“Most of (Hans) Wegner’s furniture is delivered untreated – only buffed and treated with soap and water, so that the fine wood is ready to become more beautiful with use. Some furniture is delivered with a clear lacquer finish.”
— “Hans J. Wegner: Hacedor de Sillas (Chairmaker)” by Jens Bernsen (Danish Design Centre, 1998)
I’m in the middle of building a new chair design in ash and am planning on finishing the chair in soap and water – a finish that is common in Denmark.
It’s a simple, easy-to-mess-up finish that I first heard about from Bob Flexner while I edited his column “Flexner on Finishing.” You can read a 2010 column by Flexner on the finish here at Woodshop News. For more details, including photos of the mixing process, check out this blog entry from Caleb James.
I’ve seen this finish on some vintage pieces at a couple stores that carry Danish Modern pieces here in Cincinnati. I visited one of the stores yesterday to get some photos, but they had filled the showroom with giant live-edge tables. Dipped in plastic. Not good.
So the photo above is one of Wegner’s pieces.
Like paint, oil or beeswax, the soap finish appeals to me because it doesn’t require special equipment (spraying lacquer) or years of experience (a shellac polish) to execute. It’s a good place for beginners to start when finishing furniture (or floors). I’ll post photos of the finish next month when the chair is complete.
— Christopher Schwarz