Friday, June 19, 2015

Protective Furniture Finishes

There are easy, lazy, labor intensive and quick ways to provide a protective finish for all the hard work you poured into your latest labor of love.  Knowing yourself and how the piece of furniture will be used narrows down what piece of armor to use.  

The most common finishes on my paint shelf are tung oil, hemp oil, polyurethane and furniture wax.  Here is a break down on the personalities of each one so you can decide based on your mood how to tackle that last step.

Tung oil is a sticky oil that is a bit goopy when applied.  It can be pungent when used in closed quarters but is non-toxic so not too much to worry about.  You apply one coat of oil, wait 24 hours before applying a second coat.  After two weeks of curing you will have a really nice subtle, low sheen finish that will repel water and withstand low heat like a cup of tea  It is extremely forgiving to work with and can easily be applied in areas that become worn.  Best of all it is food safe.  The cured surface repels water and is easy to clean up with the wipe of a wet cloth.  

Hemp oil is really easy to apply and extremely forgiving.  It is food safe, non-toxic and low odor so can be applied in any area on any item.  The hemp oil is fairly light in texture so it soaks in, slightly darkening the wood and providing hydration to dry wood.  This is especially awesome on old pieces of furniture that have slight scuff marks because it helps most minor marks completely disappear.  Apply liberally and wipe off excess in 12 hours.  The finish is a subtle matte making for a warm appearance.  It takes 30 days for hemp oil to fully cure but can be used almost immediately, just be careful.  It repels water and is easy to clean up messes when something is spilled.  Here is a great comparison on the difference between Tung oil vs. Hemp oil.

A very cool way to create a really smooth finish is to use the technique of dry sanding.  This is where you lightly take a sponge sanding block to the surface of the freshly oiled surface.  It sloughs off the little rough spots giving a really soft and smooth final product.

Soft Wax is great but a little labor intensive.  Want something a little fancier with a subtle shine, easy to apply and no odor?  Go with soft furniture wax like Annie Sloans or Miss Mustard Seed.  You simply wipe it on with a wax brush or cloth, wipe excess off after 5 minutes and then buff to your desired level of shine.  If you want to beef up the level of protection follow the same process for another 2 coats.  It takes about 28 days for soft wax to fully cure.  Wax will not handle heat from coffee mugs very well but it is super easy to reapply wax in worn spots and repels water.  My kitchen table is going on 3 years with a waxed finish and I've only touched up the wax twice.  It cleans up really easy and repels water with no problem.

Polyurethane, varnish, shellac rarely gets used on my projects but they all provide a very durable surface with a glossy finish.  Here is a really great breakdown on the difference between the three.  Not really sure why but oil is just so darn easy to use and a high shine or hard finish has never been the top priority after going through all that work to restore a piece of furniture.  Weird, right!  Personally, at the heart of refinishing furniture is not to make it new again but to bring out the laugh lines from the years of love and for it to tell a story in your home.

You can purchase the tung oil, shellac, polyurethane and varnish from any hardware store.  The most affordable place to buy the hemp oil is Ebay.  Armor up my friends and feel free to be as lazy as possible with oil or create a classy shine with the polyurethane.  Either way just take a few seconds to reflect on what your home life looks like and how you treat your furniture.  Do you slide like Bo Duke across your kitchen table?  Maybe a shellac is the right choice for you.  Do you have a kitchen butcher block top that you want to use for cutting and to be food safe, perhaps try the hemp oil.



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