Friday, 31 October 2008

Fi nsihing oil

If you have wooden furniture that is beginning to show the signs of wear - particularly French polished furniture where the polish has become scratched - it's amazing how a little sandpapering and oiling can revive its looks.

Obviously, if what you've got is a real antique, you need to get the French polish professionally restored. But if you've inherited a 1950s sideboard from Mum and Dad, or fancy restoring an ex-school or ex-church wooden chair you picked up at a car boot, it's easy to do.

finishing oil or Danish oil (Rustins is good). Take care to use an oil that's designed for furniture use. Some oils you can buy are non-drying oils - means, if you sit on a chair that's been finished with this, your clothes are going to suffer. This oil is quite expensive, but it will last you for ever and ever as you only need to apply it very sparingly.
Sandpaper - a rough (180 grit) sandpaper to strip off any old polish, wax, and general grot, and then finer papers down to 360 grit for the fine finish and for sanding the first coat of oil. You may need to look around to find the finer grades - a lot of DIY stores only sell very rough paper.
cloth - at least two good sized cloths, free of lint or dust. old teatowels work well.

Start off by sandpapering

Begin by sanding off any existing varnish or polish (or paint). If it's very thick, you can use Nitromors or another paint stripper, but generally, a good hard go at it with sandpaper will give better results and has less chance of harming the wood. Then gradually use finer and finer sandpaper to get a better finish. One technique that can help is to sand in different directions, up and down with one paper and then across with the next one - when you've erased all of the scratches from the last sandpaper, it's time to move on.

At the end, use your fingers to feel over the surface and make sure it's good and flat and there are no rough spots. Your fingers are much more sensitive than your eyes, so trust them!

Now - this is important - have a good vacuum clean, and rub your piece of furniture down with a cloth, so there are no little bits of sawdust floating around to spoil the finish.

Now for oiling

Get your tin of oil. Wad up a cloth in one hand. Put the cloth to the spout of the tin, and tip the tin upside down, so the cloth gets well impregnated with the oil. Use the cloth to smear the oil over the wood - you'll be able to see if there are any patches you have missed. Let the oil dry for about a minute, then use a clean cloth to remove any excess oil. This step is important if you want a good finish - if you leave extra oil you'll end up with a far too shiny, or possibly puckered surface, that looks very bad.

You could get away with one layer of oil. But we won't. Let's be perfectionist. Leave the oil to dry for a day or so. Then take your finest sandpaper and gently rough up the surface of the oil. You're just looking to take the shine off it and provide a good surface for the next layer to bond to.

Now rub the piece down again to remove any dust, and go through the oiling process again. You might need several coats till you're happy.

Repairing is easy. A ding or a scratch? Just rub down with sandpaper, and re-oil.

Your oil finish is waterproof and stainproof. So it's a great way to finish a kitchen table, for instance. Just don't use it on wooden eating dishes - many of these oils contain chemicals you won't want to ingest. If you're re-oiling a salad bowl then use almond oil (if you have difficulties getting it, try an Indian supermarket or grocery).

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