Join 3,553 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Protect new oak table?
November 30, 2011 11:02 AM   Subscribe

How should I protect this new White Oak table?

Just bought this new table . . one of the first pieces of furniture my wife and I got for the new house. We'd both like to protect it as it will be an everyday table. I'd like to avoid any chemical sealants or varnishes, and I'd like it to retain it's natural feel and color. The store did mention it's been sealed once, but could probably use some more.

I'd also like to avoid plexiglass or glass covers if possible.

I read through this post althought I'm not sure if the same applies to oak as it does to teak.

Based on recomendations from that post I'm included to use this on a frequent basis.

Thoughts? Advice? Thanks!
posted by patrad to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It would help if we knew what it had already been 'sealed once' with. There are so many finish possibilities out there -- urethanes, acrylics, lacquers, shellacs, waxes, varnishes. 'Sealer' is a very broad category, the constituents of with don't all play nice with each other.
posted by jon1270 at 11:06 AM on November 30, 2011


Your option looks, good. I've always had great luck with tung oil, and haven't found after the first few coats that it needs to be reapplied very often at all. We used it on an oak table several years ago now, and it could use a new coat, but I'd guess that'll last another 5 years after we do the touchup.
posted by ldthomps at 11:30 AM on November 30, 2011


Tung Oil! It's natural, it keeps the wood looking good, and it hardens to a plastic-level of protection. You can get it at any hardware store.
posted by lstanley at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2011


@jon1270 Yes it would help but I don't know. It feels very natural to the touch still.

I'll try tung oil on a leg and see how it comes out. Thanks!
posted by patrad at 3:04 PM on November 30, 2011


I used Waterlox on my natural wood coutertops. 5 coats recommended. Tung oil based, with additional stuff in it to penetrate deeply, and dry promptly. It has been durable and nice looking.
posted by theora55 at 3:16 PM on November 30, 2011


As to the "tung oil, it's natural!" crowd: what is labeled in your local home improvement store as tung oil is, almost certainly, not straight tung oil. It's an oil/varnish blend or, sometimes as a matter of complete deception, a thinned wiping varnish. It stared life as tung oil, but that matters about as much as saying your plastic milk jug started life as oil: to anyone but a chemist, the two resemble each other very little. That can of "tung oil" probably also has metallic dryers in it so it will cure in something less than a fortnight.

(Straight tung oil is a virtually-non-curing finish and thus both a PITA to work with and offers virtually nothing in the way of actual protection from moisture, chemicals, or physical force. Most users would howl about their results and return the crap to their local store. This is not to say straight oils don't have useful applications, or that adding "non-natural" things like metallic dryers is bad... it's just a matter of realizing that the reason to select a "tung oil" product from your local store isn't because it is natural, but because it offers some combination of features that you want in your finish. Once you've accepted the fact that what you're applying isn't "natural," it opens up a broad selection of products both natural and not.)

Having said all this, it sounds like you want an oil/varnish blend. You want something that offers some protection (so more than a straight oil), but doesn't build a thick film (like a heavy varnish). A wiping varnish (which is just thinned straight varnish) would also serve, though will look slightly different. Some varnishes are "clearer" than others and will provide less color shift. I'd check my notes and books for which, but I'm in the process of painting my office so every book and notebook I own are crammed into boxes. Safflower oil jumps to mind as the clearest, but I'm not 100% sure of it.

P.S. I recommend testing on the underside of the table and not on the legs. You have to lay under the thing, but you'll never see your mistakes.

Also note that white oak does color shift a slight bit as it ages; very little compared to most wood, but it will still change a bit.
posted by introp at 4:30 PM on November 30, 2011


I have had excellent success with what I know to be 100% pure tung oil blended one part oil to two parts gum turpentine (not mineral turpentine) - introp is correct that straight tung oil would not be fun to work with. Used properly it's extremely durable, easy to use and smells excellent (to me at least). It also is a finish that sits in the timber, rather than on it.

To use:
1. Make up your oil blend in a jar.
2. Sand to at least 600 grit and remove dust.
3. Apply the oil generously, really wetting the surface.
4. Wipe off vigorously after 10-15 minutes or so.
5. Re-sand 24 hours later, again to at least 600 grit, although I've been known to go nuts and go up to 1000.
6. Apply and wipe off again.
7. You may keep doing this until the timber appears to not be hungry and soaking up the oil any more. On oak that could be only a couple of days, on other, softer, timber it could be up to a week.
8. If desired, buff vigorously - by hand or mechanically - to produce a more glossy finish.
9. Add one more coat every year, or when it looks like it needs it, and buff again.

This finish ages beautifully. I've been working with timber, often professionally, since I was a teenager and this is still my favourite hardwood finish.

Pure tung oil is easily available if you go looking for it here in Australia, I'm afraid in the US I can't help you though.
posted by deadwax at 1:57 AM on December 1, 2011


I ended up using Waterlox based on a lot of advice. I did watch this series as well which helped a lot.
posted by patrad at 12:39 PM on December 30, 2011


« Older Confit'd game bird done in a j...   |  PCOS and pre-diabetes - do I r... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.