I would like to start finishing my wood prior to cutting/engraving. My question: Are there any finishes I can apply to the wood in the morning and it will be ready to cut by evening same day?
Preferably no spray types due to being around cars.
Welcome to the forum.
If you utilize the search function you will find lots of suggestions regarding finishes. One obvious suggestion is to use Proofgrade materials which are already finished. Other suppliers also have finished products for sale. It is unclear from your post whether you want to paint or use some other type of finish. At any rate, any water based product should be a quick dry solution.
It all comes down to your definition of a “finish”…
To achieve the near glass-hard clear finish you find on Proofgrade materials takes a day or more. Apply a very light coat, sand, clean, and repeat several times. Obviously it has to dry and that takes significant time.
If you’re willing to accept a lower quality, then you could surely apply one thick coat and cut it a few hours later.
Neither is “right”, it just comes back to what you want to achieve, and the application. I’ve created pieces where I went to that level of effort, and others I didn’t. Some were designed for display, others for utility. I have literally dunked cut pieces into paint or water-based polyurethane. They weren’t for show.
I use the Polycrylic water-based finish that dries quickly, but it’s going to depend on your ambient conditions. Here in Denver, it’s dry, and the finish is dry to the touch within 2 hours. In a humid area it would take longer.