A little stain and a coat of urethane will do the trick on your trim and furniture projects. But if you really want to shine — and you’re prepared for a little more work — try this.
First off, sand, sand, sand. The surface should be satiny smooth.
To get good looks and some water resistance, choose a durable oil. Some products combine oils with polyurethanes, or you can make your own by mixing equal parts boiled linseed oil, satin urethane varnish (or spar varnish) and mineral spirits. Tint as desired.
If the job’s massive, you may want to spray or use a roller. Mid-size jobs are best done with a brush or rag. And tiny objects can be dipped right in the finish.
If the oil’s untinted, you can pour it right on the wood before spreading, but tinted oil is best applied to the applicator first, so you don’t leave a mark at the edge of the puddle.
Apply along the grain, then work it in with a circular motion. Let it sit briefly, then wipe dry along the grain with a soft towel or cloth.
Add more coats; this is the secret to a deep shine. But wait till it’s completely dry; some experts recommend waiting a week. More coats of tinted oil will darken the wood — up to a point. If it starts to streak, wipe clean, and switch to untinted.
To finish off, get some very fine waterproof sandpaper (400 or 600-grit) and wet-sand the surface using the oil or oil thinned with mineral spirits. Wipe clean along the grain with a soft cloth.
Then apply a couple weekly coats of paste wax, and be prepared to wax it a couple times a year. A little work, but it’s worth it.