What Everyone Should Know About Finishing Oak

Welcome to part 2 of our series on wood types. This week I’ll be discussing Oak. If you haven’t already read part 1, feel free to go check it out here: All about Pine Wood.

A little history of Oak

Oak (or quercus as it is known in Latin) is a hardwood with some 400 known species. It has always been a popular wood in The UK, but in recent times it is even more widely used in construction and also as internal fixtures in clubs and gyms etc. For furniture construction oak has become ever more the wood of choice, a trend expanding year on year since the year 2000 when China, India and Indonesia substantially increased their export markets. Pine has been the wood to suffer from oak’s popularity as it is more widely available in the Far East.

The flowers of many oak trees are known as catkins and they are produced by oaks when they reach their reproductive age which is typically aged 20. They are triggered by rising temperatures in spring. Ultimately it is the catkins of many oaks that turn into the acorns, so maybe that popular phrase… ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ should be ‘mighty oaks from little catkins grow’ although it doesn’t quite have the same ring does it?

Treating Oak wood

With regards to finishing and treating oak there are numerous possibilities but there are certain requirements that are asked for time and again… Often we are asked how external oak can be kept looking natural. Whilst the question is easy, the answer is not so straight forward. These are the necessary considerations: –

  • When water penetrates oak it reacts with the high tannin content within oak, resulting in ‘blackening’.
  • The Sun’s UV rays will turn the oak to a silvery hue over time.
  • Clear products are inevitably not completely clear so they tend to ‘bring out’ the natural colours of the oak, normally making it a bit darker and warmer.
  • The levels of rain, wind and sun will make a difference to how quickly the oak changes colour.
Oak affected by the sun

Oak affected by the sun

Oak affected by rain

Oak affected by rain

If the requirement is to keep the oak looking as natural as possible, whilst preventing blackening or silvering as much as possible, then the following is the best system we know of: –

Osmo 420 extra offers UV resistance and also contains biocide which is important for external timbers as it prevents the wood from becoming diseased with wet rot, dry rot and blue stone etc. The oil also repels water, thus preventing it from going black.

If the requirement is to protect the oak whilst keeping the silvery appearance then the following is the best:

Tung oil is one of the clearest oils on the market and doesn’t offer UV resistance.

If the exterior oak needs to be coloured then the following system is recommended:

If blackening on exterior oak needs removing then a scrub with a fungicidal wash is recommended. On the other hand it may be the silvering that needs removing. If so, a scrub with Osmo wood reviver (which contains oxalic acid, amongst other active ingredients).

Unfinished Oak

Unfinished Oak

Finished Oak

Finished Oak

One of the most common enquiries we get is how to keep internal oak looking natural. This is not just a case of simply applying ‘clear products’ as they bring out the natural colours of the wood, thus making it little darker and more golden. A very good indication of how your oak will look once it has been finished with a ‘clear’ coat is to apply water to a test area. The look achieved when the wood is wet is very close to how it will look once a clear varnish or a clear oil has been applied.

Some customers like the way oak colours when clear coatings are applied to it whilst others want it to be as close as possible to how it looks in its natural state. This natural look can almost be achieved by adding some white to your chosen top coat but test areas are vital because each wood needs a different mix of clear top coat to white. Here are some guidelines: –

Clear wax polish is the one exception to the above… If a clear wax polish is applied to bare oak (or just about any other wood for that matter) then the colour is kept very natural indeed, it’s just a question of whether a wax polish is going to be durable enough. Internal doors, for example are considered, by most people, to be ideal for finishing with a wax, where as a floor will look nice once waxed but regular maintenance is required, so most people don’t opt for wax for this reason.

If the oak needs to be made darker then hard wax oil is ideal because it colours and protects the wood in the same application. It is always good to try and finish with a clear coat if possible because if the wood gets scratched it is the clear coat that scratches before the coloured coat and therefore the scratch is not as noticeable.

Oiling consideration

If oak is being oiled it is a good idea to sand it with a sandpaper that is no finer than 150 grit. The reason for this is that the pores of the wood are more open thus allowing the oil to sink into the wood better. Better absorption equals greater protection.

Interesting Oak Stats

  • Oak bark is rich in tannin, and is used by tanners for tanning leather.
  • Acorns can be used for making flour or they can be roasted for making acorn coffee.
  • Tannin dissolves and escapes from the wood. Wine barrels are made from oak and it is the tannin that helps to give the wine its’ colour.
  • Sessile oaks of Europe and can reach heights of up to 40 metres.
  • Oak trees regularly live to be 500 years old, although 1,000 years old oaks are also known.
  • A mature oak tree can produce up to 50,000 acorns!

Oakey Dokey then :)  – tune in next time when we’ll be discussing………… Teak!

80 Responses to “What Everyone Should Know About Finishing Oak”

  1. Cheryl Emery Says:

    I have a raw oak dining table which I would like to leave as natural as possible. What should I treat it with to protect it whilst keeping it looking natural?

    Cheryl Emery

  2. peter davis Says:

    I have client who is considering using an oak dining table as a dining table in the garden. Is oak furniture treated with any finishes which would degenerate in an outdoor environment?

    Thanks Peter

  3. nick Says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    As the table is bare wood, a couple of products to consider would be Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural or Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044. Both of these products are designed to keep freshly sanded or bare wood looking very much the same while offering a good level of protection. Both products are resistant to heat such as hot plates and cups and completely food safe so ideal for a table.

    These products are available in a sample size and depending on the size of the table, one or two sample pots may be enough to complete the project.

  4. nick Says:

    Hi Peter

    The first thing to establish is does the oak table already have a finish such as an oil, wax or varnish? Is it bare wood or going to be sanded back to bare wood?

