Oil vs. Poly: How finish effects the look of your reclaimed wood

When sampling reclaimed wood, it is important to consider how the finish will influence the color, depth, and tone of your selection.

Reclaimed wood is unique, and naturally weathered and aged patina reclaimed wood is even more unique (in the "no two pieces are exactly the same" sort of way).  This is the character that speaks to our soul and whispers about the rich history that the wood has lived through.  This is also the character that influences finish in a way unique to reclaimed wood.

Let's start by looking at a non-patina product, Anthology Wood's Heritage Oak reclaimed flooring and wall cladding.  This is fully surfaced on the front face, and is a blend of Red and White Oak.  some checking and oxide stains are present, but overall the surface to receive finish is quite smooth.  On the left is Heritage Oak reclaimed flooring with a poly finish (low sheen) and on the right is the same product with an oil finish. We see the oil is much warmer and emphasizes depth in the color of the wood.  It is also slightly darker.  If you have experience working with wood, this is about what you'd expect.

Heritage Oak with Poly Finish

Heritage Oak with Poly Finish

Heritage Oak with Oil Finish

Heritage Oak with Oil Finish

Now let's look at a product with surface patina: Sawmill Oak.  To share even more about its nature, we've split the boards so you can see a single piece of wood unfinished, and then the same board with the respective finish.  Poly finish is applied to the top half of the 3 boards on the left (no finish on the bottom half) and Oil finish is applied to the top half of the 3 boards on the right, below:

Sawmill Oak: Bottom half unfinished, top half finished with clear low sheen poly.

Sawmill Oak: Bottom half unfinished, top half finished with clear low sheen poly.

Sawmill Oak: Bottom half unfinished, top half finished with clear natural oil.

Sawmill Oak: Bottom half unfinished, top half finished with clear natural oil.

On a product with surface patina, the difference in color and darkness with a poly finish is still minimal, but the the alteration of appearance with an oil finish is much more dramatic!!  This is due, at least in part, to the textured surface of a naturally weathered or naturally patina product.  The texture on the surface means more total surface area and more available to be saturated by the oil finish.

If you are considering purchasing a naturally weathered or aged surface patina product, please ask us to sample it with the finish you'll be ultimately applying (unless you plan to leave it unfinished), so you can get an accurate representation of color, tone, and character.  This applies to Grey Medley, Pela Teak, Sawmill Oak, and Northwest Blend to name a few.

Want to know more about Oil vs. Poly finish, or Woodology in general?  Please check out our learn section or connect with one of our helpful experts at 541-227-5238 or info@anthologywoods.com.