When choosing oak for your memorial bench, it’s important to familiarises yourself with maintaining this much valued material. Oak is naturally durable and when the wood is new, it’s most often left untreated (or fumed if a darker appearance is desired) and allowed to silver naturally over time. Cleaning the bench periodically as you would do with any outdoor furniture helps this silvering process.

The most important take away points to understand with maintaining oak are as follows.

1 – Oak is rock hard and new wood isn’t very porous. For this reason oil treatments on new oak don’t soak into the wood very well.

2 – Oak contains tannins which help make it naturally durable and resistant to decay, especially during the first 5 years or so. During this time it’s not necessary to apply a finish to help with longevity of a memorial bench.

3 – Silvering oak can be beautiful but only if it’s kept clean. Cleaning the memorial bench will help to create a bright even silver colour and remove any early tannin staining.

4 – Unlike for example an oak window frame, a memorial bench is not only subject to severe weather conditions, but also wear and tear of everyday usage. Bottoms on seats may polish raw wood, but it may wear away a finish or treatment if it isn’t deep rooted and well maintained which can leave the memorial bench looking patchy.

5 – An oak memorial bench that has been outside for 3-5 years will, at this time benefit from and be receptive to, a thorough clean followed by a treatment of some kind, normally a penetrating oil, traditionally Tung oil.

Further thoughts – It is possible to apply a treatment to a new oak memorial bench but it must be upkept diligently with a fresh coat being applied whenever there is wear and tear exposing the wood. It’s a labour of love indeed and you must keep in mind that it’s difficult to recover the look of a bench that has a neglected finish.


It’s important to keep the bench clean, free from dead leaves, dirt and debris. The bench can be cleaned like you would any other garden furniture using a medium stiffness brush, mild detergent and water or there are many wooden garden furniture cleaning products on the market, most of which will be fine to use on oak.

If the bench has been neglected:  Clean thoroughly then when dry, apply a good soak with a clear wood preserver which will kill any microscopic organisms attempting to live on the surface of the wood and remove any green hue on the wood.  Use a product like Cuprinol Wood Preserver Clear and apply liberally with a brush.

Over time the bench will take on a lovely character. Weathering of the oak creates a beautiful silver-grey patina that’s easy to maintain while high wear & tear areas of the bench become polished through regular use.

Cleaning tannin staining –  Naturally occurring tannin in the oak helps to make oak such a durable timber but can sometimes discolour the surface of the wood. Don’t be alarmed, this will wash out over time. Tannin staining can also be easily removed using either a pure oxalic acid dilution or garden furniture cleaning products that contain oxalic acid. (Oxalic acid is derived from rhubarb leaves and is superb at cleaning oak) Fuming the oak can also help reduce the possibility of tannin staining.

Some further notes on caring for oak.

Cracks – Hairline cracking is something for which oak is notorious but it hasn’t stopped humans using oak in furniture making for thousands of years and we’re not about to stop now. We try to avoid them but when they happen we embrace them and consider them to be just part of the character of this wonderful wood.  Splits and shakes aren’t tolerated but small cracks are inevitable and don’t effect the structural integrity of the bench.

Low maintenance – Very little can happen to a bench made from pure, naturally weathering untreated oak which isn’t easily recoverable from. It can be washed, scrubbed and even sanded to remove marks, dents or scratches.  A few years down the line when the natural oils in the wood need replacing, it can have a treatment of Tung oil or a more sophisticated modern oil treatment like Textrol penetrating oil or Osmo.

The photo below (May 2021) is our Classic II bench placed in 2013 at Spean Bridge facing Ben Nevis. Weathering beautifully and blending into its surroundings.

Memorial Bench Uk