re-finishing oak gates

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I have two oak gates that are about three years old. Following advice from the local experts they were finished with several coats of linseed oil. They looked lovely at the time but they have slowly turned black and now look horrible. :cry:

Can anyone recommend the best way to clean them back to an 'as new' state and what would be the best way to finish them so that they stay looking pristine? I just love the look of Oak and I really need to rescue the state of my gates. ( I have been living abroad since they were fitted so I haven't been home to look after them )

many thanks

Hi James

Black stains on oak are caused by the reaction of the wood around iron. Did you use steel wool to rub them down? Do you have any bolts in the gates and is it worse around them?

You need to clean it up and then coat it with tung oil or garden furniture oil.

IIRC oxalic acid can be used to clean it. Perhaps someone else can confirm or suggest another way of cleaning it.


Indeed I did use steel wool... I have iron hinges, bolts and screws too... seems like I made a complete 'pigs ear' of this...

Thanks for the advice. I was wondering if it was sulphur from the rain that was causing it so you have put me straight. I'll try the oxalic acid on a small bit and see what happens.


I have Teak gates with the same problem. They're 9 years old now and I've tried two or three finishes.
The first one was Sadolin Woodstain which was excellent for weathering (including sunlight) but after a couple of coats it looked like brown paint but nevertheless a lasting finish.
I stripped them down bare and clean 2 years ago and following some research and advice from the manufacturers helpline, applied 2 coats of Sikkens CTL HLS (clear), supposed to be the best finish available for this work and very expensive.
The gates are now starting to flake and another indoor cleaning and finishing attempt is planned for this winter.
I have come to the conclusion that there is no finish you can apply and forget. Timber like this will always need "maintenance". As to which will give you the longest service interval I have yet to find out. The best method for hardwood garden timber is to let them be their natural self, but then they're often not attractive and gates may not close too well

Good luck!
Finally I started trying to cleanup the gates - only to hit a few problems. Oxalic acid didn't work very well. High-pressure hose didn't work very well. Sanding it back was awful. All three left a really poor quality finish with lots of black streaking still visible...

So I put on my thinking cap and asked myself what I would do to get a really good quality finish on a wooden surface? Answer is obvious scrape it! Would that work here? Don't know how it would cope with the black surface layers and don't have a scraper anyway... but I do have a couple of naff chisels that I could use as a scraper blade - worth a try.

Well, to cut a long story short - this worked like a dream. The scraper took off the black surface layer and then cut through to a beautiful smooth wooden surface. After a while I got the angle just right and started to bring the honey lustre out of the oak. I love it! So I've just ordered a set of Axminster scrapers to complete the job.

Next the Tung oil to 'finish' the job :)