    If it is bare wood or being sanded back, the wood can be treated with two coats of a clear wood preservative such as Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative followed by two coats of Osmo Teak Oil. This combination of products will help to protect the table from things such as mould. algae, dry rot and other wood related pests and diseases.

    Pay special attention to end grain such as the bottom of the legs. These can be dipped in the preservative for several hours or overnight so that the preservative can penetrate deeply into the base of the legs to offer the best protection. Once the preservative has fully dried (24 to 48 hours) apply the Osmo Teak Oil, again giving the bottom of the legs extra attention.

    Always follow the instructions on the tin.

  5. Stuart Martin Says:

    Thank you Nick for a very useful post. Please can I ask whether your recommendations apply to something a little more architectural – such as external oak weatherboarding on a barn, or an oak door in an oak boarded wall? In these situations I would like to put up new oak boards and joinery, and have it weather to silver ASAP. Should we go for your preservative + tung oil option, or will this stop the oak from silvering?

    Thanks, Stuart

  6. Lauren Says:

    We have some oak we are planning to sand (as very rough at the moment) and use as a fireplace surround with a wood burner in situ, we want to keep looking as natural as possible and not have a very shiny finish, would clear wax polish be the best or hard wax oil as hear resistant better?
    Many thanks

  7. Catherine Says:

    Hi we have raw European Oak beams and I would like to know what to finish them with they are have been drying out and cracks some large have appeared .. we don’t have heating in the room where they are at the moment but shortly will have…. How can I prevent any further cracking crevices from appearing ?…. What could I use to enhance the wood…. So much information out there and want to use the right information so as not to damage the wood…

  8. nick Says:

    Hi Catherine,

    The best way to help prevent Oak beams from cracking and splitting is to feed the wood with an oil or wax based product. I see in your question that you would like to ‘enhance the wood’. A product that will do all of these things is Osmo Polyx Oil. This will enhance the natural grain and colour of the timber while also feeding the wood with a blend of natural oils and waxes. A good way to see how the beams will look with the oil before purchasing is to wipe a section with a damp cloth or sponge, the appearance of the wood when damp is a good indication of what it will look like with the Polyx Oil on.

    If you prefer to keep the natural, untreated appearance of the wood but with the benefit of being protected, Osmo Polyx Oil Raw would be a good alternative.

    I hope the above helps and good luck with your project.

  9. nick Says:

    Hi Lauren,

    If you plan to keep the wood looking natural as in freshly sanded, the best product to use is going to be Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044. This product gives a matt finish so it’s not shiny and helps to keep the wood looking natural. Polyx Oils also have good resistance to heat and can be easily replenished with a fresh coat of oil if the wood starts to look like it is drying out. Simply apply 2 thin coats and allow to fully dry before exposing to heat.

    If you were to use a clear oil, it will darken the timber giving it a damp look and draw out the natural grain and colour of the Oak. Depending on the age and type of Oak, this could give the timber a golden or reddish appearance, not what you are looking for.

    As with any of the products we offer, always do a test area and follow the instructions on the tin.

  10. nick Says:

    Hi Stuart,

    A good combination for your weatherboarding, Oak door and Oak boarded wall, that will give good protection while allowing the timber to silver would be 2 coats of Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative in Clear, followed by 2 coats of Barrettine Log Cabin Treatment. The wood preserver will protect the wood from the biological threats such as mould, algae and insect attack while the Log Cabin Treatment offers protection against wind and rain. As neither the wood preserver or Log Cabin Treatment contain any UV filters, the timber will silver naturally.

    I would recommend the Log Cabin Treatment over using Tung Oil as although it is more expensive, it has better durability and will not require re-coating as often.

    If possible, it’s always a good idea to soak the end grain of the timber in the preservative so that it reaches saturation and then the same with the oil ones the preservative has fully dried (allow 48 hours) as it is normally the end grain that is most susceptible to the elements.

    As with any project – Always follow the manufacturers instructions on the tin and always do a test area first.

  11. Becca Says:

    Great, comprehensive article. – Just what I needed.
    Thank you !

  12. Becca Says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks again for all the info. I have one more question if that’s ok…

    I am building some shelving units in a bathroom and using a variety of oak floor boards. Most of the boards are untreated and previously unused, while a couple have had some kind of varnish or other treatment which I will sand down.

    Based on your article and answers above I thought I would begin with a clear wood preservative (because of the humidity and occasional splashed water in a bathroom) and then follow with either Osmo Polyx Oil Raw or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural as I want to keep the natural, pale colour of the wood.

    So my question is, in this situation will these two finishing products keep the natural look as you suggest, or will the preservative darken or warm up the colour?

    Or maybe clear wax polish would be suitable in this situation? I wouldn’t mind the maintenance, but I want something which will prevent too much staining from water.

    Thanks so much.

  13. nick Says:

    Hi Becca

    The best way to protect the wood from the damp conditions while retaining the natural sanded look is to apply 2 coats of Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative initially, followed by 2 coats of Osmo Polyx Oil Raw or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural.

    Where possible, try to treat all parts of the wood i.e. both sides, edges and especially the end grain. Although these products are touch dry within several hours, allow 24 to 48 hours drying time between coats of the preservative and 24 hours between coats of Osmo Polyx Oil Raw or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural.

    When applying the wood preservative, the colour of the wood will darken, giving a damp appearance, but will return to its natural look when the preservative has fully dried. The Polyx Oil Raw or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil should be applied thinly to keep the wood looking similar to the natural sanded look when dry.

    Wax Polishes can be used in these environments but is easily marked and stained by water splashes and spillages. We always recommend Polyx Oils or Hard Wax Oils in bathroom and kitchen areas in stead of waxes.

