What can I put on my raw mahogany chairs?

pattyann1May 11, 2008

I just purchased a beautiful pair of adirondak chairs made locally. They are raw mahogany. Can I our should I put anything on the wood to preserve, maintain, or enhance the wood? If you think I should, what would you use?

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Mahogany is a really nice easy wood to work and finish. Raw, it will take any finish. I think a penetrating oil would give the best look. The rich grain of mahogany stands out when oiled. Left outdoors, the wood will weather to gray in a season. It can be washed and brightened before oiling or re-oiling. Use the same cleaners as for a wooden deck.

There are all kinds of products on the market, you should choose the type (oil, urethane, acrylic) then start researching and comparing products. Some natural oil finishes like teak, tung, and linseed are easy to apply but need to be redone every season, with minimal effort. Other oils have resin with them to form a hard surface as well as penetrate the wood. These are marine varnishes. They last longer, but require more work to apply and reapply.

The worst thing you can do is put on a different type of finish over a previously applies one (remember oil, urethane, acrylic) without completely stripping the wood. Choose oil and stick with oil.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 10:08AM
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Thanks for the information. My grandfather was a carpenter/cabinet maker and I remember he used linseed oil mixed with something. I will check out the ready made teak or tung oil you recommended. Which would you choose?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 10:36AM
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Linseed oil mixed with mineral spirits is a traditional homemade finish. Start with 50/50 for the first coats, and decrease the amount of mineral spirits each additional coat until the final coat is pure oil. Linseed oil yellows over time and requires yearly recoating.

Pure Tung oil by itself is not suitable for outdoor finishes. The ready made teak and tung oil finishes have added resins and solvents that do offer outdoor protection. You will have to reapply these every year, but a simple cleaning and recoat is all.

Marine varnish is another good choice for outdoor furniture. These are used for boats, decks, etc. These have more resin and offer longer performance with easy recoating and spot touch up. I recommend Waterlox because it combines tung oil with an epoxy (phenolic) resin. It will not yellow like the linseed oil and the phenolic resin bonds molecularly with the tung oil. Use the waterlox original (a great interior varnish by itself) for the first coat and then Waterlox satin or gloss marine varnish for the top coats. Let dry completely between coats. Lightly sand burrs before each recoat.

After the final coat, let dry at least a week and then rub out with super fine steel wool and buff with a soft rag.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 1:01PM
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Wow, that is some great in depth information. I really appreciate it!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 10:36PM
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I'm in Florida,I have 2 self made mahogany Florirondacs,with ottomans made of Ipe.My chairs sit 365 days a year in full florida sun,wind,rain,huricanes etc.I use only spar varnish on them.I also have teak,Brazillian Cherry and other assorted woods outdoors.Spar varnish expands and contracts with the wood movement,leading to a longer life.Other finishes are more brittle leading to their failure.Twice a year i lightly sand and re-coat these pieces,with a brush or sprayer.Its a lot of work but worth it to me.There is another product I have used on customers front doors,etc.,but its $60-80 a quart...and hard to work with.See your marine store.Try to get a spar with U.V. inhibitors.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 10:33PM
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