My wife and I are opening a bookstore and we are going to leave the shelves natural. We are using spruce planks for the shelves. What would you suggest for finishing them, and if we use an oil will it soak into the books at all? – Anonymous
Chris Marshall: By “natural,” I’m not sure if you mean that you don’t want to change the spruce’s natural color by staining it or that you don’t want a film-forming finish on top — you want the natural wood grain to basically still look unfinished by a topcoat. So, I’ll split the difference here and suggest that you use a wipe-on oil/varnish blend like Danish Oil. Watco® Danish Oil comes in a “Natural” color option, which will provide very little tint to the wood color. It wipes on easily, dries pretty quickly and will offer some protection from moisture without making the wood surfaces look coated with finish. Also, the oil it contains is a “drying” oil, as opposed to, say, mineral oil that will never dry. So, put your mind at ease: fully cured Danish Oil will not leave an oily residue that will soak into the books. But, make sure to give it a couple of days of drying time, especially if you apply it when it’s humid or cool, before loading up those shelves.
Tim Inman: This is an almost entirely aesthetic question. What looks right for your use? Bookshelves enjoy probably the gentlest of lives, and the finishes have minimal protective chores to do. If you truly want the “natural” look, why not just wax the wood?