oiling a Heflin barstool

Handrubbed Oil

The first application of oil to furniture is a delightful moment--enriching the color and enlivening the figure...taking them deep.

Given enough time and labor, an oil finish provides the finest surface for the hand and eye.


A Definition and Description

Oil finishes are resins dissolved in a liquid. When applied, the mixture soaks into the top layers of the wood fibers. The liquid evaporates and the resins form the finish.

A molecule of resin may be imprecisely described as a short chain of linked carbon atoms attended by units of hydrogen and oxygen. As the liquid evaporates, these chains link up (polymerize) into large, matted, complex molecules entwined within and bonded to the wood fibers. As more resin is added in subsequent coats and polymerized into the thickening web, the finish becomes tougher and more water resistant...and the reflection of light from the surface becomes sublime.


Drying time is critical. If the resins are not polymerized (cured), subsequent coats do not materially add to the web and finish.


The Product We Use

We use Rubio Monocoat with its accelerator, a non toxic finish. We found Rubio to be the most water-resistant and visually pleasing of ten oil finishes we tested, some with petroleum distillates and some without. See our shop log post: Testing to Find the Best Oil Finish.


How We Do It

Click to read our Oil Finishing Schedule.


Maintenance


Indoor

  • Wipe spills and dry the surface as soon as is convenient.
  • Move throws, place mats, and such from time to time to avoid "tan" lines.
  • Occasionally polish with a furniture care product of your choice.

Once every year or two on our chairs, more often on table tops, we apply a light coat of lemon oil polish and buff it dry.


Outdoor

  • Mahogany will weather from the light brown at delivery to a rich, red brown to a gray brown to gray.
  • This change in color will depend on weather, exposure, and you.
  • The furniture will remain tight and functional for decades, whatever you choose. Nothing is required.
  • You will probably want to wipe down or lightly wash the chair from time to time.
  • At some point, you will probably decide the chair is looking dry and will want to re-oil it.
  • Get some oil made for decks, Penofin Penetrating Oil Finish Natural is good, and rub it on the chair.
  • After coating the chair, wipe any excess from the surface. Oily rags can spontaneously combust, leg them dry spread in the open air until crusty before disposal.
  • We have had a mahogany rocker on the porch of the showroom since 2004. We re-oiled it in 2014. Ten years seemed soon enough. This shop log post records its color changes due to time and attention: Maintaining the Rocker on the Porch

Repair

  • Dents, shallow scratches, and areas dulled by use or misuse are easy to repair in an oil finish.
  • Describe the problem and send a photo to us in an email. We will send tailored instructions and a repair kit