Sanding reclaimed oak board

Location: Islington, London

Property: Georgian townhouse (listed)

Timber: Reclaimed English oak wide board plank

Age: Unknown – Contemporary installation using older timber

Removed finish: Linseed oil possibly over coated with oil based PU varnish

Applied finish: One coat shellac tint, one coat clear shellac, two coats Junckers matt lacquer

Notes: Hand sanded as timber thin / to preserve colour – tinted to improve aged colour

Description: The installation had been carried out to a very poor standard using thin boards and a weak and unsuitable sub floor, however the wood was obviously a reclaimed country grade containing many knots and shakes and consequently was very good looking.

The finishing was also very poor, on arriving there was a musty smell of mildew and stale oil, immediately confirming my earlier suspicions that linseed oil had been used. The finish had worn off especially in high traffic areas exposing the wood which was partially grey. Due to the softness of the finish and the oily smell despite the obvious old age of the finish it is possible that the linseed oil was not left to dry properly before being over coated either by more oil or perhaps an oil based polyurethane. These oil finishes had also contributed to considerable yellowing which obscured the natural aged colour of the oak which is lighter, less orange and more digestive biscuit like.

Due to the thin nature of the floor and to preserve as much patination as possible the floor was carefully sanded via hand machine. Two coats of shellac were used to protect against any residual oil contamination ensuring long term adhesion of the lacquer. The first coat of shellac was bespoke tinted to put back the estimated original aged colour (as if the timber had never been sanded) Only a subtle tint was required which looks perfectly natural and unnoticeable but gives an extra depth, warmth and authenticity to the aged timber. This is always the most skilled and artistic part of the job. The shellac gives a deep lustre and due to the high level of incident light and large bright rooms a matt lacquer was applied which whilst subtle provided enough life. The human eye, filtered through the brain sees things in a much more nuanced and sophisticated way than a simple camera lens, in real life in situ the reflections are softer and the floor does not appear quite as shiny.