The Basics on Hand-Rubbed Finishes

Follow these tips on applying hand-rubbed finishes to wood.

The only way to duplicate the look of an antique is with a hand-rubbed, penetrating oil finish. One product that’s often recommended is linseed oil – but the problem with linseed oil is that it never completely dries, so it’s always a little sticky. The problem gets especially bad in hot weather.

applying hand rubbed finishes to wood

applying hand rubbed finishes to wood

Instead consider tung oil, which gives a harder finish. The best way to apply tung oil is actually with 400-grit sandpaper.

- Sand the surface and wipe away all the sawdust with a tack cloth.
- Pour a generous amount of tung oil directly onto the surface.
- Use the sandpaper to rub the oil all over the wood. It will create a fine sawdust, which will fill in the wood’s pores for a smooth finish.
- Use a rag to wipe off the excess oil. The oil will harden inside the wood.
- You may have to repeat this process two or three times, but it will be worth it.

An antique’s finish can be refreshed with tung oil. Apply with a rag or (if the wood feels rough) a piece of 400-grit sandpaper.

More advice for the DIYer:
- Never throw anything away – even rusty nails. Save them in case you ever have to repair an old piece of furniture and need nails that blend in. Or, place them in a jar and add ordinary household vinegar. The chemical reaction between the vinegar and the nail will produce a great water-based stain. The silver-gray color will look especially good on oak.

- The rule of thumb is that if you have a white or gray mark, it means moisture is trapped beneath the finish. A black mark means the moisture has penetrated all the way into the wood – that’s the more difficult kind of mark to remove. To remove the gray mark, use 400-grit sandpaper, wet with lemon oil or mineral oil, and give the table a light sanding. Keep the sandpaper saturated with oil so it doesn’t mar the table, and you should be able to buff the mark out of the wood.

- Hard maple is best for a beginner trying his or her hand at wood turning – it has a good grain and won’t chip.

Next Up

Paint Stripper Basics

Whether it's removing paint from baseboards and trim, or removing the varnish from furniture, chemical strippers can help you do the job.

Using Vintage Furniture in the Bathroom

Whether reproduction or the real thing, antique vanities and cabinets give your bathroom a truly unique look.

Tips for Refinishing Wooden Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor wood furniture can be a beautiful addition to any outdoor space, but it requires regular upkeep. Use these tips to care for your wood furniture and keep it looking its best.

The Basics Of Nontoxic Finishes

Follow these tips to apply nontoxic finishes to wood.

Shopping for Antiques and Identifying Their Value

When going shopping for antiques, it's a good idea to bring along a notebook with room dimensions, pictures and fabric swatches.

Tips on Distinguishing a True Antique From a Reproduction

Follow these tips on how to determine if a piece of furniture is really an antique.

All About the Different Types of Wood Finishes

Natural wood finishes enhance rather than cover the grain of the wood. Learn more about the different finishes to help you choose the right one for your home.

Cleaning Antiques

An aged appearance can give a piece personality, but too many scratches can detract from the furniture's appearance. Follow these simple tips to clean antique finishes.

How to Refurbish an Old Dresser

Learn how to give an old piece of furniture new life using a combo of paint and stain.

Tips for Recognizing Genuine Antiques

Follow this advice to learn how to distinguish between true antiques and reproductions.

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Discover Made + Remade

See the latest DIY projects, catch up on trends and meet more cool people who love to create.

Make It. Fix It. Learn It. Find It.