How to take care of what you have (and oak)...

You buy the best, knowing it will last. With the right love and care all our oak designs should be passed on to the next generation in due course. We do not need ‘more’, we simply need better, because anything worth having is worth looking after.

We have written the ultimate handbook for how to look after oak, whether it is kept inside or outside. In the brochure below we show you the best methods for restoring oak signs, benches, cheese, carving and chopping boards. We realised that over the decades of working with this beautiful material we have built up an encyclopaedic knowledge of how to design, create and care for all types of oak, and we have decided to share this with you here.

Take care of what you have... Workshop wisdom of technical and philosophical nature

Taking care of what you have is a good rule to live by in all aspects of life.

You buy the best, knowing it will last. With the right love and care all our oak designs should be passed on to the next generation in due course. We do not need ‘more’, we simply need better, because anything worth having is worth looking after.

Over the next few pages we will show you how...

We are blessed to work with a material that has just the right balance between strength and workability. It means it is hard enough to last a very long time, but soft enough to create beautiful designs by hand. Your kitchen board is strong enough to endure fifty years of daily cuts, but soft enough to not scratch your worktops. Oak is strong enough to hold up your roof, but portable and pliable enough for carpenters through centuries using only hand tools to build the houses we live in .

This is not a ‘one rule fits all’ sort of instruction manual. If you are the sort of person who regularly visits the hairdresser, has manicures and a tidy house, then you may like your oak swings, signs and benches differently to how I do. However, the beauty of oak is that it can please us all. How the oak looks all depends on the environment it is in, how the wood is treated and how we take care of it...

The Oak

The oak tree is one of the most widely admired species. It has come to represent strength, resistance and knowledge. Wars have been fought to secure supplies of oak for ship building and military purposes. Over 5000 oaks were used to build HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the battle of Trafalgar 1805. Oak beams from the Tudor era still supports floor structures that are in use today. It adornes medieval buildings, surviving turbulent times and the vagaries of fashion and has been written about in a myriad of literature and historic texts.

On my walk to work I pass numerous majestic oak trees on the North Downs Way just outside Canterbury. I feel humbled when I think about how long they have stood there and the events that have occurred around them.
It can put life in perspective...

We live and work in an area of outstanding natural beauty in Kent, sometimes referred to as The Garden of England. We watch the changing seasons and recognise our responsibility of giving back what we take.

At the heart of our business lies the mighty oak tree. It symbolises the acorn that stood its ground, whose roots were made stronger by the wind and whose boughs could tell a thousand tales.

Whilst we are still growing our brand, we recognise many have come before us; shipwrights, architects, carpenters and builders have all found solace in the strength and beauty of this venerable timber.  Oak is found as the source material for many pieces of historic furniture and buildings still in use today, and the species can trace its existence back to the interglacial period over 300,000 years ago.

Here at O&R we use a Premium European Super Prime Oak, chosen for its solidity and particularly gorgeous grain. You can see it running through everything that leaves our craftsman's benches.   There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from holding an item that is hewn from such wonderful wood. Longevity, strength and beauty never go out of fashion, but fashion is not what we strive for.

We look to honour the wood, create an item that is a testament to its strength and beauty. We pass that on to you to love and cherish.

Due to poor natural regeneration the majority of new UK oak woodland in Britain is established via planting. Shortage of locally produced timber is an enduring problem.

Our suppliers in Europe are 5th and 6th generation foresters. Their responsibly managed forests are not a reaction to modern day demands for ‘green credentials’, but simply a way of life that secures the prospects of their future generations. *

In the forests in Europe they have long traditions of planting the trees the right distance apart; close so they will grow tall as they stretch towards the sky to reach the light, but not too close, so they have space to develop into mature trees.

In this country we mostly see oak trees standing majestically alone in a field or garden. The UK has over 49,000 ancient, veteran and notable oaks and it is estimated that there are some 121 million oaks in UK woodlands. These are not grown commercially for timber in the way they have been for hundreds of years in Europe.


  1. The oak tree absorbs CO2 during it’s long lifetime growing.
  2. No preservative or other chemicals needed to ensure durability. The timber naturally gets stronger and more beautiful with age.
  3. Things made in oak last a long time, which means the resources used to make them reep benefits for a long time.
  4. Every part of the tree can be used, so there is little to no waste produced in the process.

