Oak Bureau


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12 Sep 2020
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I've just sanded a 1930s oak bureau. I've bought some sanding sealer to ensure a good, smooth finish too but am wanting some suggestions on how to finish it.
I am guessing it will darken naturally as it's quite light at present so I don't wish to darken it much but am open to suggestions on how and what to use to finish. What is normally done to these, is it oil or wax? I've done all the prep but am now stuck.

Help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance
Traditionally it was linseed oil; one coat a day for a week, then one coat a week for a month, then one coat a month for a year.
Beeswax does make it smell wonderful!
Have I got this right, put put on the tung/linseed oil, let it soak and then wipe off the excess? Then when it is all done with the oil apply the beeswax?

Thank you
Have I got this right, put put on the tung/linseed oil, let it soak and then wipe off the excess? Then when it is all done with the oil apply the beeswax?

Thank you
Make sure you read the label. Sometimes the product can have very little Tung oil in it. Like Wasabe sold in the supermarket that ha less than 2% wasabe in it.
I usually thin the first coat so it penetrates the wood well. 3 or 4 coats as per the instructions on the can.

I then apply a bunch of thin coats of beeswax, again as per instructions.

The one thing I don't know if the affect of the sanding sealer that you've applied. You might want to try a small less-noticeable area first.

Hope this helps.
I haven't used the sanding sealer yet. I can give that a miss if need be. I have some clear Briwax, I am assuming this is just beeswax?
No, Briwax isn't bees wax and if you read the tin, it says don't let it get wet, so I never use it for furniture! I use it strictly on decorative items. Maybe I'm totally wrong, read it yourself.

Beeswax is easily available on Amazon, a little goes a long way. I use Parrs natural wood finish bees wax polish.
Ahh, OK. Bit of a newbie. So a coat or two of Tung oil and some beeswax. I will give that a go. Thanks for the help
Remember that oak is an open grain, so just whacking on any finish will leave the surface with that little 'pitted' effect. As such multiple coats of a sanding sealer or even grain filler, or even even a decorative grain filler, might help it to stand out.

With wax, i make up my own bees, with a high degree of carnauba(I cant remember the ratio offhand), which gives a smoother, harder finish. I sometimes feel simply bees gives too soft a surface and is prone to fingermarks.
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Thank you. I will try the sanding sealer on the back perhaps and then beeswax it to see how it looks before doing the entire piece in sealer. Thanks Triton
Just so I've got this the right way. (apologies)
I am not staining the bureau as I love the colour. So, use some filler or sanding sealer, then sand it lightly. Then tung oil. How long do you leave it with Tung Oil before you apply the next coat and I assume you denib between coats and when I've applied, say 5 coats of Tung Oil do you leave it to fully harden (a month+) before you beeswax it?
Does that sound ok folks?
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Tung oil and beeswax are not the right products to use. Tung oil will take forever to cure and pure beeswax whilst it smell lovely remains sticky and will attract dust and show every fingerprint.
If you have sanding sealer then use that as a primer, one coat either brushed on or rubbed in with a rag, leave overnight then de nib lightly, wax with briwax on top of this and it will give you an open grained finish but quite acceptable and you can build the wax by applying more every few months. For a fuller more lustrous finish forget the sanding sealer and apply either four of five coats of danish oil or a couple of coats of Osmo. After the oil has cured you can wax. Microcrystalline wax is the best to use, it has a much higher melting point than other waxes so is less likely to mark with fingerprints. Blended waxes (those generally blended with beeswax) are some of the best waxes to use, they are also the worst to use, it all depends on the blend! As Triton said A blended wax needs to have a good amount of carnauba wax in it to give it the hardness you need on furniture. Of the commercial waxes available the worst in my opinion is Fiddes supreme wax (it has a large amount of paraffin wax in it) yet it is one of the biggest sellers!! The best easily available commercial waxes are Johnstons paste floor wax (yes it is great to use on furniture) any of Jenkins, Mylands or Liberon waxes and there are many other good ones too.
Yes Danish oil is a good alternative, as is Osmo rather than beeswax. I don't use briwax on furniture, nor sanding sealer. Nor floorwax!

You can thin the first application with white spirits which helps the oil penetrate, but check the instructions on the tin.

Here's an oak apprentice piece in the Arts & Crafts Cotswold style, prob from the '30s. Walnut veneer in the drawer fronts, and the frame was made from offcuts of teak and mahogany. Teak oil (yet another) and beeswax.

Beeswax stays sticky if you put on too much, a little goes a long way.


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I've bought the Tung Oil, (Liberon Pure). Also the Parrs beeswax and Rustins sanding sealer. Thanks everyone
I get sloppy with terms 'cos I'm used to talking to people who don't know anything about this stuff! I mean, an apprentice piece as in made by an apprentice, rather than an apprentice piece to move to journeyman status.

To be honest I was conflicted if this was in fact made by an apprentice, or a school project, or just a homemade piece.

What swings it for me is some very nice details like chipped carving and chamfers so typical of that style, very nicely turned oak handles on the drawers, gorgeous (and thick) walnut veneer and attempts at complex joinery, like the dovetail with a pin spanning two boards.

The interior frame joining the legs to the body is made from thick rough sawn mahogany offcuts, which it is unlikely a school or home would have lying around, but a big shop probably will. And the legs are joined with crudely hacked out tenons which are still solid.

The top dovetails have been nicely rebated below the surface and concealed with a strip of oak secured with a pin through the top. The drawer bottoms are rabbited into the teak (if I recall correctly!) sides. Who the heck uses teak for drawer sides? Maybe if you have a great big pile of odds and ends, you might.

However there are plenty of mistakes - dovetails overcut, some dodgy sawing, marking errors which were corrected but you can still see the marks, etc. What my teacher would have called a half decent try.

Anyway long sold and the new owner is very happy with it :)

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