The first question to ask ourselves is why we finish wood at all? Is it not better to sand down the fine furniture and leave it raw, particularly as we use such fine, dense hardwoods? After all, many purist furniture makers, particularly in Scandinavia, prefer to leave the finished product raw.
This is certainly an option. I personally love to leave garden furniture or wooden gates made from Zambezi Teak raw and allow the timber to take on a lovely natural silver texture with time. However, there are definite advantages to hardwood finishes, and these are well covered in our blog Why do we finish wood with a protective coat?
In this article, I’d like to cover the two finishes we use and how to look after them.
Lacquer provides a very durable, clear finish that will last for generations if looked after. The coating brings out and enhances the beautiful colour and grain of the timber. However, one major drawback is that it is damaged by the UV radiation in sunlight, and it cannot be used out of doors. It has excellent clarity and depth and is heat, water, solvent, acid, and alkali resistant. It is ideal where you want to completely avoid ‘water rings’ which you can get with an oil finish. To protect your lacquer finish, place furniture away from direct sunlight. Apply a good furniture wax or polish, initially twice a month, thereafter once a month. Apply sufficient to thinly cover the surface. As it dries (becomes dull) buff with a clean cloth until a beautiful sheen is achieved. Between waxings, keep the finish clean with a soft cloth or duster, and buff without wax.
An oil finish gives your furniture a lovely, natural, rustic look. It can be used indoors or outdoors. However, it can also mark if a cold, wet glass is left on the surface for a while. This can be removed if you follow the advice below. The oil we use is The African Touch Furniture Oil, and is available from our outlets.
From time to time you will need to re-apply the oil. If the furniture is used outdoors, please do the re-application at least every 6 months, more frequently if you live in the harsh environment of the highveldt and your furniture is always outdoors. In such a case we advise you cover the furniture when not in use. We can quote for canvas covers if required. When in doubt, re-apply when the finish looks faded or dry. The recommended application procedure is as follows:
- Wipe surface down with a clean cotton cloth lightly moistened with mineral turpentine. (Ensure that all surfaces are completely dry and clean before proceeding with the next step)
- Use a clean cotton cloth or soft bristled brush dipped in the oil and apply in light, short strokes, ensuring thorough and even distribution of the oil.
- Leave the oil on the furniture for at least 1 to 2 hours (but not more than 24 hours), to allow absorption into the wood.
- Use a clean cotton cloth and wipe off all excess liquid to leave a natural smooth finish.
- Allow to dry for approximately 24 hours before application of another coat.
If a wet glass or similar is left on the surface it will leave a watermark. In this case please wipe the water off as soon as possible, and if necessary apply some more African Touch Furniture Oil. If the mark is still slightly visible you can rub with a little baking soda mixed with an equal part of water, wipe off with a damp cloth and re-apply the oil.