Your thoughts on boiled linseed oil and other finishes.

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Forum topic by AngieO posted 06-28-2013 03:58 PM 5522 views 1 time favorited 45 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 3228 days

06-28-2013 03:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishes question

So far most of my projects have been finished with MinWax stain. I’ve found that at times… I just don’t want to stain them. I do have a few projects that I built that are sitting in my shop, just waiting to be finished. I have a couple of pine, an ash and I’m also working on some things with cherry. So I’d like to pick your brains about different finishes you use to get the natural look, but also the protection I need.

One of my projects is a simple spice rack that I will hang in my laundry room near the pantry. It’s made out of pine. I have plans later to build a new pantry. The one I have now I’ve had for many years. I bought it from a local woodworker at a festival. I have two pieces from him. I want to build my own. Since I’m not close to that project, I don’t want to stain this spice rack. I have no idea what kind of finish I’ll end up with. But I also want to protect this piece as I use it now. A suggestion was made to use Boiled Linseed Oil.

So some questions about BLO. This is what I’ve learned so far… be very careful in the disposal of rags as they can ignite. I was also told that if the item is in direct sunlight that it can change colors. I’ve heard that it can blacken and that it can turn orange-ish. I’ve also heard that many will dilute it. The guy at the local Lowe’s suggested to cut it with mineral spirits. He also said to use paste wax as the top coat. I also know to wipe off excess after 5-10 minutes (this seems to range from person to person). And I read somewhere on here to really give it time to dry. Wait 24 hours between coats and that some woods you may want to even test a week out to see if the oil is still wet.

So… that’s all I know. Questions… do you need to dilute it? Do I need a top coat? If so… what? What tools can I/should I use for application….rag, brush? Anything else I should know?
Also.. as in the example of the spice rack… if I just use the oil… later on down the road can I stain it to match my other items?

I’d also like to hear your other methods of finishing. I have a project that I’m working on right now that is ash and one that is cherry. I also have some wood that I hasn’t been earmarked for anything yet… oak, walnut, cedar. I’d love to hear any opinions and thoughts on finishing any of these woods. I am especially interested in natural finishes to really show off the woods beauty.

As always… thanks for your help. This site has always proven to be a wealth of knowledge and experience. I look forward to your responses.

45 replies so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30615 posts in 3418 days

#1 posted 06-28-2013 04:01 PM

I am a Danish Oil person. Followed by wipe-on poly or water based poly.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6376 posts in 3894 days

#2 posted 06-28-2013 04:07 PM

For oak and ash, I stain with an oil based product (I like Rodda, Varathane and Cabot brand stains), then spray 2 coats of pre-cat lacquer for a smooth finish that offers good protection.

For cherry, I dilute Bullseye seal coat (3:2 alcohol to seal coat). Seal the cherry with this shellac mixture first.
Then stain with oil based stain.
Finally topcoat, which can be full strength shellac, or pre-cat lacquer.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 4051 days

#3 posted 06-28-2013 04:22 PM

About Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO).
To my knowledge, it is better as an additive than as a finish. My dad was a floor finisher, trim carpenter and painter for over 50 years. I recall him adding BLO to oil paint and other oil based finishes all the time to improve their flow-ability. Some oil paints would have very bad drag; in other words, hard to pull with a brush. Put a little BLO in the can and stir it up and then it would flow like silk.

Mixed with turpentine and bee’s wax it makes a good finish for work benches.

I add it to poly and stain to control blotch and in different ratios to adjust the penetration and set of stain on different woods where I’m trying to make everything match.
Over all I think it’s good stuff, but I wouldn’t call it a finish on its own.

Minwax Poly-crylic, water based polyurethane finish.
I like this for jigs.

View NiteWalker's profile


2742 posts in 3657 days

#4 posted 06-28-2013 04:22 PM

Most of my projects get sealcoat then waterborne clear; for things that need a quick and simple finish that’s protective, wipe on poly.

BLO isn’t protective enough for my preference and takes too long to dry. Wipe on poly takes a while to dry too, but is way more protective than BLO.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View jtriggs's profile


185 posts in 4897 days

#5 posted 06-28-2013 04:24 PM

I haven’t used BLO since high school shop, but here’s the funny thing – my shop teacher boiled the linseed oil in a coffee can with a torch as I watched. I then used it on a cribbage board I made. I still have that cribbage board 45 years later and the finish on it looks the same as the day I applied it. I’m not saying anything about its suitability to withstand heavy use but for all the hand oils and sweat that have touched it, it is in amazing shape.

-- Jon --Always remember, never live your life by a motto.

View bondogaposis's profile


5986 posts in 3432 days

#6 posted 06-28-2013 04:27 PM

I favor the 1/3 BLO, 1/3 MS, 1/3 spar varnish finish for a lot on my projects. Wipes on w/ a rag and is generally an easy way to go and is easily restored if ever it needs it. Another finish that is pretty fool proof is General Finishes, Seal a cell and Arm r seal. You are money ahead to not stain pine, nothing but problems there.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View shampeon's profile


2167 posts in 3264 days

#7 posted 06-28-2013 04:54 PM

BLO is a great, easy finish, but catalyzing oil finishes have their own peculiarities. If you just want to play around with oil finishes, start with Watco Danish oil. Danish oil is BLO, thinned, with metal dryers and toner unless you get the natural color. Follow the instructions and see if you like the result.

The intermediate level is to use BLO by itself. It’ll take longer to dry, but the procedure is similar to Danish oil.

Then there are the concoctions. I use BLO/mineral spirits/shellac, sometimes with TransTint to add toner. Others use BLO/DNA/shellac or BLO/mineral spirits/poly.

