Maintaining the Hand Rubbed Finish on Your Furniture

How to Maintain the Hand Rubbed Finish on Your Cherry Wood Furniture The Vermont Shaker Moon bedroom set above is finished with hand rubbed linseed oil. The craftsman recommends a few special care instructions to keep the wood soft and supple.
One of the hallmarks of Vermont furniture is the finely sanded wood and hand rubbed finish. When you run your hands along the top of these chests or the foot board of this shaker bed, it almost feels like skin-- very soft and smooth. So we spend a lot of time talking with customers about how to maintain that beautiful finish after your furniture arrives at home. Like a fine wine, a hand rubbed finish will improve with age. Here are a few tips to care for it.

Follow the Manufacturer's Instructions for Re-oiling

First check with the furniture maker to see what oil was initially applied and what is recommended for maintenance. For example, the Vermont Shaker Moon bedroom set above is finished with hand rubbed linseed oil. The furniture maker recommends these special care instructions:

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 this 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 hand rubbed 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.

Routine Cleaning

Whether your wood furniture has a hand rubbed oil finish, a lacquer or poly, routine cleaning will keep it looking good. With an oil finish, it's especially important to clean up spills quickly before the liquid penetrates into the fibers of the wood. Learn more about dusting (damp cloth or dry?), polishing and cleaning up spills on our furniture care website.

Humidity and Lighting

Wood is 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. Most furniture makers recommend conditions of around 70°F-72°F and a relative humidity of about 50-55% to keep your furniture looking good and lasting a long time.
Many woods, especially cherry are sensitive to light and will change colors when exposed to high intensity light or even sunlight for long periods of time. Here are some tips for controlling light exposure and humidity on the furniture care page of our website.
* How often should you re-apply an oil finish? The furniture aficionado's rule of thumb is: once upon arrival into your home, then once/week for a month, then once/month for a year, then once per year thereafter. Sounds like a lot of oiling but you'll end up with the most beautiful patina you can imagine!
This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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Peggy Farabaugh

She is a CEO who brakes for salamanders, has bottle-fed rescued squirrels and spent her vacation building furniture for a rural school in Costa Rica. She believes in the future and in the people who will build it. A former distance-learning professor at Tulane University with a master’s in environmental health & safety, she turned an interest in forest conservation and endangered species into a growing, local business. She delivers rainforest statistics at breakneck speed, but knows how to slow down and appreciate the beauty of a newly finished piece of heirloom furniture.

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