Kiln dried & green oak - they serve different purposes

We use kiln dried oak for most of our designs. It is cut to the sizes we need before it is put into a kiln for 2-3 weeks and slowly dried to the right moisture content. It has then been acclimatised for our modern day homes. The family run sawmill we work with uses the waste material from the cutting process to feed their kilns.

Kiln dried oak is generally stable to a thickness of 75 mm. Any thicker sections of timber are difficult to dry without the surface of the wood drying before the middle has time to catch up, forming stresses in the wood and damaging the wood’s structure when dried at speed. We use kiln dried oak of up to 70 mm in thickness in our designs. Anything thicker than that we use what is known as Green Oak.

Green oak is cut from trees felled within 18 months and has a moisture content of 60-80%, which gradually decreases as the oak dries out. ‘Green’ refers to how fresh the oak is rather than its colouring. It has been used for house building for centuries . It has the advantage of being softer and easier to work with when fresh, but then it increases in strenght as it naturally dries and reaches equilibrium to it’s environment. During this period it will normally shrink in diameter by about 4-5%, but less than 0.2% in lenght, making it particularly suitable for structural purposes.

We use green oak for our sign posts, mileposts and doorstops because we wanted them to be chunky pieces of oak, giving space to a lot of engraving. For the door stops it was also important to achieve the right weight for holding substantial doors open.

In the natural drying out process it develops it’s own unique characteristic, which is what we cherish. The cracks and splits develop as the surface starts to dry before the core catches up. Often when the centre of the piece has dried out, the cracks close up again, but we never know for sure. This can take a couple of years.

If you are not happy with this unpredictability, then these are not the right oak pieces for you. It simply is not possible to make these designs without these features.

When you receive your doorstop we suggest you allow the air to circulate evenly around it for a couple of weeks in it’s new home. We supply two battons for you to place them on. This is the best way to settle in into it’s new surroundings. The mileposts and signposts which normally go outside will have additional factors contributing to their final look which we will expand on over the next few pages.

When wood is left outside it goes through a series of stages before it weathers and reaches that distinctive silver colour.
Weathered wood is the result of a complex combination of light, moisture, heat, and mechanical forces causing physical and chemical changes to the surface of the wood. The two principal elements of weathering are sunlight and water. If wood is left exposed without any oil protection the wood initially begins to take on a yellow or brown tone, which eventually proceeds to grey.

The first stage shown on the right sometimes worries people. I call this the ‘ugly duckling’ stage.

When wood takes on moisture, it swells, and as it releases moisture, it shrinks. When the moisture content at the surface is higher than the moisture content deeper within the wood, stresses can occur. These stresses can cause checking (the opening of small cracks on the surface of the wood), and it can also lead to warping, and cupping if the pieces of wood are not thick enough. Hence our generous dimensions.

For less durable species , this would seriously weaken the strength and shorten the lifespan of the wood as it would be prone to mildew or insect damage. Due to the natural tanin in oak and its density, these do not represent a significant threat to pieces of oak.

However if situated in a wetter environment there is a tendency for the wood to turn a darker grey due to some presence of surface mildew. This is also why the engravings show up more over time as mosisture sits longer in the lettering.

We oil our oak with either danish oil or teak oil before it leaves our workshop. This is believed to ensure a more gradual weathering process eventually resulting in the light silver colour. If you want to retain the golden finish for oak left outside, you should be aware that you are signing up for a lifetime of re-applications, but we will show you how...

Golden Oak Outside

So you have decided that you like your oak golden and prestine.

We have helped you along the way by giving your sign, bench or swing three coats of oil in the workshop. We mostly use teak oil for the outdoor designs, apart from the swings which we coat with Danish oil. Both oils give a very similar golden look. The teak oil is slighly superior with regards to UV protection, but can sometimes feel a little sticky on a large flat surface (hence we prefer the Danish oil for the swings).

Both oils start to weather after 2-3 months if left untreated, depending on conditions and time of year. To keep the golden look we therefore recommend re-applying more oil after a couple of months. Both oils are readily available in DIY stores and come with instructions for how to apply them. We have great success with mixing and matching the two, and it comes down to personal preference. Multiple thin coats are better than one thick coat. If you apply too much oil, the pieces can become sticky, and it is difficult to sand the excess oil away after it has cured.

Should your conditions require something slighly more durable we recommend using an alternative product such as Osmo. For vertical surfaces, like signs, we have had great results. However, be aware it can take a very long time to dry. If you would like us to use it for your signs, let us know, but the delivery time will be extended by a few days. The Osmo product can also be applied on top of other oils, ie. you can apply it yourself after you have taken delivery of your products.

