Vermont Woods Studios Handmade Furniture

oil finish

Is An Oil Finish Best For Your Wood Furniture?

April 9th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

An Oil Finish on Our American Shaker Wood Furniture

Our American Shaker furniture has a hand-rubbed linseed oil finish.  How does that differ from a lacquer or poly finish?

When customers walk into our fine furniture showroom at Stonehurst they often comment about how much they enjoy being greeted by the natural fragrance of wood.  That doesn’t happen in all furniture stores because wood furniture is usually sealed with a protective coating like lacquer or poly which keeps the fragrance inside.  But an oil finish is porous, setting wood’s organic aroma free to permeate your space.  And it smells wonderful!  But there are certainly pros and cons to an oil finish so we try to make sure customers fully understand the differences before they make a purchase.

What We Love About an Oil Finish

Wood furniture with an oil finish develops a deep, rich color that cannot be obtained with other finishes that don’t penetrate the grain of the wood.  Only oil brings out the depth of color and beauty of the grain that natural hardwoods are famous for. Over time, an oil finish will develop a rich, lustrous patina that’s beautiful to look at and super-smooth to touch.  And a joy to smell!  Another advantage is: if your oil finish gets scratched it can easily be sanded and re-oiled (you can do this yourself with a little 0000 steel wool – see our Furniture Care instructions).

An Oil Finish Requires More Care

than furniture with a poly or lacquer finish, but many people feel the resulting appearance is worth the effort.  How often do you have to re-oil?  Many furniture makers suggest this thumb rule:  oil once a day for the first week, once a week for the first month, once a month for the first year and once a year thereafter.  Quite honestly, most customers are just too busy for that, especially if they have a house full of furniture to oil!  Some don’t touch their furniture for years, while others choose to oil it religiously. Obviously, the more you oil the stronger and more beautiful the finish, but we know many people who only oil their furniture when the wood starts to look dry and that seems to be just fine.

Another consideration with an oil finish is that it’s not as protective as poly or lacquer sealants.   We recommend that you keep a bottle of oil and  a 0000 steel wool pad (or equivalent synthetic sanding pad) handy so you can rub out water rings from drink glasses or smooth out the end grain of a wooden table top if it becomes rough due to variations in temperature and humidity.  Here’s a downloadable pdf on caring for wood furniture with an oil finish that Liz created for you.

Comparison of Different Wood Furniture Finishes

Have a look at our Furniture Finishes and Furniture Care pages for additional information, tips and advice on how to choose the best finish for your wood furniture.  Send us your questions on Facebook, give us a call or, better yet stop by Stonehurst to see, touch and smell the beauty of a hand-rubbed oil finish.

 

 

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Defining Fine Furniture: Finish

December 19th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh

Bob-gasperetti-furnitureSo far, in an effort to define "fine furniture" we've discussed craftsmanship and the type of wood used, so now let's talk about finish.  One thing most people are surprised to learn is that even though a piece of fine furniture is crafted and assembled it's a long way from being finished. 

I like the way Vermont furniture maker, Bob Gasperetti of Mount Tabor puts it:  "The saying that it takes 90% of the time to accomplish the last 10% of the work couldn't be more true than in handmade furniture."

He is right!  I wish you could run your hand across one of Bob's table tops right now.  After a piece is built, Bob sands the surface to 320 grit (this requires multiple sandings with increasingly fine sandpaper).  That takes forever but there is no substitute if you're looking for the kind of smooth, supple feeling you get when touching Bob's furniture.

After sanding, Bob applies multiple coats of a non-toxic, environmentally-friendly oil until the surface of his furniture feels as smooth and soft as a baby's skin.

Some people would opine that an oil finish is the only option for "fine furniture" but as someone who doesn't like to take the time to maintain (aka re-oil and it's really no big deal, but I'm lazy) an oil finish  I'll say oil is not the only option.  Vermont furniture makers offer dozens of other choices, including a blend of oil and beeswax, non-toxic lacquers and even an eco-friendly clear finish made out of whey (a byproduct of our Vermont dairy industry).  Copeland Furniture is once again leading the green furniture industry in the research and application of eco-friendly water=based lacquer finishes.  I'll write about them next time when we wrap up this disucssion of fine furniture definitions with the topic of sustainability and karma.

Anyway, no study of fine furniture finishes would be complete without a visit to the workshops of a few fine furniture makers where you can run your hands over the furniture and compare the sensations from different finishes.  Information and driving directions to the shops I've talked about (and many more) are available in the Vermont Forest Heritage brochure.  If you're coming in from Boston or New York to go skiing, you'll pass by a number of them.  So if there's no snow, or it's too cold to ski or if you're just too tired… take a day off and treat yourself to a tour of some of the world's best fine furniture workshops.

Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture

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