How to care for oak furniture - oil or wax?

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How to care for your Oak Furniture

Oak is otherwise known as the Living wood this means that extremes of heat or cold, dryness or damp, are likely to have an effect on your Oak Furniture.

About OAK

Oak wood is one of the most valued and desired types of wood for fireplace mantes and flooring but there are several types of oak wood and not all are the same. For that reason it is highly important to be well informed about different types of oak wood, their properties and uses because a carefully chosen oak furniture, for instance, can last for several generations.
Like its name suggests, oak wood is obtained from oak but there are over 600 oak species and not all of them are used for furniture making and flooring only. Oak genus includes large deciduous oak trees most people are familiar with as well as small shrub-like species. All oak species are native to northern hemisphere from cold latitudes to tropical areas of Asia and America but not all of them are used for wood. Oak trees are hardwoods which means that they are strong and hard yet easy to work with which makes oak wood very useful for both furniture making and a variety of other wood objects. In addition, oak wood is one of the most dense naturally occurring materials, while high content of tannin makes it resistant to both fungal diseases and insects. It has a density of about 0.75 grams per cubic centimeter. For example, pine wood has a density of 0.43 grams per cubic centimeter.
 
Oak wood has been highly valued since the Middle Ages for its strength and durability as well as highly attractive grain markings when quarter-sawn. It has been used for both garden furniture making, floors and construction as well as interior paneling. One of the finest examples are the oak panels in the debating chamber of the House of Commons. Oak wood from species Quercus petraea and Quercus robur was also used in shipbuilding until the 19th century when wood was slowly replaced by iron and other metals.
Both European and American oak species are also used for making barrels for ageing of a number of wines, brandy, whiskey including Scotch whiskey, while the bark of Cork oak (Quercus suber) that grows in the Mediterranean countries is used for making corks. Of the American species, the Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and White Oak (Quercus alba) are the most sought after. The Northern red oak is particularly valued for its highly attractive colour but it is not appropriate for outdoor use such as garden furniture because its large openings make it vulnerable to fungal infestation.
Of the European oak trees, wood from Quercus robur also known as English Oak (although it is found in most parts of Europe and even North Africa) is the most popular oak wood for interior use because of its durability and highly attractive dark and light brown rings. Quercus petraea or the Sessile oak, on the other hand, is more popular for making wine barrels and timber framing.
Oak wood has one disadvantage. Oak trees mature very slowly, white the acorns that contain seeds do not appear until the oak tree is mature and may take many years before start growing which is why oak wood is relatively expensive.

1. Waxed Oak

Waxed oak furniture is not sealed like lacquered Oak Furniture; therefore it will absorb the elements from its surroundings. If anything is spilt on the furniture make sure you act fast or it could be absorbed into the wood, leaving marks. This is exactly the same with heat, dark rings will be left if the heated item is placed directly on to the waxed Oak Furniture, we recommend using place mats where possible, or covering the item with a table cloth etc.
Care instructions:
Dusting your Oak furniture is best carried out with a damp soft cloth to stop the dust billowing and re-settling on the oak. Try not to use any strong spray polishes as this could seep under the waxed layer and cause cracks to occur. If the item of furniture is dirty and you cannot remove the mark simply with dusting, you can use a damp cloth. Make sure you try to remove any excess water, and again follow the grain of the wood. Make sure to dry off the Oak Furniture after you have finished. Apply wax to your Oak Furniture once or twice a year and this will help maintain the grain and keep the durability of your Oak Furniture. Please see our section on Re-waxing your Oak Furniture for further information.
Re- waxing your Oak Furniture:
Your Oak furniture is going to need a thorough waxing, especially in its first few years in your home. Waxing helps the grain remain protected, helps the wood resist cracking and crazing, and of course keeps any finishes on your oak furniture in the best possible condition. This can be done with any Oak furniture wax you can find in your local furniture shop. Waxing doesn’t work well if you make little circles or broad back and forth strokes. You want to apply the wax with a clean cloth. Move in the same direction as the grain, leave for approx 5 minutes, and then remove the wax by buffing, again following the direction of the grain. This allows for optimum protection within the grain while minimizing streaking and air pockets.
CAUTION: When applying new wax finishes to your oak furniture the colours may differ. To make sure the colour is to your liking you may want to try the wax on the underneath of the table or somewhere not in plain sight so you can decide if the finish is to your taste or not.

2. Oiled Oak – Tung Oil or Linseed Oil

Oiled Oak is a gorgeous finish which aims to bring out the warmth and depth in the natural grain of the wood, which all round makes a wonderful piece of Oak Furniture. Oiled oak furniture usually consists of several coats of pure Tung Oil or Linseed oil to give the wood the resistance needed against the elements. Unlike conventional lacquers the drying oils penetrate deep into the timber, which gives the Oak a protection from the inside, rather than a layer sitting on top. They are not easy to chip and small scratches can be repaired simply by adding a little extra oil to the damaged area. Oiled Oak Furniture also keeps some of the roughness of the natural wood as it is not a layer over the natural oak, this gives for a lovely natural and warm piece of Oak Furniture.
Care instructions:
Oak furniture is oiled to make sure it is protected from heat, sunlight and liquids. However it is not immune to damage from these situations. Try to use place mats where heated objects may be placed directly on to the oak furniture, and try to tend to any spillages as soon as possible so as not to damage the integrity of the oiled finish. Try not to use any strong cleaning detergents on the Oak furniture as this can react with the finish and leave a mottled or cracked finish on your furniture. If the furniture is exposed to any of the aforementioned for long periods of time the oiled finish may need reapplying on a regular basis. To see how this is done please see our Re-applying oil to your oak furniture section for more information.
How to Re-Apply Oil to your Oak Furniture:
If your oak furniture is exposed to hot or cold, damp or dry for prolonged periods of time you may need to re-apply oil on quite a regular basis, otherwise once or twice a year is fine. If you feel that the Oak is to dry you can also decide to apply more oil to the Oak Furniture. • Lightly sand the surface along the wood fibres with fine grained sandpaper. (400 Grit)
• Apply the oil with a dry cloth or rag. Make sure to apply the oil evenly over the surface. Wait until dry and then repeat.
• Leave to partially dry for 10 – 20 minutes, then go and wipe up all excess oil and buff the furniture.
• Then leave the Oak Furniture to dry for at least a day.
CAUTION: Make sure that the cloth you use to oil your furniture is thoroughly soaked in water after use or disposed off.

3. Lacquered Oak

Lacquered finishes give a glossy appeal to the Oak Furniture. The colour is applied and a polyurethane top coat is applied to give a glossy or semi matt finish. Generally it is a glossy finish however it does depend on the colour used as to whether the finished Oak Furniture is shiny or not. The top coat gives a hard protection and seals the wood. Lacquered oak tends to be more durable than other oak finishes as it has been sealed against liquid penetration, hot cups and such like. However it is advised that you still use mats and try to attend any spillages as soon as possible.
Care instructions:
Wipe down with a damp cloth to remove any dirt, but dry off the surface when finished. When dusting it is safe to use an everyday spray polish on this type of Oak Furniture as it is a more durable finish, you can polish this Oak finish as part of your weekly routine. However do be careful you are not using any harsh chemicals as this could affect the overall finish on your Oak Furniture. As an alternative you can use warm water with a mild soap. Never use oiled or treated cloths on a lacquered finish as this could remove the hard top layer from your furniture leaving it open to damage.
WARNING: Constant water will wear down the lacquer leaving it dull, which gives a mottled appearance.

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