    Always do a test area before starting the main project and follow the instructions on the tin.

  14. Becca Says:

    I will do what you recommend.

    You are so generous with your time and your expertise! Thank you!

  15. Nicky Bramble Says:

    Hi, I wonder if you can offer some advice on looking after a huge, heavy, very old door made of oak?
    The door now hangs inside, opposite a large window, and has done for at least one hundred years, but it may have been used externally before that. It is several hundred years old and has not been touched for a long, long time – it looks dried out and uncared for. What would you recommend to care for it but retain it’s character?
    Thank you for any help you can offer.

  16. nick Says:

    Hi Nicky,

    Sounds Amazing. We would recommend Manns Liquid Beeswax Polish in this type of situation. This product comes as a custard/liquid beeswax consistency at normal room temperature, is easily applied with a brush, cloth or roller and dries within 15 minutes if applied as a thin coat. This will help to feed the wood and can be buffed if desired to produce a sheen.

    If your Oak door is exceptionally dry, it may take several thin applications over time for the wax to penetrate in to the timber of the door. The great thing with Manns Liquid Beeswax Polish is that it will not change the colour of the door.

    Always do a test area before embarking on any project to make sure that you’re happy with the results that the product gives.

  17. Rob Says:


    I’m looking to buy a dining table and have seen one I like with a solid oak top and oiled finish. Can I expect oiled oak to withstand the rigours of family life? In particular I’m concerned about food and red wine stains, toddlers banging the table, and regular cleaning as we’d be eating 3 meals a day at it.

    Thank you for any advice,


  18. Stefan Says:


    I have recently purchased some nice oak sleepers and was planning on cutting one and oiling this for a fireplace.

    Can you please suggest suitable treatment to get a nice finish for the fireplace.


  19. nick Says:

    Hi Rob

    Oiled finishes are perfect for Oak table tops. Products such as Osmo Polyx Oil and Fiddes Hard Wax Oil are stain, heat and liquid resistant. They are also easy to maintain and repair if the surface becomes worn, stained or scratched.

    When cleaning, avoid large quantities of water and harsh supermarket cleaners as these will degrade the oil finish quicker than if using a damp cloth and a specific wood surface cleaner such as Fiddes Wood Surface Cleaner or Osmo Wash and Care.

  20. nick Says:

    Hi Stefan,

    You can use an oil such as Osmo Polyx Oil or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil to protect, feed and enhance the natural appearance of the timber. Both of these products will enhance the natural grain and colour of the wood. If you wish to keep the timber looking more like it does in its natural state but wish to add a slight sheen, you could use either Fiddes Supreme Wax Polish Clear Wax or Manns Beeswax Polish. Wood waxes are less durable than Hard Wax Oils but will not darken (give the wood a damp appearance) or enhance the natural colour of the timber.

    Always do a test area before embarking on any project to be sure that you are happy with the result that a product gives.

  21. Mary Says:

    We have an oak mezzanine ceiling which we oiled when we put in. We’d now like it to look lighter. Can we change it at this stage, through using a stripping product or sanding?
    Thank you!

  22. Gordon Says:

    I am having a new American White Oak staircase installed which will need treating. I want to retain the natural look as much as possible and do not want a high sheen finish.

    Can you suggest the best way to go about this and presume I will need to treat it with more that one coat. If so,what should I do between each coat prior to the finishing coat?

    The steps of the staircase will not need treating as I propose covering them with carpet.

  23. Karen Says:


    We bought an old door to use as a headboard. There is absolutely no paint on one side and is mainly grey, but the other has a faint bluish tint to it in places which works well with our wall color. It is rough to the touch. Is there something we should put on it to preserve it and maybe make it a little less rough on our pillows? However, we don’t want to compromise it’s current color, so willing to sacrifice pillows if needed.



  24. nick Says:

    Hi Mary,

    Sanding will probably be the best option to return the wood back to its pre-oiled colour. If you’re looking to retain the natural untreated or freshly sanded look which is lighter, consider Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044 or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural. Both of these products offer a good level of protection while retaining the more natural look of the wood.

    If you would like to make the wood lighter by giving it a subtle or perhaps stronger white wash effect, it may be worth considering Osmo Polyx Oil Tints White 3040 or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Tints White.

  25. nick Says:

    Hi Gordon,

    To retain the natural look of the White Oak consider using 2 thin coats of Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044 or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural. Both of these products are designed to keep the wood looking as natural as possible while offering a good level of protection. Both products produce a Matt finish.

    Full details on how to apply these products can be found on the relevant product pages of our site.

  26. nick Says:

    Hi Karen,

    To retain the colour of the wood and provide a smoother finish, try Clear Fiddes Supreme Wax Polish. You may need to apply several layers to achieve a smoother surface. This product does become more shiny when buffed so you may find that the sheen level may increase over time where the pillows are in contact with the wood. The sheen can be taken down again by just applying a fresh layer of wax and not buffing it.

  27. Mary maidens Says:

    we have a solid oak kitchen table, how do we get the old polish off and start again.

  28. nick Says:

    Hi Mary,

    If the table has just wax or polish on it, try Manns Wax and Polish Remover. Alternatively, it can be sanded but the polish tends to clog up the sandpaper quickly meaning that you may need to use a fair amount of sandpaper to get back to bare wood.

  29. Steve Says:

    Hi Nick
    Brilliant website, thanks. We’ve bought an old oak front door from a reclamation yard and have now stripped the outer side back to bare wood with a combination of varnish remover followed by hard scraping with an edge of a scraper held at right-angles to the wood, then sanding – phew! The weather board at the bottom is still darker (presumably it got more rain in its former life) but we’re happy with that character.
    The door is in an enclosed (glassed in) porch, north-east facing, so won’t get any rain & almost no direct sun. We want to keep it looking as natural as possible with no shine, so I was concerned that the beeswax you suggested for Nicky might leave a sheen.
    Any suggestions gratefully received.
    Steve R

  30. nick Says:

    Hi Steve,

    The Beeswax Polish recommended to Nicky wouldn’t be suitable for your exterior door.

