Nourish the Grain

November 1, 2010

As the days grow shorter, the air cools and we move inside, remember your outdoor furniture. We like the seasoned, worn wooden sideboards, end tables, benches, and accent pieces that adorn our patios. Some might be actual antiques and others merely the funky pieces that are intentionally created to mimic old found relics…but either way, we need to take care of the wood when exposed to the elements. I was with a friend today who said she had been told “feed your wood.” I liked that phrase.
It happens gradually, the sun, wind, rain…it all take its toll on wood. Some pieces have the remnants of precious paint layers and that is part of their charm. Others maintain the natural color and appearance of the wood – getting faded…but which is easier to repair and maintain without the care required with the pieces with paint layers. Teak, like other tropical woods for example can weather beautiful resulting in a silvery gray patina that is sturdy and quite desirable. Other pieces such as the pine/fir varieties that we find from our early Colonial periods and here in the southwest, Old Mexico, are less tolerant of the harsh elements.
In any of these instances – imagine all of the lotions and potions that we see advertised to maintain, regain or recreate our youth… like aging skin, wood gets dehydrated, thirsty, and blistered with sun and needs to be replenished. So like my friend said “feed your wood.” Nourish the grain.
Radical skin therapies like peels, scrapes and even the surgeries are not unlike maintaining or rejuvenating wood. Watch for signs of wear and exposure. Take care with rain collection which wreaks havoc with wood…even though that same moisture therapy might be great for the skin! The true experts know just how to lubricate and restore the original or even maintain the weathered stages of your fine furniture.
The trick is not to ruin the features (not unlike plastic surgery) that are the character of the original and its wabi sabi that give it that feel and appearance of lovingly aging with wear. You don’t want the wonderful patina, cracks and worn edges to be reconstructed to the point that the history of the piece is eradicated making it appear as a freaky modified version of a new piece and a equally modified version of an intended improved version of its actual age. Please know that I must make exceptions for proper time and place for the art of true reconstruction and valuable restoration!
Hmmm… the value of age, the character, and features that are so individual deserve to be maintained and cared for but not modified beyond recognition!!! Feed your wood – both inside pieces and outside in the elements – but don’t alter their life’s fiber irrecoverably so that they may be preserved for future generations to admire and meanwhile, you will have a recognizable old friend to enjoy.

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