Danish Oil finish application

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Forum topic by DaveA posted 02-03-2010 04:17 PM 22889 views 3 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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46 posts in 3995 days

02-03-2010 04:17 PM

I have seen many posts here concerning finishing and the use of Watco Danish Oil. I have always used Minwax wipe-on or brush-on poly on my projects.

I may expand my horizons with this product, but first I am curious as to what type of creations or applications it is used on (furniture, small boxes, etc.). Where are the parameters of it’s durability? Also, I saw the Watco brand in different shades. Do the various colors apply to the desired end product look or are they specific to the color of wood its being used on?

Thanks in advance for your replies.

-- Dave - Milwaukee

23 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16289 posts in 5132 days

#1 posted 02-03-2010 04:39 PM


I use Watco Danish oil quite a bit. It is a combination of oils and varnishes. It does not offer the degree of moisture protection that poly does, but it gives a rich, natural look. Some people find a polyurethane finish to be rather plastic looking. Danish oil tends to accentuate the grain as well. Sometimes, I use Danish oil first, to “pop” the grain, then follow with poly for more depth and protection. Just be sure to let the oil cure for several days before applying poly over it.

I use the natural color almost exclusively. The different colors basically just have stain mixed with them to alter the color of the wood you are working with.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View JCantin's profile


185 posts in 4325 days

#2 posted 02-03-2010 04:46 PM

I’m planning to do just what Charlie recommends, Watco followed by poly, for an outdoor chaise lounge in rift sawn white oak. I’ve tested the Golden Oak and it definitely mellows the oak color and shows off the grain somewhat. Would a darker tint do a better job showing off the grain though?

View Jamie Y's profile

Jamie Y

12 posts in 4316 days

#3 posted 02-03-2010 04:58 PM

Watco has been my finish of choice for more years than I care to mention! I started using it in college, and have stuck with it, even though it’s changed ownership/manufacturers over the years. In fact, I was a dealer, selling their products, way back in the 80’s. I still have a couple of cases of it manufactured by their original Watco-Dennis corporation. Those cans are like gold to me.

I agree with Charlie – it’s a great product for making the grain “pop”, but it doesn’t offer a ton of protection. If I need more protection, I’ll poly over it, after it’s cured. If I can get away with less protection, I’ll just add a coat of paste wax over a couple of coats of Watco. What a gorgeous way to finish wood.

I made a video of my application technique – here’s a link:

I wet sand my Watco into the wood. It really adds a level of depth and softness to the “feel” of the wood. The biggest tip I can share about using oil is that you have to wipe away every trace of it after you’re done applying it. Not a drop can remain on your wood, other than what has soaked in. If you leave a residue, it will dry sticky and ruin your project.

Also – be careful with the rags you wipe with – they can spontaneously ignite. Read the can carefully.

I consider this my “goof proof” finish – and recommend it to all my students. It makes their work look amazing. (I tell them it’s our little secret.)

-- Jamie in Vegas

View DaveA's profile


46 posts in 3995 days

#4 posted 02-03-2010 04:58 PM

Thanks very much, sounds intriguing. I think I’ll work it into an experimental project and maybe become a regular user.

-- Dave - Milwaukee

View Dusty56's profile


11861 posts in 4601 days

#5 posted 02-03-2010 09:56 PM

I’ve also used the wet sanding method with this and other oils and it really does add to the final look / feel of the project. Of course you’ll want to use wet/dry sandpaper…I’ve used 220,320,400,and 600 depending on the final outcome that I wanted to achieve : )
Regarding wiping off the excess , also keep an eye out for “weeping” if your project is Oak or another open grained type of wood.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View hokieman's profile


201 posts in 4667 days

#6 posted 02-04-2010 04:31 AM

I have also used Watco Danish oil as a grain filler for woods like walnut and mahogany but I’ll explain. I wipe the DO on liberally then take 600 wet and dry sandpaper and sand across the grain and build up a slurry of the sawdust. The 600 grit paper is fine enough so that you don’t see scratches and it also works the slurry into the grain. Once the slurry builds up then you wipe across the grain and work the slurry into the grain openings. Then let it dry. What you get is a naturally colored wood filler that is an exact match for the wood. The DO will also dry and have a little hardening going on in the pores and the pores are sealed and filled. Then after it cures, continue with the DO finish and it turns out great. It may seem tedious doing this with 600 grit paper but it actually goes pretty fast. Doesn’t take a lot to fill the grain. Beats the heck out procedures like plaster of paris and pumice filling. Those are a pain.

