There are three chairs in my shop waiting to go out and a flurry of oiling and rubbing happening to get them ready. Each time that the oil hits the cherry, it glows a bit deeper and richer, which is good fun (although rubbing the oil off is another matter!). While building these chairs, I couldn't resist placing the lovely inclusions and markings in prominent places. I've talked before about the difference between designing for a painted piece and one left natural. In my book, they both have their strong suits, but in this case, I have had a lot of fun leaning on the appearance of the wood to accent the design. Below is the front right leg of the rocker that I am crating up tomorrow.
It's like a little painting! Of course, the other desirable aspect of working with cherry is the color and patina that only time can truly bring. The photo above and the two below are a timeline of the color shift. I made the chair above a few months ago, the one below has been finished for about 5 weeks and the third is about 1 week old. The longer that the cherry is left unoiled and exposed to the air, the quicker it seems to take the color, although, in time, it all seems to even out.
Quite a difference from the first image to the third. The photos also highlight some more of the lovely markings that I've been coming across while finishing the chairs.
Below is one that I came across under one of the arms. Just like in painting, I believe that you can't finish what you aren't looking at, so I spend a lot of time contorting myself to see the areas that oil just loves to pool in.
One benefit of using turnings in the natural chairs is that you get to see the tangential and radial planes in their full glory. Here's the radial plane on a chair leg.
Here is the arm of the rocker. I'm showing it to demonstrate the level of sheen that I like to achieve on the finished piece. Normally, I send chairs out the door slightly shinier than I actually like, knowing that the finish tends to dull in the first year.
This brings up a question that I often field about the varnish oil mix. The simplest answer is to mix 1/3 oil, 1/3 spar varnish and 1/3 mineral spirits. But that doesn't really cover the whole story.
The oil is affected by the three ingredients to different ends. Too much varnish and the oil will build a finish in fewer coats but be difficult to handle and will tack up too quickly to remove easily. Too much tung or linseed (boiled will cure faster but has driers) and the oil will be easier to remove but the finish will take more coats to build. The mineral spirits thin the oil to help it flow and soak in, I like a thin first coat to soak in more deeply, but too much spirits in the final mix will require more coats to build the finish as well. So just like any tool in your shop, which needs proper selection and care to achieve the task at hand, subtle adjustments to the oil can help turn finishing into something besides mindless rubbing...and rubbing.