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Cabinetmaking: oil finishes

Le Soleil publishes again this year a series of texts on cabinetmaking. In everyday life, you touch wood to call luck. In this section, we will touch it to make furniture and other delicate and ornate objects. Touching wood is like entering the wake of cabinetmaking. From the basics. This, with the help of two cabinetmakers and teachers, one, Éric Thériault, specializing in ornamental sculpture; the other, Pierre Pagé, in finishing.

The luster of the coatings applied to our wooden objects varies according to fashions and eras. We could move forward without being mistaken that the current fashion is matt and not glossy. Proof of this is that oiled finishes are gaining popularity and like any product, oil has its pros and cons.

Applying oil to wood does not require any specialized equipment. Anyone can do it and will succeed hands down with these few basics. Like any finish, the surface must be clean, prepared, free from fatty substances or any residue, etc. A layer is applied to the cloth – lint-free -, which is completely wiped off, 5 to 10 minutes later, with a dry cloth. After drying for 24 hours or more (depending on the ambient humidity), a second layer is applied according to the same parameters as the previous one. And so on. The more coat you apply, the brighter the finish.

Additional layer

The oil does not constitute a resistant finish against everything (water, alcohol, household product, etc.), it is necessary to force to apply an additional layer if necessary, which can occur once, twice, three times or even more by year, or maybe not even. It all depends on the amount of irritants that the coating product will have to face. From the moment the owner accepts this principle of putting on a coat as soon as necessary, oil is a good finish for a furnishing object and enhances the wood well.

If the application of a layer is postponed when it is necessary, the wood being no longer protected, color changes can occur which will quickly become unsightly. All oils oxidize over time and turn yellow at the same time. Oiling a dining table used daily by a family with young children can be a, say, overwhelming choice.

When we take a closer look, we are surprised by the quantity of oils available for coating wood. Linseed oil (a grass) – from which, moreover, we make linoleum, the famous prelart! -, tung oil or tung oil (an Asian tree), hemp oil (cannabis), teak oil (a mixture of oils), Danish oil (another mixture of oils), etc.

Harmless or not

Some brands invent trade names that only bring the name again. Some are said to be “harmless” to health, others are not, it depends on your needs. Additives are generally present to improve the resistance of the oil. In addition, some are guaranteed without volatile organic compounds, which makes it an interesting coating in these times of environmental concerns. One warning: you must have rags, rags and all other items that have been used to apply the oil safely. Extend and dry the rags outside. You can only throw them in the trash once they are dry.

The reason being that a cloth moistened with oil can ignite spontaneously. Many workshops have burnt down only because of a rag of oil forgotten in a corner …

Sample tests

Finally, if you intend to finish an object – as always – you have to proceed by test on samples. That is, we prepare the surface of the wood samples in the same way as that of the surface of the object and we apply the colors and coatings until a sample suits us.

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