Whether you have decided on the golden or weathered look is the right for you, we do recommend that you occasionally wash your outside oak with soap and water on a warm sunny day.

A good clean is an underrated exersise, but it makes such a difference! Dust and bird droppings can make anything look unloved and unwelcoming. I use a tiny bit of washing up liquid in warm water and an old washing up brush for the job and then rinse it off with clean water afterwards. Never use a pressure washer!

If you notice any more stubborn marks such as bird droppings with berries, do not be frightened to sand these marks away with sandpaper. First use sandpaper with 120 grit to remove the stain, then finish off with 240 grit to get a finer finish. When you reapply the oil again, it will look as good as new.

You can sand off the top layer of the oak by hand or using an orbital sander. Just make sure you follow the direction of the grain.

When you have sanded away all the surface marks, use a brush, vaccum cleaner or even an air leaf blower to remove any dust left on the surface. You do not want dust to mix with the oil.

Use a cloth or a brush to reapply oil or another non-film based wood finishing product like Osmo. One coat is normally sufficient when refurbishing.

If you want to maintain the golden look ,we recommend to repeat application every 3-6 months.

How to look after your cheese, chopping, carving and serving boards

All our boards are made using several pieces of carefully selected European Oak laminated together to give them the strength and stability needed to withstand daily use.

When properly cared for you can use your favourite board for everything in your kitchen; as a bread board, for food preparation or as a serving board for cheese as well as your Sunday roast....

Rinse or wipe the boards with warm soapy water in between each use and regularly re-oil your boards as described below with a food safe oil. Remember - these boards were made to be used!

We recommend using white mineral oil, also known as butcher block oil, for the onward care. Each board we sell is supplied with a 50 ml bottle, but you can buy more from our website or many diy-shops.

If your board has some particular stains or odours we recommend rubbing the board with either lemon juice or a paste of bicarbonate soda before treating the board. Leave the paste or juice to activate over a couple of hours and see what happens. There are demonstration videos on our Instagram showing this in detail.

Sometimes stubborn stains need to be sanded off. You can either do this at home, or contact us to return the board to the workshop for a refurbishment.

White mineral oil is completely safe, you can simply massage the oil into the wood with your hands. We normally use a rag or kitchen roll to spread a generous amount of oil on to the board.
You can leave the oil to soak in for a few hours or over night.

When the oil has had time to penetrate deep into the wood, take a clean rag or kitchen roll to wipe off any excess oil from the surface.
The board is now ready to be used again. The grain and the unique patina of the cuts you have made over time are brought out in their full beauty again.

With regular conditioning of the board it will be easy to clean, warping and cracking will be minimised and odour or stains will be reduced.

Few pieces of oak are more beautiful than a well used and cared for carving board.

Click here for more information about how to do this, and watch the video of Jeanette treating and even distressing various chopping boards.

“Oil it once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year and then once a year for the rest of your life...”
- Old Carpenter's Proverb

The Rope

I have been making things out of rope all my life. If you read the history of how
Oak & Rope came to be you will find that it very much traces back to a day when I was 10 years old and my Grandad taught me how to splice rope whilst sitting on a bench in my Grandparent’s garden. However, it wasn’t until much later I learnt about the importance of rope or had even thought about it’s wider implications.

It is believed that the earliest ropes can be dated back some 50,000 years. Twisted multiple corded fragments have been found in a Neanderthal period cave in France.
The earliest ropes were probably naturally occuring vines, but the ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to develop special tools to make rope.

Through history we have used ropes of various nature for hunting, pulling, fastening, attaching, carrying, lifting and climbing. Remarkable feats of construction were accomplished using rope, but without other advanced technology.

The craft of rope making spread across the world using the variety of natural fibres available. From the middle ages ‘rope walks’ were created. These were excessively long buildings where the strands of fibre could be laid up and twisted together to allow for very long cable lengths. These long cable lengths were particularly important for the advancement of shipping as large ships can not be sailed with pieces of rope joined together. They need the long cables to run unrestricted through the system of pullies. Again a sailing ship like HMS Victory required 31 miles of rope, and the standard length of each rope was 300 metre.

The spread of the British Empire can be attributed to the high quality rope made in England. You can still visit a one of these important rope walks today at Chatham Docks in Kent.

The strategic importance of these rope walks were so great that if any worker was caught bringing matches or anything flamable into the rope walk they would be charged with treason and hung!

