It’s great to celebrate a timber in its natural colour. To archive the desired look, we generally have to apply a stain or colour to the timber before polishing but in the case of this Oak staircase its been kept in its natural state, with French Polish and Lacquer as the only additions.
This staircase is made from Solid Oak and was in a bad condition when it was handed to us, last week. Lots of black stains due to moisture (see timber in wet areas) and the effects of plaster (the sort of plaster used to plaster walls and ceilings in buildings reacts with the tannins in Oak timber and turns the timber black, if the timber is not sealed first), these took a lot of work, using chemicals, to clean up and bleach out of the grain.
The other awkward thing about this staircase, is that due to it’s location, there will be lots of foot traffic and much of it immediately from outside, so no time for shoes and umbrellas to dry before use. The appropriate finish is Lacquer for this sort of thing but it’s not the nicest finish and wouldn’t best bring out the grain and figure in the timber. French Polish is the best to look at but it’s not the hardest or most water resistant finish. The solution was to use multiple finishes together, three in this case.
We polished everything with French Polish to begin with, as this exposes the lovely Oak timber, then we applied a special, very hard wearing, water based Lacquer, on the stair treads and a solvent based Lacquer to the staircase stringers and lower sections of newel posts. This last type of Lacquer can take impacts, which is useful in low areas that may be kicked. The final step was to finish all the upper sections and handrail in more French Polish. These where built up to a good shine and then dulled slightly to a satin sheen.
The whole staircase now looks great and all the separate finishes, traditional and modern, match seamlessly together.
(Please click image for larger view)