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I have a piece of furniture which is made from raw pine wood. It has relatively fine sanded surface and I like that it is not sealed or stained. What if I just leave it so, i.e. do not apply any seal or paint, what will happen with years with the wood?
Assume following conditions and requirements:

  • there is no direct sun light;
  • only indoor usage;
  • no heavy oscillating mechanical load;
  • it will not be exposed to extreme temperatures or humidity or liquids;
  • I do not need to preserve its look for many years and a bit of natural darkening is totally OK.

As I know, a 'commonplace' advice is to cover the wood with shellac or similar substance, but I think that it will not give much or any improvement to mechanical quality of the surface. Because in my experience such coatings on soft woods result in a sticky surface (= ruining the surface). As I understand, to achieve good hard surface I will need mechanical scraping and then several layers of special coat or lacquer that turns into very hard surface - but I am not going to invest so much effort and materials in it anyway, and I like the look and tactile feel of natural wood.

Questions:

  • Given the above mentioned conditions, will it be right to say that the wooden pieces will preserve fine without seal or any kind of paint, let's say in 20 or 30 years or so? What can go bad most probably?
  • If possible, please suggest a not-so-complicated method to harden the surface without toxic chemicals and paints.
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    Be sure to use a coaster for all your drinks.
    – Lee Sam
    May 5, 2019 at 2:00
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    Is it a table, chair, or something else entirely? If people are touching it, oil and dirt will transfer and probably be unsightly relatively soon. May 5, 2019 at 3:15
  • I like Tung oil: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tung_oil It'll keep stains out, and harden the surface enough so sliver formation is unlikely. in 20 or 30 years, plain wood will gather stains, and if not hardened, dents and scraped areas. May 5, 2019 at 4:16
  • Did you go through with this? How did it turn out after 4 and a half years? Dec 2, 2023 at 14:11
  • @UnhandledExcepSean It became slightly darker, with yellowish tone. In general I notice that high humidity and freeze-thawing accelerates the decay process.
    – Mikhail V
    Dec 5, 2023 at 18:35

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This is a better question for the Woodworking stack than this one, but:

Hardening oil finishes would be the classic choice to maintain the feel of wood. Soak in, wipe off as much of the excess as possible, let cure. This is how cutting boards are usually sealed. Remember that the fabric or paper you wiped it off with may spontaneously burst into flame if not allowed to dry flat and unstacked so it can dissipate the heat of curing. But given pine's notorious tendency toward blotching when stained, though, I'm just not sure... I'd definitely ask on woodworking.stackexchange.com.

It is possible to leave wood bare, if you don't mind that spills, skin oils, and such will affect its appearance. I have bare-pine bookshelves that have been in use for over 30 years now. But people don't sit on a bookcase, or rest drinks on it, so tis depends on what this unspecified piece of furniture is going to be doing

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