The various rope walks used to twist a coloured tell-tail into their cables to identify where the rope had been made. If the rope broke you could easily see who was responsible. Rope making remains little changed since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Today ropes are mostly made from synthetic fiber, but we have chosen to use a natural fibre rope called Manila.

Manila, also known as abaca, is a buff-coloured fibre obtained from a plant related to the edible banana plant. It is an incredibly strong fibre, making the rope very durable, flexible and particularly resistant to salt water.

Abaca has also been made into paper pulp in the past, giving its name also to Manila envelopes.
The name of the fibre in turn comes from the capital of the Philippines, one of the main producers of Manila hemp.

Our original choice was simply down to aestetics. The buff colour compliments the colour and the texture of the oak and both materials age and weather beautifully together.

Sometimes people ask us how much weight our rope swings can take. The answer is that our swings are stronger than the weight you can naturally fit on them... Even our small swing ropes have a technical safe load factor of 400 lb or 180 kg times two, so how much weight they can actually hold comes down to the tree or beam you install them on!

The reality is that the loadbearing of the bow of the tree will be lower than the rope when used for the purpose it is designed for...

The life expectancy of rope...

We have chosen to only use natural manila rope for our garden swings. The reason for this is that it is a beautiful combination. The colour of the oak compliments the texture of the manila, and the ageing and weathering process of these two beautiful materials seem so hand in hand. The oak mellows into its setting at the same rate as the rope. in a way no other combination does.

The life expectancy of the manila type rope we use is 3-5 years, but this varies significantly depending on the conditions the swing hangs in.

Given that most of our swings are installed in a completely natural setting, every situation is unique, the risks are classified as unquantifiable by those who calculate these things. We recommend you check the strength of the rope at regular intervalls.

As and when your rope has perished beyond what you deem safe, you can book your swing in for a re-roping service at our workshop.

At a day of your choice our courier will collect the swing plank, all we ask that you wrap it well so it does not get damaged in transit.

When the swing comes back to our workshop we sand and check it over ensuring it remains fit for purpose and is as good as when it left our care in the first place. The feedback from our customers is that it they love it even more when it comes back to them...

Better with age...

Most good things in life get better with age, we certainly think this is the case for our oak. That is why it is so important for us to use only the best materials and tried and tested traditional techniques for making our pieces.

Our boards cannot be washed in a dishwasher, our signs and outdoor benches need cleaning and reoiling and the rope on our swings sometimes needs replacing.
But with effort comes appreciation.

The meals we share with family and friends will leave unique cut lines and marks on our boards, but also create memories we will carry with us forever.

The weathering shakes on your swing or bench will be a result of the sunny days you have spent in your garden. The cracks in your green oak doorstops or mileposts are proof that it sometimes takes time to settle in to a new environment and that we can’t control how everything develops.

We encourage you to appreciate the unique nature of each and every piece of oak. We work with the natural beauty of this exceptional material knowing it will continue to evolve as it becomes part of your story.

Behind every piece we make lies considered design, the very best quality oak and years of experience in how it changes over time.

We aim to create a legacy for both the passionate team in our workshop as well as a legacy for our customers who commission our pieces for their loved ones.

The patina that develops with the daily use of our designs is a critical part of our lives.

The Dos & Don'ts...


DO use your Oak & Rope treasures EVERY DAY
DO oil you chopping/serving boards regularly with the oil provided
DO NOT submerge your oak in water, but wipe clean with a damp cloth.
DO NOT leave food on your chopping boards overnight
DO NOT dry your chopping boards by a hot radiator or cooker
DO clean your outdoor oak with soapy water occasionally
DO check the safety of the rope on your swing regularly

Other simple truths are that:
Doorstops, mileposts and sign posts have or will develop their own unique cracks.
Oak left outside will weather to a silvery grey unless reoiled after 3-6 months
UV light affects the surface of oak outside and opens up small surface cracks
The natural tanin in oak keeps it safe from rotting or parasites
Continual oiling of outdoor oak is optional

For any other advice about treatments of all types of wood we recommend our own suppliers Wood Finishes Direct. They have the widest selection of top quality products and knowledge for absolutely everything relating to wood. Tell them we said hello, and they will know exactly what you need.

White Mineral Oil 500 ml

from £15

What you need to treat all chopping, cheese and carving boards.

Swing Re-Roping Service

from £70

It will come back as good as it was when it left our workshop the first time, except with the added memories you have made over the last few years...