This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
"Where a natural finish is desired the treatment will vary from the simple application of a coat or two of oil, which makes the cheapest and poorest finish, to five or six coats of shellac, rubbed down, which gives the most costly and best of all finishes. The actual treatment will vary with the wood and finish desired. We find that our painting specification has been very carefully drawn, giving the hardwood finish after cleaning, first a coat of oil or paste filler, this is cleaned off and four coats of shellac-applied, each coat when dry being rubbed down with fine sand-paper except the last. This coat will be rubbed to an egg-shell gloss with pumice stone in oil. The hard pine finish of the service portions of the house will be given a good coat of oil to bring out the grain of the wood. This will be smoothed by sandpapering and then given a good coat of spar varnish rubbed down, and a final coat of the same, this last coat flowed on and left shining.
For a first-class finish certain conditions must be observed, first in importance being to have a smooth and clean surface upon which to work. This can best be assured by a careful sandpapering of all finish until perfectly smooth, when all traces of dust should be removed. If stain is to be used it may then be applied and, after drying, sand-paper lightly to bring up the high lights and smooth the grain which will be raised somewhat by the application of the stain. A second coat of very dilute stain lightly applied with a cloth will often improve the grain. This may be followed by a very light coat of shellac to protect the solid parts of the wood from absorbing too much of the filler, thus improving the contrasts and preventing a muddy appearance that is sometimes seen.
The Wood is now ready to receive the filler which should be used on open grained woods such as oak, ash, chestnut, mahogany, etc. Either a paste filler or an oil filler may be used, preference generally being for the former. This is applied in a thick coat, the surplus being wiped off with a cloth, and the whole sand-papered lightly.
After filling, another coat of shellac may be put on and sandpapered, and this may be followed by two or three coats of varnish or shellac according to the finish desired.