Hand-Rubbed Oil Finishes: The Artistry of Amish Craftsmen

Hand-Rubbed Oil Finishes: The Artistry of Amish Craftsmen

What makes hand-rubbed oil finishes a preferred choice for Amish craftsmen?

Hand-rubbed oil finishes have been used for centuries to enhance the natural beauty of wood.   Although these finishes can be used on any type of wood, they work best on hardwoods like maple, cherry, hickory, and oak used by Amish craftsmen. Penetrating deeper into the wood, they bring rich dimension to the surface while highlighting the beautiful grain patterns that are characteristic of American hardwoods. Hand-rubbed oil finishes nourish the wood, creating hand-rubbed sheen and a natural, rich finish as opposed to other artisanal varnish finishes, which are available in gloss, matte, and satin.

Although more susceptible to damage, they are also water and spill resistant, while still allowing the wood to breathe as it would naturally.  Scratches, dings, and abrasions from everyday wear and tear are easily repaired by lightly sanding the area and adding a fresh coat of oil when necessary.  An oil finish is water and spill resistant, making it both durable and long-lasting.  Hand-rubbed oil finishes can be reapplied anytime to freshen the furniture piece and to build up the finish to a more beautiful shine.

Overall, hand-rubbed oil finishes are a beautiful and durable way to protect and enhance the natural beauty of wood.

How does the hand-rubbing process enhance the natural beauty of the wood?

The hand-rubbed oil application is just one of the many important Amish oil finishing techniques passed down from generation to generation.  Unlike polyurethane and varnish, a hand-rubbed oil finish penetrates deeper into the wood surface to enhance the natural grain and color of the wood.  Producing a more textured grain pattern, hand-rubbed oil finishes add a rich dimension to Amish furniture.   These craftsmen take great care in selecting the best oil for their chosen wood and applying the oils by hand to achieve their desired look.  

Are hand-rubbed oil finishes suitable for all types of wood in Amish furniture?

Yes. Although hand-rubbed oil finishes are suitable for all types of wood, they are best when applied to hardwoods used in Amish furniture such as cherry, oak, maple and walnut.  Quality master crafted wood oil finishes involve the artisan’s complete understanding of the wood they are working with as well as the oils used in the finishing process.  These oils, when applied to different types of wood, may require a different weathering period.  Once applied, hand-rubbed oil finishes are typically then buffed with cloth, felt, or lambswool.  Linseed oil and tung oil are just two of the finishing oils that are commonly used by Amish craftsmen.