On Pinterest I frequently see pins about using coconut oil for restoring antique wood furniture. Coconut oil is esteemed to be the all natural, non-toxic, and better way to rejuvenate old dry wood. Is it just hype? Or does Coconut oil really work for a wood finish? And would coconut oil work to restore old hickory handles on tools such as shovels, rakes, hoes, axes, and hammers?
For antique furniture with a traditional oil finish, coconut oil works great. I did one drawer on my family heirloom oak chest-of-drawers to see how it did over a week or two. Of course coconut oil looks great right after it is applied, I wanted to know how long it continues to work. I’m glad to say that coconut oil really works and that the single drawer looks bright and vibrant next to the untreated drawers. It works just as well as a furniture polish.
My curiosity didn’t stop there. When we moved into our house three years ago there were many old garden tools left in the shed. All were rusted and the handles extremely dry and not fit for use. They were usable with gloves of course. After watching many homesteading videos from WranglerStar on youtube I wanted to give restoring these old tools a shot.
The traditional way to treat hickory or ash tools handles is with boiled linseed oil (which is natural oil treated with chemicals so it will dry hard). It’s a proven finish that requires maintenance but is easily done. The reason you don’t want to use a varnish like polyurethane is because that film finish will cause blisters (so they say). I didn’t have any boiled linseed oil and many of the tool handles were starting to crack do to drying out.
I decided to try coconut oil to rejuvenate these old tool handles. I started with a $3 sledge hammer that I picked up at a garage sale. It was rusty and the handle was dry, rough, and dirty, but at least the head was still firmly attached. I sanded off all the original varnish, grim, and filth and got it to smooth bare wood. Now I started applying the coconut oil.
Coconut Oil is typically solid at room temperature (~75F) and melts at around 80F. I did this project in my shop in August when it was 100F. My coconut oil was very viscous. I applied it with just my fingers. I wiped on a coat and left the oil sitting on the wood, not wiping it away, this was about 7pm. I came back in the morning and found the handle dry, so I repeated the process again. This happened for about 2 days or 5 coats 12 hours apart. After 3 days the oil took about 24 hours to soak in completely and dry out. The hickory handle was now a beautiful color and it was silky smooth on my hand.
How this holds up long term and how often I’ll need to add more oil remain to be seen. I don’t use this tool everyday so I cant say how well a coconut oil finish wears. I’m still pleasantly surprised with the results and it really brought the handle back to life.