From what does oil protect wood?

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Forum topic by jtruc34 posted 09-16-2019 01:58 PM 476 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 43 days

09-16-2019 01:58 PM

It is often said that oil, even not being the strongest protection, still protects a little bit the wood. However, it is also said that (in the case of BLO), it doesn’t protect from water, from stains and from UV.

Then, does it even protect from anything?

Thank you.

11 replies so far

View therealSteveN's profile


3901 posts in 1085 days

#1 posted 09-16-2019 02:59 PM

In finishes saying “oil” is a mouthful. There are a number of oil based finishes. BLO is just an oil, that people often use when finishing, however I am not aware of anyone using it as a topcoat.

I don’t think most people are using BLO as a topcoat, or the outer protective layer. At least I am not. I use BLO to pop grain, I think most who use it also do it for this reason. It makes active grain literally jump out at you. From reading comments here I believe you will see as many detractors, as you will accolades for it’s use. When I use it I mix it equally in thirds with MS, and Poly as a wiping finish, where the poly portion will harden to a good topcoat. This recipe is usually put on in layers. Generally with some sanding between coats.

There are Oil based topcoats Arm r Seal Is an oil based topcoat which I am fond of I usually wipe it on, so application is easy, and results are predictable, and I like how it looks.

-- Think safe, be safe

View pottz's profile


6373 posts in 1495 days

#2 posted 09-16-2019 03:24 PM

i love oil finishes their easy to use and i love the look and feel.i use sam maloofs formula of 1/3 blo 1/3 tung oil and 1/3 satin poly.i usually go with 3 -4 coats,wipe on wipe off and let dry 24 hrs between.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View Wildwood's profile


2740 posts in 2645 days

#3 posted 09-16-2019 04:13 PM

None that I know!

Only oil that provides some protection is pure Tung oil if put enough coats.

Lot of oil varnish blends claim to be made with Tung oil may not contain any!

Three oils used as finish on wood are drying oils; pure Linseed, Tung, & walnut. They will dry eventually, but not very rapidly. BLO has replaced pure linseed oil and while containers normally say 100% contain dryers. Both pure & BLO can darken wood and absorb moisture and absolutely no UV protection.

Pure Tung oil normally cut with mineral spirits to aide penetration and speed up drying times. Drying times between coats biggest draw back whether using pure or cut Tung Oil.

Walnut oil comes from salad oil industry used for natural feel of wood on pens & food safe items.

Oil finishes leave a matt or satin finish with exception of enough coats of Tung oil not much protection from anything and expect to recoat as necessary. Drying oil do not penetrate wood surface much therefore mineral spirits will aide in that plus allow for shorter drying times.

This article pretty much tells you everything need to know:

If need shiny use a oil varnish blend or wiping varnish. Wiping Varnish will offer better protection than oil varnish plend. Film finishes (lacquer, poly, shellac, varnish will pop the grain or figure in wood by themselves without BLO. I stopped buy BLO years ago.

-- Bill

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10 posts in 43 days

#4 posted 09-16-2019 04:21 PM

So, what is even the point of BLO?

Is that only aesthetic?

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5755 posts in 3004 days

#5 posted 09-16-2019 05:00 PM

So, what is even the point of BLO?

Is that only aesthetic?

- jtruc34

IMHO, yes. It ’s a coloring/appearance (popping grain) agent.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

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10 posts in 43 days

#6 posted 09-16-2019 05:09 PM

So, there would be no point of putting several coats, is that right?

There something pretty strange I’ve noticed on an old piece of furniture in my house. The front panel is only oiled and waxed, but the drawer are untreated. The front is in perfect shape, but the sides are all cracked.

Do you think oil prevent wood from “drying” too much?

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5755 posts in 3004 days

#7 posted 09-16-2019 05:15 PM

Again….yes, IMHO. Any coloring/popping effect comes with the first coat, after that you are affecting (maybe) the color a few years down the road. BLO yellows (or ambers, or whatever term you want to use) over time…more BLO, more yellow (or amber). Also, since it takes a day or two to cure enough for a top coat of real finish you’re lengthening the time you have to spend wrapping things up. Also, if you use a oil based varnish, you may not find any advantage to the BLO even with the coloring/popping effect, most oil based finishes do that on their own. No opinion on the drying effect, I suspect it may help a little (prevent) but probably not enough to matter…..just a guess.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rich's profile


5001 posts in 1100 days

#8 posted 09-16-2019 05:50 PM

To play the devil’s advocate, I don’t think BLO has a point. I’d never use it in anything but an oil/varnish blend like pottz mentioned. It’s Sam Maloof after all.

Regarding the Sam Maloof finish—it’s a cult favorite, and for good reason. Sam was one of a handful of master woodworkers in the last century, along with names like Tage Frid. Fine Woodworking magazine featured many articles by them—and others—in its early days.

Here is an excerpt from the Sep/Oct 1983 issue #42 (back when it was still in black and white) by Sam himself. The article is titled How I Make a Rocker and in it he discusses his finish formula:

I finish-sand the whole chair to 400-grit and apply three coats (at two-day intervals) of a three-part finish: equal parts of polyurethane varnish, raw tung oil and boiled linseed oil, removing all excess oil after each application. I then apply a final coat of a mixture I mix up on a double boiler: a half-gallon each of tung oil and boiled linseed oil, with a couple of handfuls of beeswax grated in. Do this outdoors and be care­ful—linseed has a low boiling point. The mixture has a long shelf life (stir before using), and leaves a beautiful sheen when buffed with a soft doth.

As you can see, the basic finish is an oil/varnish blend. Tried & True Original is very similar to his final coat with the oil/wax combination. The oil/varnish gives you beauty with added durability.

Finishing is one of those topics where myths abound. When you get advice here, I suggest you look at the source before taking things at face value. I also recommend reading some of the excellent books available by people like Jeff Jewitt, Bob Flexner, Teri Masaschi and Michael Dresdner. Don’t overlook names like Tim Inman either. He is a master finisher and explains color like no other in his short but sweet The Art of Classical Furniture Finishing.

View jtruc34's profile


10 posts in 43 days

#9 posted 09-18-2019 07:14 AM

Thank you for all your inspiring answers!

Can someone explain why the piece of furniture I was talking about before was so much more preserved in the front panel than on the sides of the drawers?

I’m (almost) sure that it is only oiled and waxed.

View bondogaposis's profile


5542 posts in 2862 days

#10 posted 09-18-2019 01:19 PM

To answer the the original question, what does oil protect from? My answer is, finger prints, raw wood is prone to get grimy from handling. In fact one of my favorite uses for BLO is on tool handles. I hate how many tool makers will dip the handles in lacquer. I don’t like the feel of lacquer, I will strip it off and replace it with BLO. That way I get the feel of the wood and it is still protected. Oil finishes are easily renewed as well. I would not use it as top coat on a table or something like that, but it has it uses like popping color as others have stated.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View PaulDoug's profile


2169 posts in 2214 days

#11 posted 09-18-2019 02:53 PM

When in the Marine Corps and had a M-14 (finest rifle ever), we had to keep our stocks hand rubbed with linseed oil. The reason we were told is it kept the stock from drying out, it kept the outer portion of the stock softer so it would dent/scratch as opposed to split or crack, and it kept us busy during down time. Who am I to distrust a drill instructor? They said, I did.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

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