Wood characteristics and caring for your fine handmade furniture
Each piece of wood is unique.
As such, the natural color or grain variations will cause the wood to react differently to finish. It is not uncommon to find several contrasts in the same piece of furniture.
The lighter pieces were closer to the tree's bark, the darker pieces were closer to the tree's center. Grain variations and mineral deposits should not be viewed as flaws.
These natural markings have absolutely no effect on the furniture's durability or structural integrity. Knots and other characteristics are much like the nubs you find in such fine fabrics as silk and linen, true indications of genuine quality.
Protecting and Preserving Your Wood Furniture
Your handmade wood furniture is an investment that should increase in value over time. How much that value appreciates is dependent on how well you care for it, particularly for furniture with an oil finish. It is essential to follow the instructions below to ensure that your furniture will provide a lifetime of service and enjoyment to your family.
Your mother was right! Dust frequently.
Do not use a feather duster, because:
- It will simply move dust around, flinging it into the air.
- Feather dusters can't be washed.
- A feather duster quill could scratch the wood surface if a feather breaks off.
- Dust is abrasive.
- Infrequent or improper dusting can create a worn, dull surface over the years.
- Buildup of dust, accumulated in carvings, cracks and grooves eventually becomes hard to remove, making wood look dark and unattractive.
BE VERY CAREFUL USING WATER to clean wood.
- Wood should never get wet or soaked.
- Water can cause swelling, warping or staining when it penetrates a finish.
- Use coasters, pads, cloths or runners to protect against spills and water rings
How to Dust
Here are some detailed tips from the experts:
- Use a clean, washable cloth made of soft, lint-free cotton
- Best choices include an old T- shirt, diaper, cheesecloth, dish towel, piece of flannel, or chamois
- Dust cloth should have no snaps, buttons, zippers or thick seams that could scratch furniture surfaces
- Do not use a dust cloth that has hanging threads or unraveling edges, which could catch on wood slivers, molding, knobs or other loose pieces.
Dry Dusting versus Damp Dusting
Many experts believe that dusting with a dry cloth is abrasive and will ultimately dull the finish. A dry cloth will not really remove dust, they say.
- Experts typically recommend spraying a few drops of water onto the dust cloth
- Moisten the cloth just enough to make dust adhere to it
- The cloth should not be so damp that it wets the wood.
- If you can see any trace of water on the wood after you wipe, your cloth is too damp.
- Wipe off dust using gentle, oval motions along the grain of the wood.
- Turn or fold the dust cloth as soon as dirt is visible on any section.
- Lift, don't slide, lamps and objects to dust under and around them.
Use of Polishing Products
Although it is not necessary, you may feel free to use commercial polishing products on furniture that has a lacquer finish. Furniture with an oil finish has special care recommendations (see instructions below).
- Do be sure to use the same type of polish consistently.
- Your furniture finish may appear cloudy or streaky if oil-based and wax-based polishes are interchanged.
- Does my furniture have a lacquer finish? See construction details.
Watch the Humidity
Wood is very sensitive to changes in relative humidity.
As the weather changes, so does the relative humidity in your home and in the moisture content of the wood in your furniture.
This means that furniture is constantly expanding and contracting.
- Wood does best in moderate conditions of around 70°F-72°F and a relative humidity of about 50-55%.
- Frequent and sudden changes in relative humidity are especially bad.
- Wood is most likely to crack when the climate in a home suddenly changes from hot and humid to cool and dry.
- Use a humidifier in winter and an air conditioner in summer for best results.
- Furniture ages more quickly if stored in a basement, attic, garage or warehouse.
- Excess heat and dryness can cause wood to split and crack.
- Place furniture away from all heat sources, in front of radiators, heat runs or fireplaces, if possible.
- If you must put furniture near an air duct, use a shield or guard plate to direct heat away.
- Store table leaves as close as possible to the table so they adjust to the same humidity conditions.
More Tips for Dealing with Relative Humidity:
- If furniture is to be stored, it generally does better in an unheated environment because the relative humidity will fluctuate within a much narrower range.
Air can hold more moisture at a high temperature than at a low one.
- Wood can best handle temperature and relative humidity changes if they occur gradually.
Abrupt changes (closing or opening a vacation home, for example) can cause serious stress to your furniture.
- When air conditioning your home, it is best to keep the intake of outside humid air to a minimum.
- Humidifiers or vaporizing units can be added to a heating/air conditioning central system to help stabilize the humidity level.
- Dehumidifiers need to be used during wet, rainy times and in damp rooms to remove excess moisture from the air.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
The ultraviolet rays of the sun will damage a finish and bleach the wood underneath.
- Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause the finish to crack, sometimes in a pattern resembling the skin of an alligator.
- Tablecloths and doilies slow down the process, but they don't stop it.
