Friday, 19 August 2016

Salad Dressing For The Captain?

I always feel that the best craftspeople are those who are not only passionate  about their craft, but also enthusiastic about passing on their skills, and sharing knowledge with others. At the Sandringham Fair a couple of weeks ago, I met Ann Walker and her husband from Unicorn Studios in Lincoln. They are gifted in all sorts of crafts - he was busy polishing a table, and she had a lace cushion beset with pins and bobbins - plus all sorts of other items on their display.
I asked him about my Captain's Chair - rescued from the skip at a church work day, about 25 years ago, I am very fond of it - but it is very grubby and dull looking. What is the best way of cleaning old wood? I asked. I said I had occasionally polished it, but didn't like using modern silicon sprays, and was concerned to clean off the build up of greasy hand marks on the arms without damaging the piece.
They could not have been more helpful - Mr W showed me the jar of solution he was working with "4 parts boiled linseed oil to 1 of meths" he said "can you remember that?" "Yep, 4;1 just like salad dressing" I replied.
His wife added that a small amount of white spirit can help cut through the grease too. Shake the mix and apply with steel wool, rubbing in circles. "My husband has some in the garage" I said. But it must be the finest gauge - and I was given a small square of the stuff to ensure I didn't use anything too coarse. I pootled off to the wonderful Thorn's in Norwich and bought a roll of 0000 fine gauge [neither B&Q nor Homebase had anything other than coarse] You are advised to wear gloves to protect your hands
It was such fun, mixing chemicals in an old jam jar. It is a bit like making cocktails- there is something wonderful about watching the vibrant purple meths settle on top of the rich amber coloured oil. 

Then when you shake it, it emulsifies and really does look like salad dressing!


And I polished away happily, amazed at the speed with which it made a difference. 
Here you can see where I just worked on the right hand side - the dullness has gone, and the seat is lighter and brighter. Final result...

But I had half a jar of mixture left. So then I set to work on our Beaver&Tapley Units. These are from the 1960s ['mid-century' stuff is very trendy now, I understand] We got them secondhand in 1985, and they have suffered a lot over the years. Odd rings and water stains which I have never been able to shift - and the surfaces were looking really dull.
Look at them now!
Restored to their original gleaming glory! And I am quite high on the smell of meths and linseed, which took me right back to my childhood, watching Dad and Grandad polishing the wooden things they made. 
Thank you Unicorn Studios, for sharing the recipe for your magic potion [now to source some good beeswax polish to maintain the shine]


  1. Wow what a transformation. Wish has sme real wood furnature.
    What is the 4 parts boiled?

  2. Sorry Carol - I missed out the crucial words - thank you for pointing it out - it is BOILED LINSEED OIL [you can buy it 'unboiled' . But I have no idea what difference the boiling process makes]

  3. That is incredible!!! So good of them to share their wood elixir! The difference is ultra noticeable and I love that you. Oils make it yourself.

    Ooooh, the change in the linseed and meths is so bizarre!!!

  4. Gosh, what a difference, so beautiful.

  5. Beautiful results! Another good combination is vinegar or lemon juice mixed with oil. (That really IS salad dressing!) :)

  6. Love it when you can restore items yourself, not just from the cost angle but, the satisfaction of it. xx


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