Timber Finish

At Dunstone Design, we use a hand rubbed oil/varnish finish on all our furniture, unless specifically asked otherwise. There is no “perfect” finish for fine furniture, but after extensive research, experimentation and advice, we believe our formula offers the best combination of properties for a craftsman made piece.

Our finish is made from a linseed oil based product combined with a modern polyurethane varnish. The oil provides deep fiber penetration, great colour and a “natural” feel to the timber. The varnish provides extra hardness and wear resistance.

This finish can take as much as six months to fully “dry” or polymerize (complete the chemical transition to a solid). During this six month period it will look “hard” but is actually relatively sensitive to moisture and scratching. Moisture (any fluid) can mar the very top surface of the finish during this period. This marking is superficial as it is literally the top layer of the finish reacting (a bit like rail scald on your car’s paint). This marking can be noticeable but is easily removed. Moisture is more of a concern than heat. Heat only starts to become a significant factor above about 60 deg centigrade.

Click here to watch a demonstration on how to re-finish a Dunstone Design dining table with an oil finish.

We use this finish because;

  • It brings out the best colour in the timber of any finish.
  • It enhances the details in our work.
  • It patinas over time, thus “aging gracefully”.
  • It feels great to the touch.
  • It is easily repairable and maintainable.
  • It should never need stripping (because it is maintainable).
  • It is relatively safe (from a health perspective) for the craftsman to apply or strip and is inert when dry.
  • It has the longest “life” of any finish available.
The most common finish used on modern furniture is nitrocellulose lacquer. Most furniture manufacturers will use this type of finish because it is quite hard, very moisture resistant and cheap to apply.

We don’t use a nitrocellulose lacquer because;

  • It retards rather than enhances the colour of natural timber.
  • It is virtually un-maintainable.
  • It makes timber furniture feel like plastic
  • It has the potential to be toxic to the craftsman who applies or strips it.
  • It has a relatively short “life” before it goes cloudy and starts to fail (between 10 and 25 years depending on the actual formula and the skill of application).
  • It is a petrochemical product.
  • It reflects white light at low angles, giving furniture a “plastic” look.
  • It doesn’t patina and makes furniture look shabby over time.
Put simply, nitrocellulose finish was developed to lasts for about the length of time that the furniture was designed to be kept (10 or 15 years).

You may have just invested in a piece of contemporary fine furniture that will outlive us all. Dunstone Design guarantees the materials and craftsmanship of your new piece of furniture for the rest of your life. It is your responsibility to maintain the finish on your furniture. Like everything else worth having, your piece will need some basic maintenance to keep it looking good.

  • Always use placemats under anything you place on a table.
  • Never use a table cloth on a dining table without a table protector under it. A table cloth alone can sometimes conceal a small spill and hold the moisture in place.
  • As required, wipe a table down with a soft dry cloth, such as an old t-shirt.
  • Avoid using a damp cloth on your furniture for the first six months after delivery. After that time, a damp cloth can be used sparingly if necessary. Always follow up a damp cloth with a soft dry cloth.
  • You should only need to re-oil your dining table once every six months. More than that may “over build” the finish.
  • All other types of furniture such as chairs, stools and cabinets need less attention than a dining table. We do not recommend that you oil anything other than a dining table more than once a year.
  • We recommend “Bivos” oil/wax, available from our showroom. We recommend Liberon Clear Bison Wax if Bivos is unavailable.
  • Water marks etc can be removed by rubbing with OOOO steel wool “with” or “along” the grain (OOOO steel wool is available from good paint suppliers and hardware stores). Never use a circular motion or rub across grain with steel wool.
  • What you do to one part of the surface of a piece of furniture you should do to the whole surface. You should wipe down your furniture with a soft cloth after using steel wool and then apply a coat of oil or wax
  • Never use a silicon based polish such as Mr. Sheen.
  • Our furniture is made to look good and to be used. With a little care, your furniture will last your lifetime and beyond.

Never hesitate to call us for advice or help. We are only ever a phone call or email away.

Rolf oiling fine furniture at Dunstone Design workshop


Don’t just take our word for it:

“Dunstone Design has spent more time and care on the selection, formulation and application techniques of their finish than any other Australian furniture company that I am aware of. This is the finish I would specify for a piece going into a major public or private collection.”

-Greg Peters; conservator, restorer and director of Patination Pty Ltd.

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