Handle with Care: 5 Ways to Care for Custom Timber Furniture

caring for custom timber furniture

Quality timber furniture can become a treasured family heirloom that lasts for generations. Four Handkrafted master craftspeople reveal five ways to care for your custom timber furniture to ensure it stands the test of time.

1. Keep It Simple

cleaning custom timber furnitureLess is more when it comes to the day-to-day cleaning of your custom timber furniture.

“The simplest way to clean your furniture is with a weak solution of dish washing liquid and water using a soft, slightly damp cotton cloth, then dry it off afterwards with a soft cotton rag,” says Nicholas Bailey from Nicholas Bailey Fine Furniture.

Avoid using solvent-based or abrasive cleaning products, and don’t apply furniture polishes.

“I would never apply a wax paste or similar,” says Nathan Day from Nathan Day Design. “Chances are you will do more harm than good.”

2. Know Your Finish

custom timber furnitureHow you maintain your furniture depends on the type of finish that has been applied.

“A lacquered piece of furniture looks its best the day it leaves the workshop, while an oil finish will age far more gracefully,” explains Nathan Day.

“Lacquer is sprayed on and forms a protective coating over the timber. It’s a zero maintenance finish.”

Natural oil finishes, on the other hand, require more care.

“An oil finish is penetrative, soaking into the timber and providing protection from moisture and staining,” continues Day. “Unlike lacquer you can re-apply oil periodically to bring the finish back.”

“As timber is a natural product, it’s important to nourish it,” says Sunny Wilder from WilderCoyle Furniture & Design. “We only use a natural oil and beeswax finish which allows the timber to breath and lets you feel the actual grain of the wood. When it looks dry give it a little oil.”

Depending on how heavily the piece is used, you’ll generally need to apply a thin coat of oil with a soft cotton cloth once or twice per year.

3. Protect Against Spills

oiling custom timber furnitureWhether it’s a glass of red knocked over at a dinner party or your morning coffee gone awry, spills happen.

It’s best to clean up the spill as quickly as possible with a damp cloth, however any lasting damage is largely dependent on the furniture’s finish.

“Generally, oil finishes are absorbed into the timber so will not be as resilient to heat and spills,” says Alex Fossilo from FOSAX Design Co. “Polyurethanes, on the other hand, build up on the surface of the timber and fill the grain.

“If a piece of furniture is going to be used heavily I’d recommend a 2pac polyurethane finish like Beckers Acroma that has a high resistance to scratches and staining from coffee cups and plates. Or there is a good oil called Livos that, if applied correctly, builds up a thickness over several coats to provide pretty good protection in high use situations.”

4. Go Easy on the Air Con

custom timber furnitureExcessive air conditioning can have an impact on your timber furniture.

“The general moisture content of a piece of seasoned timber is around 12 per cent,” explains Nathan Day. “Air conditioning is drying and will draw the extra moisture from the timber causing it to shrink and possibly distort.”

It’s important never to place your timber furniture directly beneath or in front of an air conditioning vent, and keep it away from heaters, which may have a similar effect.

“The goal would be to keep the furniture in the most consistent environment as possible to minimise moisture change and movement in the timber,” says Alex Fossilo.

5. Draw Your Curtains

Sunlight can discolour timber and break down a range of finishes over time, so it pays to practice caution when exposing your timber furniture to direct UV light.

“I have clients who have put UV tinting onto their windows to block a lot of the UV light getting in and degrading artwork and furniture,” says Nicholas Bailey.

Another option is to choose a more protective finish for your timber furniture.

“There are some Polyurethane products that have UV-absorbing additives that help to reduce yellowing and discolouration, although they will never stop it 100 per cent,” says Alex Fossilo.

When all else fails, says Sunny Wilder, embrace the natural quality of timber and appreciate it’s rich evolution.

“What we really love about timber is the way it patinas and ages over time. So although it’s important to care for it, it’s also important to let it live, use and enjoy it.”

custom timber furnitureBy Shane Conroy

(Many thanks to Luke & Alison Collins of Bombora Custom Furniture for sharing their lovely photos with us. You can check out their related blog post here.)

About Handkrafted:

Handkrafted has brought together Australia’s most comprehensive community of independent bespoke furniture makers. With hundreds of craftspeople and artisans that can cater to all styles, budgets and geographies, we’ll match you to the right maker for your custom furniture project. 

Commissioning a piece of furniture through Handkrafted is a unique and fulfilling experience. Support local makers and kickstart your own project today.

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