bob’s Miracle Finish is quick and easy to mix, so my recommendation would be to mix it in small batches to use as needed.

How Do You Apply Bob’s Miracle Finish?

One of the reasons I love Bob’s Miracle Finish is because it’s so forgiving. There isn’t a right or wrong way to apply it. In other words, it doesn’t matter if we use straight strokes or rub it in circles.

First we need to work in a well-ventilated area. Next we need to put on a pair of disposable gloves to protect our hands. Then we’ll dip a clean rag into the Bob’s Miracle Finish mixture and gently rub it on the surface of our project. We’ll continue this process until our entire project is coated with the mixture.

Using a rag to a apply fnish to wood

Bob’s Miracle Finish penetrates into the wood rather than sitting on top of the surface like other top coats. So like I mentioned, it doesn’t matter if we apply with straight strokes or circles. Think of applying Bob’s Miracle Finish like you would apply lotion to your hands or arms.

📝 NOTE: We can apply Bob’s Miracle Finish to raw wood right away. If we stained our DIY project we should wait 24 hours for the stain to dry before applying Bob’s Miracle Finish.

How Long Do You Leave it on Before Removing the Excess?

We should let Bob’s Miracle Finish penetrate the surface of our project for a few minutes. After a few minutes, we’ll remove the excess with a clean rag.

We’ll notice the surface will almost feel dry to the touch when the excess is removed. This is another reason I love Bob’s Miracle Finish. We don’t have to worry about dust or debris getting trapped in the finish.

How Long Do You Wait Before Reapplying?

We should allow Bob’s Miracle Finish to dry for 24 hours before applying additional coats.

How Many Coats Do You Apply?

I usually apply three coats of Bob’s Miracle Finish to my DIY projects. We can apply more or fewer coats, but I’ve found three coats gives the best coverage and gives me the look I want for my DIY projects.

Do You Need to Sand Between Coats?

Here’s one more reason I love Bob’s Miracle Finish. We don’t need to sand between coats! We can simply apply additional coats after 24 hours without sanding.

Related: 11 Secrets for Sanding Wood Projects Like a Pro

What Does it Look Like When it’s Dry?

This recipe uses Gloss Spar Varnish, but despite that Bob’s Miracle Finish looks similar to a satin-like finish. It resembles an old-school hand rubbed finish without the need to worry about brush marks or sanding in between coats.

Can You Make Bob’s Miracle Finish More Glossy?

I prefer a satin-like to a semi-gloss finish for my DIY projects, so I haven’t tried to make Bob’s Miracle Finish glossier or to get a greater shine.

It may be possible to adjust the ratios so there is a higher concentration of gloss varnish which might help to get a glossier finish. As I mentioned, I haven’t tried this. This would definitely require some testing on sample pieces to see how it would turn out.

Does Bob’s Miracle Finish Yellow With Age?

Bob’s Miracle Finish soaks into the wood rather than sitting on top of the wood like other top coats. I’ve used this finish for years and I’ve never noticed any yellowing of my projects.

Can You Spray Bob’s Miracle Finish?

Bob’s Miracle Finish is a wipe-on top coat. There wouldn’t be any advantage to spraying Bob’s Miracle Finish because it easily wipes on and wipes off.

Can You Use Bob’s Miracle Finish on Painted Surfaces?

Bob’s Miracle Finish works best on raw wood and stained wood projects. I haven’t tried it on painted surfaces or over chalk-type paints.

My concern about using it on painted surfaces like chalk-type paint is that the paint is water-based and Bob’s Miracle Finish is oil-based. Oil-based products don’t usually work well on top of water-based products.

Related: How to Spray Chalk-Type Paint

Can You Use Bob’s Miracle Finish on Exterior Projects?

I would use Bob’s Miracle Finish exclusively for indoor furniture projects. For outdoor projects, I would use a clear coat specifically designed for exterior projects.

Can You Make Bob’s Miracle Finish More Durable?

I haven’t tried to adjust the formula to make it more durable. I would use a finish like polyurethane for projects that require a more durable finish.

Related: Polycrylic vs Polyurethane: Are They The Same?

Use Caution

Gloss Spar Varnish, Boiled Linseed Oil, and Paint Thinner are all flammable. Please follow all safety instructions on the containers of these products. Please work in a well-ventilated area and dispose of any gloves, rags, etc safely.

Final Thoughts

I can sum up why I love Bob’s Miracle Finish in one word. Forgiving! It’s so easy to make, it’s so easy to apply and almost impossible to mess it up. There are never any brush strokes, we don’t have to sand between coats and it looks professional every time.

Thank you for stopping by. If you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott

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  1. Scott, Awesome site. I stumbled across it a few months ago and I think I’ve read every page. I tried your finish method on a sample piece of red oak. Followed your recommendations to the letter (right down to the tea and Kona stain). However, when I started wiping on Bob’s Miracle Finish, it started lifting the stain. Subsequent coats did not, but the first did. I double checked to be sure all items were oil based. Is this normal? Maybe I rubbed too hard? I would appreciate any thoughts you would have on this.

    1. Hi Dave – Thank you for stopping by. Lifting stain is so frustrating. There are a couple of things that could have caused the stain to lift. The first thing is the type of wood. I usually stain pine. Pine and oak accept stain differently. Sanding can also affect how much stain is absorbed. I usually sand my pine projects to 120. Sanding to 220 can mean less stain will soak into the wood. Another thing could be how much of the excess stain was removed after applying the stain. Bob’s would remove any excess stain that was just sitting on the surface of the wood. Stain can also lift if it’s not completely dry.

  2. Hi. I went to mix up a batch but all I have is Helmsman in satin? Do you think it will work? Thanks for any help.n

    1. Hi Nancy – Thank you for stopping by. I think the satin will work, but it might not have much of a gloss or sheen. You could mix up a very small batch and try it on a few test pieces before trying on your finished piece to see if it gives you the look you want.

  3. I built bookshelves last summer. When I dust my rag gets stuck and adds more dust ugh infuriating! Would this finish make it easier to dust?

    1. Hi Bridgette – Thank you for stopping by. I think the first thing to do is figure out what’s going on with the first finish before adding a second finish. In other words, why does the rag get stuck? Is the finish still tacky? If it’s still tacky the first finish might need to be stripped before applying another finish otherwise the two finishes might react with each other which could cause another issue.

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