Most of the time when we build a new piece of furniture we finish it with a hand rubbed oil finish instead of a poly finish. Of course, if a customer requests a poly finish we will oblige, but for the most part we prefer a more natural look. There are several reasons we like the hand rubbed oil finish better.
Sometimes, there is a misconception about the need to “preserve” a nice piece of of wooden furniture. People think that polyurethane or something similar will keep the color of the wood from fading. That is true; however, you also lose the opportunity to see the tones and hues of the natural wood deepen over time.
You can get an almost Zen pleasure from oiling a beautiful piece of wood through the years, watching the colors get deeper and richer with each polish. After just a few years the wood will begin to look almost as if it has a velvety texture.
Besides the joy of watching the color of your piece age beautifully, using a more natural finish lets you feel the wood. A highly sanded and polished chunk of wood is something to make the fingers sing. Any time we attend an art show, it’s fun to sit back and watch people walk up and touch our display. It’s nearly irresistable – the natural texture just seems to pull hands towards it.
In some instances, a poly finish is the better choice. We built tables for a pizza restaurant a few years ago. They looked great until a searing hot pizza pan left white marks on some of them. A quick sanding and a poly finish and the tables once again look wonderful.
Furniture that will live outside and counter tops that will be exposed to moisture often will need a thorough coating of water sealer or a poly finish to avoid rot. So, a natural finish is not always the best way to take care of your functional wooden art. We think though, that it is preferable most of the time.