    For your door, i recommend 2 coats of Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative initially as this offers good protection against things such as mould, algae, dry rot and insect attack, conditions more associated with environments that receive less direct sun light and are therefore perhaps more damp. Although this product is ‘touch dry’ in just a couple of hours, allow a full 48 hours between coats and before applying an exterior wood oil.

    In terms of a top coat, consider Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra 420. Although one of its key points is that it offers UV resistance to wood that gets a lot of sun, which in this case isn’t required, it also offers great durability against general weathering and lasts well before needing any maintenance. It also dries to a Satin-Matt finish so has very little reflectivity in terms of sheen.

    Always do a test area and read the manufacturers instructions on the tin or container before starting any project.

  31. Gordon Harradine Says:

    We’ve recently purchased a pair of salvaged solid oak old church doors which we’ve scrubbed, repaired and sanded, and which are now looking lovely. We want to finish them with a soft, subtle sheen but one which will also protect them against the elements. We do not want to end up with a hard brittle shine. Any ideas please.

  32. nick Says:

    Hi Gordon,

    The best way to preserve and protect your church doors now that they have been cleaned and are back to bare wood is to first treat them with a preservative such as Barrettine Premier Clear Wood Preservative. This will protect the wood from biological threats such as mould, algae, dry rot and insect attack. For the best results, apply 2 coats of preservative allowing at least 24 to 48 hrs drying time between coats and before applying an oil.

    To protect the doors from the elements including wind, rain and sun, 2 coats of Osmo 420, UV Protection Oil Extra are recommended. This will enhance the natural grain and colour of the timber as well as darkening it slightly to give an almost damp, satin-matt finish.

    Always do a test area first and follow the manufacturers instructions on the tin.

  33. Nicola Says:

    Hi there,
    Wondering if you could help me. I bought a whole range of dining room, livingroom furniture about 2 years ago from the Cambridge Oak range from Next in the u.k. It is predominantly solid oak with oak veneer. Last week I bought one more piece from the range which has been changed to Cambridge Light. I presume this is white oak they are using now in the furniture range. I love the new piece and the lighter colour oak and was wondering what I could do to lighten the rest of my furniture. Two years ago when I bought it, next recommended treating the oak with tung oil. I applied a couple of coats of this without thinning it for the first few coats with white spirits which it stated on the back of the tung oil bottle. I used Liberon pure tung oil. The furniture has darkened an awful lot in just 2 years and has an orangey look to it and I am really disappointed as I paid a lot of money for the range. Was it because I did not thin down the first few coats of tung oil that caused it to darken so much and is there anything I can do to lighten it without making a mess of it and ruining it altogether. Would appreciate any help you can give me and sorry for the long post, thanks

  34. nick Says:

    Hi Nicola,

    Tung Oil, as with most types of wood oil, will darken the colour of the wood as well as bringing out the natural grain and colour of the timber. You should be able to remove most of the tung oil by wiping with white spirit which will break down and dissolve much of the oil, have plenty of dry rags to hand. a light sanding with a 120 grit sandpaper will then take you back to the bare wood. To keep the lighter appearance of the freshly sanded wood, consider 2 thin coats of Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044 or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural. These will provide a good level of protection for your furniture while retaining the lighter colour of the freshly sanded wood.

    As with any project, Always do a small test area on a low visibility section, perhaps the underside or back edge to be sure that you are happy with the results.

  35. Cain Says:

    Hi Nick,

    Great tips on the website thanks :)

    We have just finished installing a new kitchen and our builder made us a Tasmanian Oak timber frame for the stone bench top. Like a lot of the comments here, I want to protect the frame as best I can but still retain the natural look of the wood. I would prefer a matte, non-oily finish and could tolerate a slight deepening in shade but want to keep the natural look as much as possible. Can you please recommend how to best go about this?

    I am in Australia so unsure if the same products are available here, but the types of products I need and how to apply them?

    Many thanks!

  36. nick Says:

    Hi Cain,

    It’s always nice to hear that the information we provide on the website and blog is appreciated :-)

    I believe that Tasmanian Oak has around the same density as many European Oaks so using a good quality wood oil is going to be a good option. Hard Wax Oils are available in a Matt finish and also dry completely so no ‘oily’ or ‘greasy’ surfaces. Using a standard clear oil will always darken the wood slightly giving it an almost ‘damp like’ appearance, it will also draw out the natural colour and grain of the timber which in some cases, can be very different from the bare wood appearance.

    A way of testing the appearance that a clear oil will give is to slightly dampen the wood with some water on a cloth or sponge. This gives a fairly good representation of how the wood will look oiled without actually applying oil. Once the wood dries from being dampened, it will return to its original untreated appearance.

    If you prefer to keep the wood looking more like it does in its natural state, consider Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044. This oil has been specifically designed to help maintain the ‘Raw’ appearance of timber while still offering the same level of protection as the standard clear Polyx Oil.

    Osmo have a distribution network in Australia. Osmo Australia can be contacted here.

    It might be worth getting a small tester pot to try the product out first.

    Always do a test area before starting any project.

  37. Ben Says:

    Hi nick.

    I Have recently installed some fresh sawn feather edge oak cladding on a building. It’s over a dwarf brick wall which is also dressed in lead.

    The issue we have had is that the tannin is running out of the oak and causing a massive amount of staining on the wall and lead which looks unsightly.

