What does aged white oak look like?

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Forum topic by jmos posted 06-07-2012 05:16 PM 6035 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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823 posts in 2339 days

06-07-2012 05:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: oak finishing arts and crafts

I know that cherry darkens as it ages, but what about white oak? Does it change color?

I’m finishing a Harvey Ellis design bookcase that’s all QSWO and I’m kicking around finish ideas. I’ve got a couple of formulas for trying to replicate Arts & Crafts finishes, and I’ll put together some test boards and see how they look. Then the Boss will pick what she likes.

I’m thinking of trying some blonde shellac over raw wood to see what it looks like. I was wondering what happens to QSWO as it ages with just a clear finish?


-- John

8 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3546 days

#1 posted 06-07-2012 05:19 PM

It kinda works like this ,dark woods lighten and light woods darken.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 2987 days

#2 posted 06-07-2012 05:32 PM

There is no clear “set in stone” rule for what finish is supposed to be used, it is what you or the customer wants

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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427 posts in 2549 days

#3 posted 06-07-2012 05:37 PM

I built my outfeed / assembly table out of (donated) white oak 20+ years ago. I sealed it with a couple of coats of 1 lb. shellac, then 3 coats of poly. It’s in my basement shop, but it looks exactly the same as it did the day the poly cured. Yellowish. No color change whatsoever. None.

One of the current mags has an article on getting that “fumed” white oak Craftsman look, using normal finishing. I’ve always liked that warm brown . . .

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Tennessee's profile


2862 posts in 2483 days

#4 posted 06-07-2012 05:46 PM

I had a house in PA that was built in 1896 with oak trim, oak stair treads. In reality, the only thing that darkened was the finish. On the other hand, the barn had a lot of white oak on it, and it looked a lot like brown oak until you cut one up. Where weather hit it directly, obviously it was gray.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2920 days

#5 posted 06-07-2012 07:15 PM

If you keep your cat’s litter box adjacent to the bookcase, there’s a chance it’ll darken. :-)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View jmos's profile


823 posts in 2339 days

#6 posted 06-07-2012 07:42 PM

Thanks guys!

I didn’t think it changed color much, but I thought I’d check. I still think I’ll do a test board just to see what it looks like.

-- John

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Mainiac Matt

7949 posts in 2298 days

#7 posted 06-07-2012 08:01 PM

I have both red and white oak timbers in my house….

both milled and joined and finished the same way with BLO/Turprentine mix. Both looked the same initially.

The red oak took on an orange/amber hue… and didn’t change much over the years

The white oak took on a brown hue with just a hint of an olive shade.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View tbone's profile


276 posts in 3653 days

#8 posted 07-10-2012 09:45 PM

For the record, Gustav Stickley started fuming his white oak furniture to “produce quickly the mellow darkness of hue that formerly was supposed to come from age alone.”
I believe that by the time Harvey Ellis was working for Stickley, they were fuming their furniture less and using aniline dyes more…but always with the intent of darkening or ‘aging’ the wood.

-- Kinky Friedman: "The first thing I'll do if I'm elected is demand a recount."

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