Should You Varnish Your Oak Furniture?

If you have oak furniture, chances are you enjoy showing it off almost as much as you enjoy using it.

For this reason, you may be considering adding a varnish to it in order to further accentuate its appearance and otherwise add another level of protection. Before you make a final decision, though, be sure to read the following on the topic.

Considering Application

One of the main things you need to think about when it comes to considering a varnish is how you will apply it. Most people are under the false impression that because you can go pick up at varnish at just about any home improvement or department store, it will be naturally easy to apply to your oak furniture.

The truth, however, is that this is a really easy attitude for making a big problem where your varnish is involved. For one thing, it can dry too slowly if you lay it on too thick or aren’t doing it in a well-ventilated area where it will get the air it needs. Also, keep in mind that varnish is flammable. So you want to keep an eye on it until it soaks into the wood, in case something ignites it.

Any excess varnish or any that gets spilled can also be a pain to clean up. So be sure you only apply the amount you need and then keep newspaper on the floor all around it. Obviously, you don’t want to apply varnish on your wood furniture anywhere but out in the garage (keeping in mind anything that could cause a fire) or elsewhere where you don’t need to worry about some minor spills.

Lastly, you need to make sure you know what type of material you’re actually applying your varnish to. Yes, it’s oak, but is that it? Dot it have lacquer or a veneer you need to think about? Are there water-based products on the wood that will fend the varnish off? Again, consider all these factors before you purchase a varnish, much less apply it.

Apply the Varnish

Apply the varnish using a soft-bristle paint brush. Dip the paint brush in the varnish and coat in smooth even strokes. Follow the grain of the wood as much as possible as this will lead to a superior finish. Do not more varnish than it takes to apply an even coat to the wood. Too much varnish can lead to bubbling. You will need to add a second coat. Allow the furniture to dry for 24 hours before applying a second coat of varnish using the same technique.

Apply Wood Sealant

While it isn’t necessary to add a wood sealant, it will help to improve the finish and protect the wood from stains. Use a paint brush and apply the sealant to the furniture using a smooth back-and-forth motion. Allow to dry for 12 hours. It may be necessary to add a second coat of sealant to ensure maximum protection.

Various Looks

There are a number of advantages that come with applying a varnish to your wood furniture. Obviously, one of the main ones is the finished result comes with a unique appearance. You can choose from all different kinds of patterns and textures to help your oak furniture stand apart from similar types or even the other versions you have in your home.

Either way, you get a radiant look that will both grab the eye and attract light in some beautiful ways too. All the colors in the wood will benefit.

Just be sure to keep an eye on it as, over time, it can begin to turn an unsightly yellow.

Oil, for instance, produces a very natural finish. Shellac dries fast and is easy to use. But for most refinishing, varnish or penetrating resin is probably the best choice.

Whatever finish you choose, it’s important to know exactly what you’re working with. Some finishes can be mixed and some cannot. Each finish has its own individual application techniques; each finish requires different tools and materials. Before you buy and apply a finish, always read the ingredient and application information on the container. And always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.

- How stuff works

For a truly hard wearing finish I would use a polyurethane varnish but it will darken the wood a bit also make sure it is the old fashioned polyurethane that needs white spirits to clean the brush. I would not use an acrylic varnish as these tend to go a slightly milky colour which would not suit oak. If you can cope with being slightly protective of the table I would go for an oil finish. My preference is the Liberon finishing oil but danish oil and tung oil are also good. I have found if you apply the finishing oil quite thick it is hot coffee cup proof but this might be more glossy than you want.

These oil finishes will still mark if alcohol is left on the surface for any length of time (home made wine marked our top). I love linseed oil and it does give one of the most beautiful finishes over time but is very slow to dry and will need many coats before the table is well protected. I did one and it took about six months to get a deep build up and protection. I have no experience of the mentioned Osmo wax/oil but previous experience tells me that wax will not cope with heat well but am happy to be corrected on this. The big advantage with the oil finishes is it is easy to touch up any marks whereas if you damage a varnished finish you really ought to re do the whole top.

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By binding the surface, varnish can also enhances the wood’s natural defenses. While oak is certainly a hearty wood, that doesn’t mean it’s capable of fending off every possible attack. Wear and tear will definitely add up over time. So varnish can be a welcomed addition for helping your wood stand the test of time. Say goodbye to hairline cracks.

Amongst other things, it can absorb the light scratches that wood often comes up against and really can’t do much about. Minor damage that can otherwise hurt oak won’t stand a chance when you have a quality varnish applied.

In the end, varnish makes a lot of sense for your oak furniture. It comes with all kinds of advantages, besides just the ones listed above and the drawbacks really aren’t all that much to worry about. Plus, it’s an extremely affordable addition when you consider all it can do.

Clear wax polish is the one exception to the above… If a clear wax polish is applied to bare oak (or just about any other wood for that matter) then the colour is kept very natural indeed, it’s just a question of whether a wax polish is going to be durable enough. Internal doors, for example are considered, by most people, to be ideal for finishing with a wax, where as a floor will look nice once waxed but regular maintenance is required, so most people don’t opt for wax for this reason.

If the oak needs to be made darker then hard wax oil is ideal because it colours and protects the wood in the same application. It is always good to try and finish with a clear coat if possible because if the wood gets scratched it is the clear coat that scratches before the coloured coat and therefore the scratch is not as noticeable.

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