So you’ve made the investment in beautiful, handmade furniture that was designed to last you a lifetime and more. But as we know with many things from cars to fine china, items only last as long as we give them the care they deserve. Fortunately even with very little maintenance, you can love your custom pieces of furniture as much in 50 years as you do today.
Less is More
Regular dusting is all that is required of most custom wood furniture. If the piece has tile or other decorative elements, wipe them with a damp cloth if necessary. Every few months or so, depending on your climate, you will want to clean handmade tables with a gentle wood soap and follow up with a light coat of olive oil. There are other products on the market for this purpose, but you can also use the one that’s in your pantry already and works equally well.
Protect Your Pieces
To keep the color of the wood from fading, keep pieces out of direct sunlight. If this is impossible, move it around from time to time so it lightens uniformly, without obvious tan lines. Once a year you may want to polish it with a beeswax-based product or whatever the custom furniture makers recommend. If it’s an heirloom piece, ask a professional furniture restorer before polishing, and when in doubt, leave it alone.
Many spots and discolorations can be safely removed by lifting just the outer layer of finish.
- White spots show up when water has penetrated the finish; applying denatured alcohol or a gentle abrasive (ashes and vegetable oil is a good home remedy) and then polishing will usually remove these blemishes without permanent damage.
- Deeper stains such as ink will require taking up the entire finish. You may want to get professional help for these.
- Food stains and latex paint can usually be removed with water.
- Scratches can often be buffed and polished over. For a quick fix, apply wax crayon in the appropriate color.There are furniture-specific products for this, but you can also just raid your child’s art supplies. To repair a ding or deep scratch, use a knife to precisely remove any cracked finish, rub along the grain of the wood with No. 0000 steel wool, wipe with a damp cloth, and then carefully apply varnish with a small brush. Buff and polish when dry.
Artisan-made furniture is a joy to own and very easy to maintain with a little bit of protective care. Before you commission or buy a handmade piece, think carefully about how you will use it and which materials and finishes will best suit your lifestyle over the years to come.