Vermont Woods Studios Handmade Furniture

furniture care

Maintaining the Hand Rubbed Finish on Your Furniture

January 15th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

How to Maintain the Hand Rubbed Finish on Your Cherry Wood Furniture

The Vermont Shaker Moon bedroom set above is finished with hand rubbed linseed oil.  The craftsman recommends a few special care instructions to keep the wood soft and supple.

One of the hallmarks of Vermont furniture is the finely sanded wood and hand rubbed finish.  When you run your hands along the top of these chests or the foot board of this shaker bed, it almost feels like skin– very soft and smooth.  So we spend a lot of time talking with customers about how to maintain that beautiful finish after your furniture arrives at home.  Like a fine wine, a hand rubbed finish will improve with age.  Here are a few tips to care for it.

Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions for Re-oiling

First check with the furniture maker to see what oil was initially applied and what is recommended for maintenance.  For example, the Vermont Shaker Moon bedroom set above is finished with hand rubbed linseed oil.  The furniture maker recommends these special care instructions:

When you receive your furniture it may be tacky from the oil finish we have applied in the studio.  The entire piece should be wiped with a clean, soft, lint-free cotton cloth.  Do not use commercially available polishes or waxes.  Wood remains a live medium and can tend to dry out over time.  For maintenance– pure, non-toxic linseed oil (such as this Tried and True finish) or any high quality furniture oil (without petroleum dryers or thinners) should be applied immediately after delivery and again every 3-12 months*.  Regular oiling will deepen the hand rubbed finish while enhancing the natural beauty of the wood.  It will also restore the finish over scratches.  Good quality oil products are widely available in better hardware stores.  With minor care, this furniture will be enjoyed for years and likely generations to come. More furniture care instructions here.

Cherry Wood Dining Table | How to Maintain a Hand Rubbed Finish

This cherry wood dining table is finished with a blend of hand rubbed linseed oil and Poly gel. Regular cleaning is all that’s needed to maintain the finish.

Routine Cleaning

Whether your wood furniture has a hand rubbed oil finish, a lacquer or poly, routine cleaning will keep it looking good.  With an oil finish, it’s especially important to clean up spills quickly before the liquid penetrates into the fibers of the wood.  Learn more about dusting (damp cloth or dry?), polishing and cleaning up spills on our furniture care website.

Humidity and Lighting

Wood is sensitive to changes in relative humidity. As the weather changes, so does the relative humidity in your home and in the moisture content of the wood in your furniture.  This means that furniture is constantly expanding and contracting.  Most furniture makers recommend conditions of around 70°F-72°F and a relative humidity of about 50-55% to keep your furniture looking good and lasting a long time.

Many woods, especially cherry are sensitive to light and will change colors when exposed to high intensity light or even sunlight for long periods of time.  Here are some tips for controlling light exposure and humidity on the furniture care page of our website.

* How often should you re-apply an oil finish?  The furniture aficionado’s rule of thumb is: once upon arrival into your home, then once/week for a month, then once/month for a year, then once per year thereafter.  Sounds like a lot of oiling but you’ll end up with the most beautiful patina you can imagine!

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios.  Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.


Wood Furniture Care: Tips on Climate Control

September 21st, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh

Solid Wood Furniture:  Tips on Climate Control and Humidity

We received this beautiful picture of our Cherry Blossom Single Pedestal Table from Mary M in Palm Desert, CA.  I love how she blended a relatively modern cherry dining set with what looks like a 16th century Baroque painting, a Colonial American corner cabinet and a collection of vibrant patchwork quilts.  But it was her combination of different woods that reminded me to talk about wood movement today.

Mary’s M’s cherry dining furniture (shown above) was made in Vermont (a relatively humid place, especially in the summer) and shipped to the desert of Arizona. Since we ship a lot of Vermont made wood furniture to desert locales in California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and elsewhere, I thought I’d post a few tips on humidity and climate control.

Wood Furniture Moves in Response to Changes in Humidity

When wood is part of a living tree, water moves up the trunk, from the ground and through the pores and fibers of the wood, as it travels out to the leaves.  After a tree is cut and sawn into lumber, water continues to move back and forth through the wood fibers until the wood’s moisture level reaches equilibrium with its environment.

The job of woodworkers is to design and build furniture with a thorough understanding of the characteristics of wood movement.  But in spite of their advanced knowledge and skills, no woodworker is able to create wood furniture that is completely unresponsive to temperature and humidity in your home.  So here are a few climate control tips from our Furniture Care section to ensure that your wood furniture will remain beautiful and structurally sound for generations of enjoyment.

Climate Control Tips

  • Keep your home around 70°F-72°F with a relative humidity of about 50-55%
  • This often requires a humidifier in winter and an air conditioner in summer
  • Place your furniture away from heat sources such as radiators, heat runs or fireplaces
  • Store table leaves as close as possible to the table so they adjust to the same humidity conditions
  • Use a dehumidifier during wet, rainy times and in damp rooms to remove excess moisture from the air
  • For wood furniture with an oil finish, re-oil it frequently to create and maintain a patina.  A rule of thumb is to oil your furniture:
    • Immediately upon receipt
    • Once/week during the first month
    • Once/month during the first year
    • Once or twice/year after that

Normally if you’re comfortable with the temperature and humidity in your home, your wood furniture will be comfortable as well.  It’s designed to be durable and to accommodate normal changes in climate so most homeowners need not worry.   Relax and enjoy it.  Given reasonably good care your wood furniture will last for generations.