Firewood Treasures

Caring for Tung Oil Varnish Finishes


How to care for your Firewood Treasures

All of Rick Smith's creations come with a long lasting, tung oil varnish finish. This traditional wood finish is highly water resistant and easy to care for. If your piece should begin to look dull, the luster can be restored simply by lightly buffing with a soft cloth. If that fails, give your piece a very light coat of a high quality, clear, hard paste wax, again lightly buffing after the wax has dried. Don't use too much, you don't want to build up layers of old wax.

I have an old can of Butcher's neutral-colored bowling alley wax that I have used for 20 years, and it's still half full! If you can't find, Butcher's, Briwax makes an excellent high grade paste wax, just make sure you choose the clear one. Minwax also makes a good paste wax, here you would want the one for light colored wood. But never use any of those spray waxes.

Should the finish become scratched, avoid the urge to use one of the scratch hiders. Traditional oil/varnish finishes are easily repaired. Buy a can of Minwax Tung Oil Finish from Home Depot (no Lowe's doesn't carry it). Alternatively, you can use Formby's Tung Oil Finish from Lowe's (no Home Depot doesn't carry this one). You have to work a bit faster with Formby's, because it dries faster than does Minwax.

Wet a good quality, soft paper towel with whatever finish you have chosen (it should be thoroughly damp, but you should not be able to squeeze out any). Immediately wipe on a light coat, wait 2 min. then wipe off the excess, leaving the piece with a "just wet" look. If you've also done the bottom, set the piece on a dry, unfinished piece of scrap 2x4 and move it (use your fingernail to edge it along) to a different spot on the 2x4 after 20 min. The piece will dry to the touch within two hours (but don't test it). Give it at least 48 hours before you buff with a soft cloth. Hang the wet towel somewhere to dry, you might need it later.
[In any case, don't toss it in the trash until it has dried. The drying process, actually a chemical reaction, produces heat and can start a fire.]

If the above process leaves a surface that seems a bit rough to the touch (dust does settle), after the piece has dried at least three days, rub it lightly with that dried, varnish soaked paper towel, then buff with a soft cloth. Keep the towel for this same purpose in the future. The hardened varnish on the towel is just rough enough to take off the bits of dust.


Hint: You now have an almost full can of varnish that, within a few months, will thicken and eventually solidify. But, you can beat that problem. Air, or more specifically, oxygen, is the culprit.

Get a can of Kensington Duster II, or some similar product used for dusting off computer parts (Lowes AND Home Depot carry something like this). Set the cap on the varnish can slightly ajar, push the duster tip into the can under the lid and spray gently for 5 sec., then immediately seal the lid tightly. Your varnish will stay good for at least a year or two with this simple treatment. This trick also works well to keep paints fresh.

A number of folks have asked if I'd write up a set of directions for how to apply an oil-varnish finish to unfinished wood. So, here it is.

How to Contact Us