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Josh Vincze

Baobab wood oil finish

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Currently have a client with an outdoor solid (carved out of a tree trunk) baobab day bed.  The client would like me to clean it without removing the patina then reapply oil.  She says the person that sold it to her recommended almond oil.  

  Any suggestions on cleaning followed by wipe on oil finish?  I'm trying to slow down the growth of check marks.  

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No experience with that species, but if the piece is actually carved from a solid trunk, it likely has large thick areas that are still losing moisture. Checks are a natural result of uneven moisture loss.

Cleaning without removing 'patina' is sort of an oxymoron. Much of the patina is made up of dirt and biologicals that cleaners are meant to remove. I'd try a mild cleaner like Murphy's Oil Soap.

As for refinishing, perhaps a drying oil (boiled linseed, tung, etc...) could slow the drying process enough to minimize checking. Hard to guess how it will penetrate, since the piece was treated with almond oil, which never really dries.

For raw wood, the old-timers advise applying linseed oil once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year forever. Mop on liberally, until it stops absorbing, then wipe away the residue. Some porous woods will 'weep out' excess oil during the first heavy application period, which should be removed.

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Completely agree with the oxymoron part.  The piece is definitely one solid piece and extremely old.  The client is a bit of a collector of African pieces.       What would be the purpose of the dealer recommending a 100% oil which would never harden? Is baobab wood like ipe making sealers/modified oils counter productive?  

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Sorry, I have no experience or knowledge of that species, other than the fact that they grow to enormous girth.

If the piece is 'very old', perhaps it is as dry as it will get, and the almond oil recommendation was more as a way to keep the wood looking fresh? Personally, I would prefer to use mineral oil, as almond oil can turn rancid. 

As a simple way to treat wood that sees little wear and tear, 'butcher block conditioner', a blend of mineral oil and beeswax, seems to do a good job of keeping the wood from looking dry, better than oil alone.

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