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.
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.
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.
Click to read our Oil Finishing Schedule.
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.