June 14, 2011
Hand-rubbed Natural Finishes
Apple products are so clean and shiny with perfect looking materials such as anodized aluminum and glass. Pretty much when you take em out of the box for the first time they get damaged or scratched and we groan “arrrgggghh”. They instantly degrade and slowly get worse and worse over time. We buy cases for these products because we don’t want that to happen. The Grove way of thinking is the total opposite where our products are made of natural imperfect materials and they are supposed to wear gracefully with time and get better, not worse!
Typically, mass produced wood products are sprayed with a laquer or polyurethane clear coat which gives the wood a plastic layer of protection. While being the most efficient and protective way of finishing wood, quite often it results in a plasticky look which I object to. Covering up the wood with plastic to give it properties that are not wood like is strange to me. Why use wood in the first place if you want it to be plastic? From my many years of building custom furniture www.tomitadesigns.com I have always preferred hand rubbed natural oil finishes. Oil finishes penetrate and go into the wood, rather than on top. They bring out the beauty of the grain and still allow you to feel the material for what it is because it is inside, not outside the material. It allows the material to be what it is and be true to itself. In the long run an oil finish will hold up better than a plastic clearcoat. Clearcoats scratch easier and can yellow or peel in time and are near impossible to repair yourself. Oil finishes get better with age and can be reapplied if necessary by amateurs.
At Grove we use a 4 step proprietary process for finishing our bamboo products. Some of the ingredients in our process are tung oil, special aged linseed oil, beezwax, pure citrus solvent, pine rosin, sunflower oil, soybean oil, thistle oil, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax. The oil has to be rubbed in by hand and then buffed out. The result of all this tedious hand work is a finish that will patina gracefully with time. As you touch it your hand oils will darken the finish similar to how leather darkens with use. Many people love the smell too, primarily from the pure citrus solvent which smells like orange peels! If you are lucky you will get a case hand finished by my mom. She does about half of them herself!
The laborious process of hand rubbed oil finishing requires a full day waiting between coats which slows down our production time and increases our costs significantly. However, the aesthetic beauty is superior and the concept behind an oil finish are well worth the extra effort. We hope that with Grove products you will think differently than with the original Apple product and appreciate the unique patina created by the passage of time. Instead of being disappointed with the constant degradation and separation from perfection lets be at peace with natural aging.
written by Ken