    Before I do another part of the building and suffer the same fate, i wondered if there was a way of preventing this and if so what product would you recommend? It won’t be easy to retreat so ideally something which is a one off treatment. Ideally I want to completely seal the oak so none of the tanning can escape. It’s only a very small area I have left so I am even considering painting this last bit of oak if necessary as it’s a completely separate part of the building but given access issues I definitely don’t want any of this staining.

    Thanks in advance for any assistance you can give a d great website.


  38. Colleen Says:

    Hi Nick,
    We have the tavistock oak range of furniture, and have had our fish tank on the coffee table for a little while, I know bad move! Having so,d the fish tank we have been left with black water ad bar to the surface, although the black has seeped further into the wood and leaves an obvious fish tank outline. I have sanded it back and was going to bleach the black out. Was wondering what finish to use to keep it the same as the rest of the table. Any help would be great!

  39. Viv and Roy Says:

    Hi Nick, we live in a 1930s house with a solid oak front door which has become unevenly stained and faded and could do with a facelift. The ideal thing would be to remove the door to renovate it but from a security point of view this is not practical! Can it be cleaned and treated in situ? Have you any advice please?

  40. Jan Matejcik Says:

    Hello Nick,

    So happy to find your website!

    I’m considering buying a dining table off Craig’s List; originally purchased from Crate & Barrel, the Big Sur, it has a White Oak top and heart wood legs, very natural looking wood. The original owner has applied bees wax to the entire table considerably darkening the wood and changing the look of the table completely.

    Can this table be restored to its original looking wood, both the white oak top and the heart wood legs. It can be viewed on Crate & Barrel website. Thank you for any help you can offer.

  41. nick Says:

    Hi Ben,

    Tannin that runs from the Oak is unfortunately a common problem.

    I’m not aware of a full proof way of stopping this natural process i’m afraid. If you treat the wood with a wood preservative and then an exterior wood oil, it will go some way to reducing the Tannin flow but will not stop it completely. The alternative is an exterior wood varnish which may contain the Tannin better but can be problematic in future years. Exterior varnishes tend to crack and peel as they break down over the years, when this happens it can be a difficult process to fully remove the remaining varnish before re-coating.

    Aged or weathered wood is the best option as the Tannin has largely been removed naturally by the elements, the wood can then be coloured and oiled with a product like Osmo Natural Oil Woodtstain. This will protect and colour the timber but will still require maintenance in the form of a fresh coat every couple of years depending on the location of the structure.

  42. Lionel Says:

    Hi Nick,

    I am planning on using two, 3ft oak stumps as table legs for my dining room table. I have managed to get my hands in the oak but it is freshly cut. What would you recommend I do to take it from it freshly cut state, to being used in my kitchen as the table. Also would it be a good idea to take the bark off the tree prior to drying out or after.

    Kind regards

  43. Michelle Says:

    Hi, we bought an oak dining table from next but it has grease stains on it which I cannot remove. I tried to use washing up liquid but this did not remove the stain and has now lightened the area! Do you have any tips to remove grease stains, darken the lightened area and protect to avoid this in the future?

  44. caroline Says:

    Hi Nick

    Really helpful site.

    All of our interior doors are oiled with Danish oil. I wondered how frequently they should be re-oiled and how the doors need to be prepared for re-oiling.

    Many thanks


  45. nick Says:

    Hi Colleen,

    It’s likely that the black in the wood is mould or algae, the same as you would find on wood around taps, sinks, baths and other damp environments. Black marks created by mould or algae can’t always be removed by sanding alone and should be treated with Barrettine Mould and Mildew Cleaner once it has been sanded to kill off the mould or algae. One treatment should be sufficient but a second can be done if required.

    In terms of re-finishing the table top, it depends on what product it was finished with originally. Do you know if it was a wood oil or varnish? You should be able to find out by contacting the manufacturer directly. Although you should be able to get a close match between the renovated table top and the rest of table, it can be difficult to get an exact match.

    When you’re ready to re-finish the surface, do a small test area first to make sure that you are happy with the results that the finish gives before going ahead with the main project.

    If you need any further assistance, feel free to contact us again via the blog or through the ‘contact us’ link on the main site.

    Good Luck.

  46. nick Says:

    Hi Viv and Roy,

    Although it’s easier to treat all areas of the door when it has been removed, it can be done in situ. To renovate thoroughly, the door should be sanded back to clean, bare wood. If the door still looks patchy and uneven in colour when sanded, try Osmo Wood Reviver Gel 6609, this will help to restore the colour of the timber and even out any patchy areas with the surrounding wood.

    Once the door has been stripped (and treated with Osmo Wood Reviver Gel if required), treat with 2 coats of a good quality clear wood preserver such as Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative or Ronseal Total Wood Preserver. You should allow at least 24 to 48 hours drying time between coats and then again before applying the final finish. The wood preservative will help to protect the wood from mould, dry rot and fungi while the top coat provides protection against the elements such as wind, rain and sun.

    If you’re looking for a clear product that is easy to apply and maintain, consider Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra 420. Apply 2 thin coats on top of the preservative when fully dry, working the oil in to the grain of the wood for the best results.

    Always follow the manufacturers instructions on the tin and do a small test area before starting any project.

  47. nick Says:

    Hi Jan,

    You should be able to easily remove the Beeswax Polish by using Manns Wax and Polish Remover and having lots of dry, clean, rags handy to mop up the dissolved wax.

    To test that all of the old Beeswax Polish has been removed, wipe over the surface of the wood with a damp (not wet) cloth, areas of the wood where the polish has been fully removed will darken as the moisture soaks into the wood, areas that still have polish present will not. Re-treat these areas again with the Wax and Polish remover and repeat the process until all traces of the polish have been removed. The dampened wood will return back to its natural colour as it dries.