With pine, you may get blotchiness with oil finishes, so what I would do is to do a thinned seal coat of shellac wiped on, followed by a light pass with 400 grit sandpaper after it dries.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View mikema's profile


180 posts in 3666 days

#8 posted 06-28-2013 04:55 PM

I use BLO all the time. I have not had issues with color change from BLO, though it does have put an amber tint on light color woods, which you get immediately. I would guess that much of the color change is from the wood itself. Remember light woods get darker, dark woods get lighter as it is exposed to UV.

I have found that after wiping on the BLO and then wiping off the excess (usually about 5-10miutes later) it is dry to the touch after about 30 minutes or so. For it to completely cure, it can take several days, depending on the temperature of the space it is in. The warmer it is, the quicker it will cure.

As for protecting the wood, it doesn’t. However, I don’t consider BLO to be the final step in the finishing process. Most of my projects get a few coats of shellac.

From a safety stand point, I do one of two things with my rags after usage. First, I unfold the rag completely and sit it down on the concrete floor, away from anything that could ignite. Since the rag is completely flat, the heat produced from drying is evenly dissipated, so it won’t build up enough heat to ignite. The other option, if I am not able to put the rags on the floor, I put them in a bucket of water, and when trash day comes around, they get thrown away then, once the trash can is away from the house.

-- Mike ---- Visit my woodworking blog:

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 3228 days

#9 posted 06-28-2013 05:03 PM

The guy at lowes had nothing nice to say about Danish Oil.

But… I went ahead and picked up some BLO. I couldn’t resist.

I got this one gallon can of it for $7. Is this not a good brand? I figured that if I’m going to test it out that it was a good enough price to play with.

I like a lot of these suggestions. Gives me some ideas. And… I have lots of scrap to test out the different suggestions.

Ok… I’m going to show my ignorance… many refer to poly as “wipe on”. My can just says “quick drying”. Directions say to use a brush. What’s the difference? How do I tell which is the wipe on?

View madts's profile


1956 posts in 3420 days

#10 posted 06-28-2013 05:04 PM

I like to use 2 coats BLO put on with a rag, This takes time to dry. Then follow up with about 2 coats of tung oil.
This gives a quite durable finish. I do not like to use stains, because wood is wood and if you use the right kind of wood for the look you want, you do not need stain. Sometimes cost gets into it, and then stain comes into the equation. The rest of the time I let the wood shine.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6982 posts in 3574 days

#11 posted 06-28-2013 06:40 PM

Being a commodity, there’s little difference between brands. $7 was a fantastic price, you can’t loose at that. I usually dilute mine with some mineral spirits before I use it…only because the stuff can be a little thick and it’s just easier to handle (IMHO) if you dilute it. I never put on more than one coat, and you can actually finish it fairly quickly after application. Shellac and oil based varnishes can easily be put on the next day. For a waterborne it really pays to wait a while, I usually give it a week in that case (depending on weather and temps). You might really like on some of that cherry you just bought.

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

View DS's profile


3746 posts in 3501 days

#12 posted 06-28-2013 06:51 PM

A few years ago, the Boy Scouts refinished the furniture at a local church using BLO. They worked long and hard all day and the job looked great.

Later that night, the rags they left in the trash cans caught fire and burned down the entire building. A total loss. (Including some nicely refinished furniture)

I think the Boy Scout still got his Eagle award out of it though…. Oops.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View coachmancuso's profile


259 posts in 3012 days

#13 posted 06-28-2013 07:16 PM

I really like the way that the blo makes pine pop. I use 1 coat of BLO and then wait about 3 – 5 days and they go over it with Wipe on poly and how ever many coats you need to get the shine you want. I used BLO on a bunch of pallet projects I did. The shelf in my projects is done with BLO.The kind you got is the kind I use but Home Depot has it cheaper and then wal mart is the cheapest.

-- Coach Mancuso

View fredj's profile


187 posts in 2898 days

#14 posted 06-28-2013 07:18 PM

I’m a big fan of Watco Oil as the base of a surface finish for furniture, and just the oil for turnings. I only had a problem with that once (see post Watco Oil and Poly Mystery). Stain is against my religion. You have lots of cherry which I hope you never want to stain, even if you have sap wood. Cherry does not stain well, unless you prep it.

BLO takes a long time to dry, and some claim it never really does. With any oil you must be careful with used rags. I soak mine in water, and soak them and soak, them… A new house in the mountains near here burned to the ground after workers left the used rags in a pile next to the house. That fire took down a lot of great millwork.

What I do like about a hand rubbed oil finish is that it makes the grain jump out at you and say “Look at Me !” Plus if you scratch it, it’s easy to patch up. Anything for outdoor use will need refinishing, repainting, or re-oiling at some point. Cleaning a piece up and hitting it with oil is pretty easy. Watco makes a great oil finish for outdoor use, but it’s fairly toxic. I’ve used it on ash canoe gunnels, but wouldn’t trust BLO to hold up as well.

-- Fredj

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5299 days

#15 posted 06-28-2013 07:24 PM

Angie, I use that brand of BLO all the time. I don’t really consider BLO a finish as much as I consider it an appearance enhancer. What I meany by that is that it’s not very protective by itself, so you’ll usually want to use a top coat for protection. But I really like the way it brings out the look of the grain. If you look at my projects, many are finished with just BLO, then buffed and waxed. But they are mostly decorative boxes and such, that won’t be subjected to much handling.

As for application, I personally never use more than one coat. I flood it on liberally, then immediately wipe away as much as I can with a clean rag. I then let it dry for a couple of days before I either buff and wax, or top coat with wipe-on poly.

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

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