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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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.