    Once the old polish has been fully removed and the table is back to bare wood, consider either Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044 or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural. Both of these products will provide excellent protection against liquid spillages, minor scuffs, knocks, scratches and day to day dust and dirt while retaining the natural colour of the wood.

    Always do a small test area before starting any project and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the tin or container.

  48. nick Says:

    Hi Michelle,

    Do you know what sort of finish the table top has? is it oiled or varnished? A way to find out is to put a couple of drops of Olive Oil or cooking oil on the corner, if after a couple of hours it has soaked into the wood and left a small stain its oiled, if however it remains on the surface as a bead of oil it has be varnished or sealed in some way.

    If the table has been oiled, it’s probably best to take the table top back to bare wood with a quality wax and polish remover. Once this has been done, you can re-oil the table top with a hard wax oil such as Osmo Polyx Oil or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil. Both of these products are easy to apply and maintain and provide excellent protection against liquid spillages, minor scratches and knocks.

    The clear versions of these products will give the wood a slightly darker ‘damp like’ appearance and will draw out the natural grain and colour of the timber. Once the table top has been stripped, you can use a damp cloth and wipe it over a peice of the wood, this will give a good indication of what the wood will look like when oiled. If you prefer to keep the wood looking as it does with nothing on, consider Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044 or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural.

    Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the tin and do a small test area before starting any project.

  49. nick Says:

    Hi Caroline,

    It partly depends on environmental conditions such as how warm and dry a house is and the amount of wear and tear the doors are subjected to. It’s normally noticable when a door needs re-oiling by the appearance of dry looking or slightly discoloured patches.

    Preperation for re-oiling is straight forward. Simply clean the doors first with a slightly damp, lint free cloth such as a microfibre cloth and allow to dry before re-oiling. If the doors have picked up some minor marks, stains or scuffs, try cleaning with a dedicated wood cleaning product such as Fiddes Floor Surface Cleaner or Manns Wood Surface Cleaner. If the door has areas that have become more heavily stained, marked or scuffed (including minor scratches), these can be ‘lightly’ sanded with a 120 grit sandpaper before re-applying a fresh coat of Danish Oil.

  50. nick Says:

    Hi Lionel,

    The good thing with oak is that it can be worked green, this makes it much easier to work with and is how Oak framed buildings where made. In short, you can use them as they are but be aware they will shrink or expand at different rates so you may need to trim the base to re-level the table in the future. Oak is also prone to splitting as it drys but this shouldn’t affect the integrity of the logs, its just a natural process and gives a lovely aged look. I would remove the bark and test the moisture content, a content of around 16% is good for this type of work. Oak logs take a long time to season naturally, usually year’s rather than weeks or months depending on size. Kiln drying speeds this up but can increase splitting and still take months.

    An approach might be to make the table, pack it to stop wobbling as needed, then trim as required in about three years. The legs should have lovely rustic look just like an old oak framed building.

    Applying an interior wood oil such as Osmo Polyx Oil or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil or a Quality Liquid Beeswax Polish wax will help to feed the timber and will help to reduce cracking and splitting.

    Hope this helps.

  51. Ben Says:


    I am refitting a bathroom for a client, the house is in a swiss style chalet, timber framed with large oak beams. In the bathroom, they are having a wet room type shower function and at about 7″ high in the centre of the shower is a large oak beam which potentially will be exposed to significant splash and steam from the shower. Is there anything I can treat it with to protect it from becoming damaged/discoloured?

  52. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Ben,

    Thank you for your enquiry, I can recommend a couple of products Osmo Wood Protector and Osmo Polyx Oil that will offer a good level of water repellency, but will not over a long period of time be completely water proof. The Osmo Wood Protector applied first will make the beam Water repellent but also prevent the wood from becoming dry and brittle in any heat. And then on top of that for a better repellency you should use the Osmo Polyx Oil. It is important to know that the Oil will need regular maintenance coats in order to maintain the water repellency as there is no product that will with stand the long term effects of getting wet or damp. These products will darken the wood slightly and you can get an idea of how much by wiping a damp cloth across the surface of the bare wood.

  53. Karen Says:


    Stripped an oak chest of drawers in caustic solution, it was very light in colour with a golden varnish.
    It came out of the tank very dark oak colour.
    Any ideas why this would happen and how it could be made light in colour again please?

  54. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Karen,

    This is a difficult situation to explain, but it is likely that the Caustic solution has, in effect, burnt the wood. It is generally recommended that Oak or Mahogany is not dipped or stripped using products containing such strong chemicals as the effect is as you have described, making it darker. The only real solution to this would be to Bleach the wood, which in itself can be a complicated process. Bleaching is not something that we deal with here at Wood Finishes Direct, but I can tell you that when doing it you really need to have a well ventilated area and protective masks should be worn. It is also imperative that clean brushes are used and no other chemicals or product come into contact with the bleaching process. I would recommend, that if you do go down the Bleaching route, that some time is spent looking into the process first. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

  55. Gail Says:

    Hello Nick,

    We have recently had thick pieces of oak installed in our conservatory, to replace a piece of upvc that runs around the side wall, acting as a shelf.

    We would like the retain the natural look of the wood, but would like to provide uv protection as it is a conservatory, and also to provide a water barrier from inevitable spills and drips from plant pots/ drinks.

    Would you recommend using Osmo UV Protection 420 extra?
    What would you recommend preserving the wood with underneath?

