When choosing oak for your memorial bench, it’s important to familiarises yourself with maintaining this much valued material. Oak is naturally durable and new oak is 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 – If you’d like your oak bench to weather naturally and have a bright silvered appearance it’s important to keep it clean. The following product is excellent for cleaning untreated oak – AG Woodcare wood bleacher We recommend cleaning the top surfaces of the bench at least once but ideally twice a year. Silvering oak can be so beautiful if kept clean.

2 – Oak contains tannins which help make it naturally durable and resistant to decay. This means you can let it silver without oiling in the early years without concern.

3 – An oak memorial bench that has been outside for 2-3 years will be more porous and would then be receptive to an oil treatment of some kind. Traditionally Tung oil was used on oak but now a modern garden furniture penetrating oil is the norm. It’s much easier to maintain an oil finish on oak that has had some years to weather naturally and become more porous.

Further thoughts – Oak is rock hard and oil treatments tend not to soak into new wood. It is possible to apply an oil treatment to a new oak memorial bench but 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 an oil treatment if it isn’t well maintained which can leave the memorial bench looking patchy. It’s a labour of love and keep in mind that it’s difficult to recover the look of a bench where the oiling has been neglected.

That said, It only takes a few minutes to liberally coat the top surfaces of a bench with oil. One would wait a further 20 minutes then wipe off any residual oil with a soft dry cloth. Oak will become more and more porous over the years and eventually the oil will build a deeper rooted foundation and a rich, lustrous finish will need replenishing less often.  Think carefully however before oiling the bench, decide if if you’re prepared to put in this effort. A similar finish can still be achieved later by allowing the bench to weather naturally for a couple of years first. Oiling is then easier to maintain.


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. A fantastic cleaning product, especially for untreated oak that has some tannin staining is AG Woodcare wood bleacher. Focus on the top surfaces.

If the bench hasn’t been cleaned for a long time:  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. Applying a clear wood preserver at any time will do no harm at all.

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 AG Woodcare wood bleacher. which contains 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, ideally a modern furniture 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