When I first acquired my French easel, its wood was unvarnished and untreated. Puzzled, I made an inquiry to the craftmen about its condition, and they informed me that they do nothing more to the new French easel than a light oiling before packaging and sales.
A French easel, especially a new one, needs to be kept regularly oiled or polished to protect it from dry weather, water damage, dirt, and sun damage.
Linseed oil, sometimes carefully warmed and mixed with a little beeswax, is all that is needed to give good protection and a nice shine to your easel. Varnishing the easel may give it a nice appearance at first, but varnish does not prevent the wood of your French easel from drying out or cracking. Plus, many of the solvents used in painting may damage the surface of the varnish.
When I oil my French easel, I use a soft flannel cloth to apply the linseed oil; and, after a few minutes, I firmly buff it dry with a second dry flannel cloth. I make an effort to wipe off any excess linseed oil from the surface of the easel, and from around the joints of its legs, so that no excess oil will adhere and age to become an unwanted adhesive in snug fitting areas of the French easel. How frequently this task must be done is determined by my local climate. I truly enjoy using my easel for creative art purposes, therefore I am always respectful towards its condition.
After I finish each reconditioning of my easel, I take steps to soak both oily flannel cloths in a bucket of water as an effort to prevent spontaneous combustion. Thereafter, they are safe for disposal.
I have helped other artists with oiling their unfinished easels, and I have encouraged them to maintain the practice of such care as a means to extend their easels’ lifespans and quality in performance.
Please bring your questions about easels or linseed oil to me. I would be happy to answer your questions.
Charity Goodwin, Artist