    Many thanks in advance,


  56. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Gail,

    You are on the right track, in terms of the product although I would not necessarily recommend the UV Protection Oil Extra because it contains some Biocides for protection against Mould and Mildew, and so is not suitable for indoor use. Instead if you use Osmo Wood Protector 4006 first this will prevent the wood from becoming dry and brittle and offer great water repellency. And then for the top coat use the UV Protection Oil 410 this will also give good levels of water repellency and help prevent the wood from fading to silver in the sun. If you find that the wood is particularly exposed then regular maintenance coats may be required. Both these products give good levels of Water Repellency, however if water is left standing i.e from spillages around plant pots, on the surface over long periods of time it will begin to mark or stain the wood. If this happens then just lightly sand back the marked area until it has gone and then re oil with the UV Protection Oil.

  57. Gail Says:

    Hello Sam,

    Many thanks for your thorough response.

    I will treat accordingly.

    All the best,


  58. Tony Gartshore Says:


    I was searching for advice on treating oak and came across this page.. Almost too much information :)

    We have a garden room with solid, light oak window sills which we need to treat, I was thinking of using Fiddes Hard Wax Oil, we don’t want to darken the tone down too much. There is no problem with condensation etc..

    We are also about to have a kitchen installed using a thicker version of the same light oak as a worktop.. Given that splashes etc around the sink will be unavoidable will the Fiddes alone be suffice or should I be looking at alternatives ?

  59. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Tony,

    Thank you for your inquiry, the Fiddes Hard Wax Oil would be suitable for both projects, it is worth noting however that the Oil will darken the wood slightly. If you wipe a damp (not wet ) cloth across the surface of the bare wood you can get an idea of how much it will darken, if you find it is too much then there is an alternative and that is the Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural this product is designed to leave the wood looking as if there is no product on there at all but still offering good protection.

    With regards to the sink area, the Fiddes Hard Wax Oil is water repellent but any standing water will stain if left for long periods of time. You can improve repellency by using the Osmo Wood Protector 4006 first. Hope this helps you to make a decision.

  60. Tony Gartshore Says:

    Thanks Sam,

    Very helpful, will get products ordered soon…


  61. Sue K Says:

    We have had two oak posts erected externally in our new porch area. How do we protect them from the weather whilst maintaining the lovely natural colour and finish of the wood?

  62. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    hello Sue,

    We always recommend that you use a Preservative first, for any external project. Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative in a Clear Finish, this will protect against Mould, mildew, wood boring insect and much more. Then for a top coat product to keep the wood water repellent and help prevent against fading and silvering in the sun, Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra is an ideal product to use. Both these products are clear but the Oil will darken the wood slightly when applied. You can get an idea of how much by wiping a Damp ( not wet ) cloth on the bare wood.

  63. Wendy Says:

    We’ve had an pergola erected in the garden a few weeks ago. The oak was already black in places before it was erected. We are about to have it bleached with oxalic acid to remove the black marks. It is south facing and we want it to develop a silver hue over time. We had understood that this is best achieved by leaving it alone and not applying any products (advice given by a company displaying oak benches and tables at the Chelsea Flower Show) Once the pergola is bleached following the application of oxalic acid what is to stop it blackening going forward? Do we need to apply products to prevent further blackening occurring and if so how do we best achieve a mature silvery hue and not change the colour of the oak?

    Any advice on what to do or not to do would be gratefully received! Many thanks in advance! Wendy

  64. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Wendy,

    Once you have managed to deal with the Black marks, you can just use a clear preservative such as Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative this will protect the wood from mould, mildew, rot and much more. It will not however protect against the effects of the sun, which is what causes the wood to naturally silver. You may want to put a top coat of Oil on to give the wood some water repellency, but one with no UV Protection in it such as the Barrettine Log Cabin Treatment is the best option. But you would need to retreat every few years (dependant on the weather ) with the Oil, or with the preservative if you don’t use the Oil. Hope this helps -Sam

  65. Martina Keep Says:

    Hi there, I’ve came across the site and hoping you can help!

    In November last year we had some oak weatherboarding applied to each end of our property. For the first few months it looked great but fast forward to today and the oak has all dark marks appearing and has prominent cracks appearing, to say we are upset is an understatement! We were never told anything by the Chippie who applied the oak on how to clean, protect it etc

    We don’t really have the budget to replace the wetter boarding so am wondering on what we can do to firstly get rid of the black marks and clean it, protect it from happening again and also what we can do to protect it from cracking. I understand that this happens with timber, but not after a few months!

    Any help on what we can do would be much appreciated.



  66. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Martina,

    The first question to ask is if you know whether the boarding has any treatment on, it sounds like it doesn’t. And because of this you have what is possibly Black Mould that is a result of Water ingress. To treat this you could use Barretttine Mould and Mildew Cleaner and then I would recommend a full treatment with Barrettine Premier Wood Preservative as this will protect against mould, mildew, wood boring insects and much more. Then a top coat of Osmo UV Protection Oil Extra , this will nourish and protect the wood. It will not get rid of the cracks as such, you may want to fill those but it will improve the look of the wood and prevent any further silvering. You can do a maintenance coat of the Oil when you feel it needs it in years to come with out having to worry about removing the previous treatment.

  67. Martina Keep Says:

    Hi Sam, thanks for your feedback.

    You are correct the weatherboard hasn’t been treated.

    We are happy for the oak to turn silvery as time goes on, we just want to protect it for the black marks and cracks, so would we still need the osmo-uv-protection oil?

    Ultimately we want the oak to remain in good condition for many years to come but are happy for it to take the silvery effect. So anything you can suggest would be much appreciated



  68. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hi Martina,
    As you are happy for the natural silvering to occur I would still suggest using an Oil after the Preservative, the preservative can be used as a stand alone product with regular maintenance will keep the wood protected, but for the best level of protection for your wood I would still recommend applying an Oil as this will make the wood water repellent. By keeping the wood as water repellent as possible you will avoid that black mould from re appearing at a later date.