View a1Jim's profile


118144 posts in 4490 days

#7 posted 02-04-2010 05:55 AM

I stopped using Watco years ago. It’s easy to use so that’s it’s major attraction, Like the other post say it’s not something you want to use for protection of your wood. I don’t like how long it takes to dry that’s why I use a lot of water base dyes to make grain pop.


View ghazard's profile


382 posts in 4423 days

#8 posted 02-04-2010 04:26 PM

Does anyone have any issues with the odor of Danish Oil lingering around? I’ve had an issue on one project that was finished almost 10moths ago and it still smells. On the others I’ve used Danish on the odor has faded.



-- "Hey, you dang woodchucks! Quit chuckin' my wood!"

View TheDane's profile


5881 posts in 4576 days

#9 posted 02-04-2010 07:04 PM

I have used Watco Danish Oil on all of the Mission-style furniture I have built (9 pieces) followed by 4 coats of wiped-on poly.

Jim is right, though, the 3 day dry-time would be a problem if I were doing this professionally (time is money) but since I am just a hobbyist I don’t mind.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4799 days

#10 posted 02-04-2010 07:24 PM

What CharlieM1958 and Jamie Y said. ;-)
PS – Jamie the videos do not work, hope you can fix that?

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View steve6678's profile


438 posts in 2973 days

#11 posted 11-17-2012 02:20 AM

what surface (floor, bench, covered, not covered) I mean where do you apply this flood type coat on the piece, where does the drippings go or the mess, seeing as it’s highly combustible, how do you keep safe, not just the rags, but the surface your placing the object to oil?

-- Steve - Dust sucks!

View DW833's profile


237 posts in 2796 days

#12 posted 09-29-2013 12:51 PM

Also, had another question about Danish oil and white oak. I understand that oak will absorb a lot of the oil. Is it ok to use wood conditioner on the oak before using Danish Oil?

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2172 posts in 3764 days

#13 posted 09-29-2013 03:45 PM

Steve—I, like most posters here, have used it for years. I put down a piece of corrugated paper (cardboard) on my bench and do the object on that. When I’m done, I wipe the excess off the cardboard. It can be used multiple times.

Watco and Minwax are quite different animals. Minwax wins on color choices, Watco on finish build. You can add coats of Watco until you have a varnish like surface. Wait, it IS a varnish surface! : )

Disposal of the rags: I drape them outside so the volatiles evaporate and then trash them. (I did once, years ago, have a spontaneous combustion episode but I had just thrown the rags in a burning barrel. Someone noticed the heat on that midsummer day and alerted me. No harm, no foul.)

I asked a retired fire marshall once if rags with bad stuff on them were put in a bucket of water, were they still combustible when removed. He didn’t know.

My recipe with Watco is to boost the poly—half satin poly, any brand, with half Watco. You can mellow the various shades out this way and it dries more quickly—overnight. Next day, 320 then coat, repeat w/ 400 next day. Great results over many years.

And a word about Watco satin wax. Great stuff. Easier to use than paste, which can leave deposits in open grain woods like the oaks. It leaves a terrific feel. Again, the clear and dark can be blended to fine tune a project that matches something existing.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View jimmy J's profile

jimmy J

229 posts in 3292 days

#14 posted 05-31-2016 09:00 PM

I’m curious as to if those who sand back to fill the grain, do so on the full project, or just the top? i have a federal-ish table i’m building and planning to have a gloss top. not sure if i want to do the rest of the table (entry table, walnut).

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1662 days

#15 posted 05-31-2016 11:06 PM

I used to use Minwax Antique Oil as a finish, but have switched to the Watco Danish Oil. I’m retired, so the 3 day dry time isn’t a big problem. The DO was recommended to me by a family friend that’s a pro woodworker. He uses it as a ‘primer’ under Waterlox. I bought some for exactly that use and decided I like it.

Just used the DO on a white oak child’s rocking chair. There was some weeping of the finish, as expected.

When I want a smooth filled finish, I use the Waterlox over the Danish Oil. Three or four coats of the Waterlox should give you what you want. Just make darn sure the Danish Oil is dry before you put another finish over it.

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