- Try to keep furniture out of direct sunlight.
- When this is not possible, reduce the amount of light streaming on any piece of furniture.
- Use window shades, drapes or blinds to block light during the time of day the furniture is exposed.
- Uniformly expose surfaces to light.
- Especially avoid letting the sun hit only part of a surface.
- Occasionally move lamps, doilies and other objects so the wood ripens uniformly.
Avoid Heat, Chemical Exposure, Sharp Objects
- Keep solvents such as nail polish remover, alcohol and paint thinner away from wood furniture because they can harm the finish.
- Alcohol is contained in colognes, perfumes and medications as well as in wine, beer and liquor.
- Fingerprints, perspiration and body oils can harm a finish over time, especially on chairs.
- Plants and flower nectar that touch the finish can also cause permanent stains.
- Placing hot items on furniture can cause a chemical change in the finish that results in white rings or spots.
- Products containing ammonia should never be used as it will harm your finish.
We recommend the use of hot mats, coasters even though the finish is water and heat resistant.
- Do not leave plastic objects lying on wood surfaces.
- Color from plastic tablecloths, appliance covers, wrappers, place mats and toys can leach into wood over time.
- Plastic can also stick to a finish, damaging it when it is pulled up.
- Firm writing on the finished surface may cause indentations to the finish/wood.
- Lift, don't slide, objects on wood.
- Place objects on trivets, tablecloths, doilies or others covers to protect the finish.
- Use felt bottoms on lamps and other decorative objects.
- Avoid brightly colored felt because its color could leach into the wood.
- If you use a laptop computer on your desk or table, be sure it does not overheat. This could damage the computer as well as the finish on the desk. In extreme cases, prolonged over exposure to intense heat from a laptop computer could cause the desktop wood to split or crack. This would not be covered by our lifetime guarantee. Read more about heat exposure to wood furniture on our blog.
Carefully Move Furniture
- Lift heavy furniture with the help of at least two people.
- Lift cabinets, chests and dressers from the bottom. Take care not to lift a cabinet by grasping only the top.
- Sliding pieces could hurt your wood floor and damage furniture legs by applying too much sideways pressure.
- If necessary, place furniture sliders under the legs of furniture pieces to make moving easier and safer.
- If a drawer has two handles, use both to open it. Avoid stuffing drawers with too many items.
Special Furniture Care Instructions for the Following Collections with Oil Finishes
|Cherry Moon Collection||American Shaker Collection||Vermont Shaker Collection|
When you receive your furniture it may be tacky from the oil finish we have applied in the studio. The entire piece should be wiped with a clean, soft, lint-free cotton cloth. Do not use commercially available polishes or waxes. Wood remains a live medium and can tend to dry out over time. For maintenance, pure, non-toxic linseed oil (such as Tried and True finish) or any high quality furniture oil (without petroleum dryers or thinners) should be applied immediately after delivery and again every 3-12 months. Regular oiling will deepen the finish while enhancing the natural beauty of the wood. It will also restore the finish over scratches. Good quality oil products are widely available in better hardware stores. With minor care, this furniture will be enjoyed for years and likely generations to come. More furniture care instructions here.
Special Furniture Care Instructions for the Following Collections with Oil Finishes
|Modern American Collection||Contemporary Craftsman Collection||Modern Shaker Collection||Contemporary Cable Collection|
The furniture in these 4 collections should be oiled immediately upon initial receipt and re-oiled periodically with linseed oil-based, non-toxic natural danish oil. In fact when you first receive any furniture with an oil finish you may notice that the wood is still tacky from the oil we have applied in the studio. Not to worry. Just use a clean, soft cloth and wipe down the surface of the wood.
We suggest that you do not use furniture polish or dusting sprays that include a polish, or any wax on the furniture in these 4 collections. While some waxes are compatible with the finish used, many are not. Tung oil is incompatible with this finish and should not be used on the furniture in these collections.
Our recommendation is that your furniture be re-oiled within one day after it is placed in your home, using linseed oil-based natural danish oil. The oil should be applied with a soft lint-free cloth in accordance with the directions provided on the product label.
Additional coats of oil should be applied as necessary, depending on the humidity level in your home. For optimum conditioning of the wood, coats are applied regularly (once a day for the first week, once a week for the first month, once a month for the first year and once a year thereafter).
A liquid satin wax (Original Wood Finish) may also be applied to this furniture if desired. The wax helps to keep the oil from drying out and lends an additional rich soft satin lustre to the wood. The wax and oil products we recommend are totally compatible with each other and can be applied in any combination over the life of your furniture. To truly achieve the best look, performance and durability of your furniture finish we strongly recommend the use of these products and only these products:
- Linseed oil-based, zero VOC natural danish oil
- Liquid satin wax (Original Wood Finish)
- Parker and Baily furniture cream or lemon oil