    The Barrettine Log Cabin Treatment is a good cost effective product that doesn’t have UV protection in it.

  69. Jon Says:

    Hi, I am making two adirondack chairs out of English oak for the patio. Thanks for your article on finishing which has given me confidence about the tannin staining.
    Could you advise if special care needs to be given to any knots in the timber? I can try and avoid any when cutting but there may be some I cant avoid.
    Thanks, Jon

  70. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Jon,

    If you are worried about the knots weeping Tannin we do a Sealer called Manns Shellac Sanding Sealer ,you can use this one if you intend to Varnish your chairs, this product can be used to seal knots and in fill minor scratches, it will help to prevent Tannin staining. If however you are planning to use an Oil to finish the Oak then it is not advisable to use the Shellac Sealer as it will prevent the Oil from being absorbed. Hope that helps – Sam

  71. Justine Lewis Says:

    Hi there – I have an untreated oak sideboard and actually want it to develop that slightly blackened/greyed look that oak gets when left outside – short of leaving it out in the rain can you help please? Failing that will leaving it out in the rain work and for how long!
    Many thanks

  72. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Justine,

    It would not be wise to leave the sideboard out in the rain, it may achieve the desired colour after a time but the wood will get damaged, warped and effected by mould and mildew. I would recommend trying a stain to achieve the desired colour. You could try the Manns Oak Woodstain in a watered down Ebony. If this is too dark it would be worth trying the Manns Pine Wood Stain in Driftwood. Both these stains are water based and so could have water added to lighten the colour and then you would need to seal both these products with a Varnish or Hard wax Oil, and it is worth noting that this will darken the colour as well. It may take a little bit of experimenting and test areas to get the right finish but it is achievable. Hope this helps.

  73. Mary Says:

    Hi Nick,
    I have a lovely golden oak kitchen with surface mounted hinges. I want to remove these but the wood underneath is darker due to the sun & time. How do I remove these darker marks where the hinges have been?
    Thank you

  74. Sarah malone Says:

    Hi there,
    We recently fitted oak work tops in our kitchen, we had them pre treated before they arrived, we have found that if they are getting wet the area is going pale and rough in texture, any idea why this is? In addition anything wet leaves a mark even if it’s cold. We have only fitted them a couple of weeks ago and Have sanded and are oiling regularly with sadolin. Any tips really appreciated, could the roughness when water spilt be indicative off poor quality.
    Thank you Sarah

  75. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Mary,

    It will be easier for you to bring the lighter part of the wood up to match the dark area of your wood. It can be tricky to lighten wood and difficult to get the colour that you wish to achieve. Using a Stain such as Manns Oak Wood Stain and top coat finishing product you can bring your wood up to the original colour. I hope this helps.

  76. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Sarah,

    This is a fairly common query which points to insufficient oiling. Wood that doesn’t have enough oil in the surface is not water repellent or durable enough. An oil test will help you gauge how much oil is in the wood and whether the wood is still ‘thirsty’. Any oil can be used but most require 3-5 initial coatings plus a fresh coat every 3-6 months approx. Hard wax oils such as Fiddes Hard Wax Oil are better because you only need 2 initial coatings with a fresh coat every 1-2 years approx. The downside is they cost more. Back to the ‘oil test’ then… It involves oiling the wood (ensuring oil is well worked in using thin applications). You can then drop some more oil on to test areas and wait an hour or so to see what happens. If the oil starts to sink in the wood is still thirsty, if the oils beads (like water on glass) then the wood is well oiled. In short your wood will never be sufficiently protected until you have a successful ‘oil test’. It is also important that you don’t ‘over oil’ your wood as excess oil forms a skin that is easily marked. Well worked in and thin applications is the order of the day.

  77. Philip Davies Says:

    My pal has planed off the drawer fronts of an oak map cabinet,but has been unable to remove the patchy appearance of the material. He wants a consistent golden finish. At present it looks as if it has been very unevenly sanded. Possibly this due to either the penetration of the original dark finish or spalting. I suggested either liming paste or failing that going over with a blowtorch! But do you have any advice?
    Apologies if you have dealt with this already. Thanks in anticipation
    Philip Davies

  78. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Philip,
    Its difficult to give a definitive answer on this one with out seeing the cabinet itself, but if there is some previous product left on there that is causing the staining then you may need to try a removal product such as Paint Panther Paint and Varnish Remover or spend some more time sanding the surface. If you would like to send some photos in to us at helpme@wood-finishes-direct.com so we can a better idea of how to advise you that would be great.

    Kind Regards

  79. Jessica Says:

    Great information on this site, thanks for sharing. We are looking at adding an oak cabinet to our existing oak kitchen. Our cabinets are 15+ years old and want to make sure everything comes together properly. We have been given lots of advise but it is contradicting. We matched our existing cabinet door in a show room to “natural oak”. The cabinet came in but is brown compared to my existing. We then discovered that the sample in the show room is aged and not what we were to expect. Cabinet manager tells me to wait 1-1.5 years and allow the cabinet to age naturally, other professionals tell me that they need to do a custom stain match and apply that. I want to go the right way, this is too expensive to just guess. I can send a picture of the colour difference if you would like to see.


  80. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Jessica,

    In truth both options are correct, you can wait for it to age naturally , although in the mean time your current cabinets will also continue to age. Or you can try to colour match by staining, which could involve a little experimentation with some water based stains ( which are easy to remove if wrong )

    It is also true to say that it very difficult to match up two woods, even if they are from the same type of tree, they can still be very different in colour and grain.

    If you would like to send in some photos to our email address helpme@wood-finishes-direct.com and one of our experts can take a proper look and offer some more advice.

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