Oiled wood looks very well. Beautiful. The knots are nourished. The grain is highlighted, sometimes with delightful effects – carolina pine and hard maple have a shimmering 3d effect for example. The timber is sealed.

Why do it? Once the timber is smooth and clean, a cloth is all that is needed to apply oil. (Types of natural oil were mentioned in earlier blogs – will be back to them) Pour a little oil on the cloth. The cloth absorbs the oil and you rub it on the wood. Perfect simplicity. No chemical smell, although natural oils have their own scents. The oil will soak into the wood – leave for a while and wipe off any excess. No brushes, pads, rollers, etc. Reapply as necessary. The oil dries in but leaves the wood sealed. You will not get a smoother finish.


– Oiled timber can draw dirt into the wood over time. That statment has to be taken in context. Do not bring the oak dining table down the coal mine.

– It is best to hang the oil cloth outside on a line or spread flat after you have finished as if you leave it scrunched up it can spontaneously go on fire (not kidding). It doesn’t matter if its raining, which is a bonus. I have grown to hate secondguessing myself on spellcheck, having it ruins confidence (wondered about confidence but didn’t check it) in your ability to spell. For the record “spontaneously” can be found on page 1219 of the 1963 edition of the OED.

– Drying time is longer than off the shelf varnishes with VOCs. Linseed oil is 48 hours, boiled linseed oil is 24 hours, tung oil is 18 hours. It depends on temp, ventilation and humidity. Also which coat it is – if its raw kiln dried timber and its the first coat, its quite a bit faster than the listed times. Something I sometimes find difficult – reading the label on the back of the container when its in the shop – I recommend it.

Spreading oil on joints that are too tight will cause the joints to creak – its a liquid so the timber will swell slightly.

It has to be applied to raw wood – if you put it on top of varnished wood – it will just sit on top of the varnish – same for wax, so if it has been previously coated – sanding is required.

I will upload some more pics when I find the blasted lead for the phone again. Did I mention I am forgetful?


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