Danish Teak Furniture: How to Care for It - Popular Woodworking Magazine
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A Danish teak dining table finished with the usual catalyzed (conversion) varnish.

You may be aware that I have a connection with Denmark. My wife is Danish, and we lived there for two years in the mid-1970s. So I guess that makes me the go-to expert on all furniture Danish. One question that comes up often is how to care for Danish teak furniture. Typically, the questioner had bought a bottle of “teak oil” from the Danish store that sold them the furniture, but the store has disappeared, as many have. Now, with the bottle empty, what should they use?

A bottle of “teak oil” bought at a Danish furniture store.

I guess the Danish manufacturers should be happy that they have succeeded in convincing so many customers that their teak furniture is somehow different and should be treated differently than other furniture. Their marketing has succeeded. But, in truth, there’s no difference at all. The teak furniture is finished with a very durable catalyzed (conversion) varnish, so it’s the finish people are caring for just like with almost all furniture, not the wood.

Maybe the confusion is caused by the marketing, which claims the finish is oil. But trust me, it’s not oil. I sprayed the catalyzed finish while I was working in Denmark. Danes are smarter than to finish tabletops with oil and ship them overseas, expecting the finish to hold up.

The care for all furniture is to dust on a regular basis and clean now and then with a damp cloth. I’ve written about furniture care and furniture polishes many times. There are three types of furniture polish: clear liquids that are essentially slow-evaporating paint thinner; emulsifications of paint thinner and water that appear white when sprayed; and either one of these with silicone included that adds shine, longevity, scratch resistance, and smear if you apply too much. None clean that well, but all aid in dusting.

-Bob Flexner


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Comments
  • keithm

    I had a customer that called me in to look at some teak furniture that she had acquired when living in Indonesia. She had faithfully “teak oiled” it. The result was a build up of sticky oil that would leave fingerprints and contained a good deal of lint and dust. Typical of an oil or oil-varnish blend applied too often and heavily. I stripped and refinished it. When I returned it, she asked how often she’d need to apply teak oil. I told her, “Never again.”

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