Finishing With Danish Oil

I’ve used a wide range of so called Danish oil products made by different manufacturers. The one thing they all have in common is the Danes had nothing to do with it. There is no such thing as Danish oil as an oil, and there is no recipe that constitutes Danish oil. If I took two or three liquids, oil or not, and called it Danish oil, I could sell it without misleading you. But I hope I do have a moral compass to steer by. There are many wood treatments out there sold as “oil” finishes that have no oil them at all. The reason anything termed oil sells is because we like to think that oil has the kind of water repelling and nurturing qualities that ‘nurture’ the wood and nurture too is a common term used by manufacturers to describe their ‘oil’ finishes. Such is the disingenuity of most if not all manufacturers of wood finishes. They play on our ignorance of course. Rarely would we ever take time out to research exactly what for instance hydrocarbon is or what hydrocarbons are. And that’s the case when safety data sheets or a mere click away from where we are sitting.

On the Ronseal Danish Oil can it states boldly that their Danish Oil is “a unique blend of natural oils”. Now for me that sounds like they have taken a range of oils from nature, you know, eucalyptus, walnut, tung, and some others, and combined them in some special way to give me a protective skin to coat my beautiful pieces with. Of course hydrocarbons come from plants, trees and then fossil fuels too. We have no idea really what we are using when we buy. I say all of this because almost if not everything made is made from something that fully exists; something that occurs naturally in nature. So claiming natural is not entirely dishonest. But what we might hide is that the product we are using could more easily hide the reality that we are using a petrol-based product rather than a blend of whats is around us in nature.

In my making my oak project recently I used some Ronseal Danish Oil, a highly volatile, flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons distilled from petroleum, coal tar, and natural gas. It was the smell that troubled me most. It smelt chemically. I have used this and many others before but I am less and less inclined to. I did however get the exact look in the finish I wanted. Had I followed the makers instructions it would not have given me what I wanted.

The thing is Danish oil is really a wipe on finish even though you can spray, it brush it or pad it on. The reason people like this and all wipe on finishes is it is a skill-less task to apply it even though many makers use the term ‘hand rubbed finish’ to describe the exacting standards of their craftsmen and women. Ragging it on is what it is. Nothing more.

In my case I used paper towel. A couple of sheets of kitchen towel will do a whole table with a first coat. Drop the used towel into a jug of water and you’re safe from spontaneous combustion issues. Squeeze out and leave outside to dry out when all applications are completed and you can dispose of in accordance with your local County Council advice. Nothing need go into the drains, rivers or other water courses. The water and oil will not mix. We use it only to prevent the risk of fire that can occur spontaneously with wadded up oil-soaked rags and paper.

I find it best to rub the oil on with the paper pad and then wipe off with a dry paper towel finishing my strokes with the grain. I waited 20 minutes and then went back with a dry paper towel and wiped a second time. with oak, the open pores release air or gasses from the wood as temperatures change. If left the surface feels prickly. The second wipe removes this surface nibbing and opens back up the pores. I then waited until dry, six hours, and repeated same. I did not sand between coats because this method means the surface is smooth. The last, third coat is identical. The finish should feel fine but you might want to use a soft furniture polish applied with a 0000 steel wool.

55 Comments

  1. Art Coates on 10 June 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Our state government has mandated the reformulation of oil based coatings due to air pollution concerns. The “more environmentally friendly” formulas dry too fast to brush or wipe, and ironically, smell horribly for several weeks while continuing to cure.

  2. Tracy Sanders on 10 June 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Not finish related – but how did you cut the drawer face?

    • Scott on 12 June 2019 at 3:55 pm

      I was wondering the same thing. The fit seems impossibly tight but the grain matches.

      • Harlow Chandler Jr. on 17 June 2019 at 2:31 pm

        The conventional method is to rip the rail into three strips, top and bottom of the drawer position, then crosscut the drawer from the ripped out central piece and glue it all back together. If that is how it was done here, Mr. Sellers did a masterful job of planning so as to make the grain rematch where the rip kerfs would be as hard to see as possible. As we would expect.

    • COLIN MILNE on 17 June 2019 at 11:14 am

      I’m Guessing this is a veneer.

      • Paul Sellers on 17 June 2019 at 12:33 pm

        Nope! Solid wood only.

        • Evan on 17 June 2019 at 9:41 pm

          Amazing work as always. Any chance of a blog post abou t it or this trick showing up in a WWMC project?

    • Phil Gibbs on 17 June 2019 at 6:49 pm

      a)….. It’s a fake drawer made with score lines that are emphasized by the Danish
      oil.
      b)….. The drawer front was cut out using a micro-fine track razor saw.

      c)….. Paul Sellers is a woodworking wizard.

  3. Andrew on 10 June 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Interesting post, I agree manufacturers love these catch-all titles … that mean precisely nothing yet somehow sound time-honored.

    I have enjoyed the lustrous finish from Liberon’s Finishing Oil, as well as the trivial application you mention,and appreciate the name that isn’t pretending. As you do, I also wonder what the heck is in it! (No affiliation btw!)

    I have wondered about pure (or otherwise) Tung Oil as a more natural and perhaps safer alternative. Though your photo captures the key safety tip I think: use gloves with all these products!

    • Ken Dalgleish on 11 June 2019 at 12:37 pm

      I really like Tung oil and use it often. It can be wiped on as easily as any other wipe on finish, it looks good, is food safe and has been known to last for hundreds of years.

      Drying time is the catch and is somewhat erratic. Anything from overnight to a couple of days. Which can be annoying. Diluting it a little with natural turpentine does help it flow and dry a little faster. Some distributers suggest you can dilute with white spirit (mineral spirits) but the combination smells appalling and for some reason takes days longer to dry. Avoid white spirit.

      I use pure Tung Oil. It is available with added driers though I’ve not tried those products. Might be worth looking at them but personally I’d avoid any that contain naphtha. Tung oil comes from nuts and (real) turpentine comes from tree resins. They work really well together and smell nice. There is no need to introduce petroleum products.

      • Andrew on 11 June 2019 at 1:46 pm

        Thanks Ken, I’ll try the pure tung based on your recommendation.

        As a spare-time woodworker a long drying time isn’t a drama for me: I’ll just apply a coat every other evening while getting ready for the next project. It’s not like I have so many finished projects they’re in the way! 😉

        Good tip on the natural turpentine as thinner, not much point in “going natural” then diluting it with a stinky petroleum distillate!

        On a side note, is the (cheap hardware store) meths that I use for dissolving my Shellac likely to be a petroleum product? Or from cracking normal ethanol from a brewing type process? Presumably it is a VOC, since it is volatile and organic?!

        • Ken Dalgleish on 11 June 2019 at 3:02 pm

          I think originally it was distilled from wood (hence wood spirit) but is now synthetically produced from gases (carbon monoxide and hydrogen I think). Its not a petroleum product, it’s an alcohol. Which, as you say, is also a VOC though I doubt its very harmful so long as you don’t drink it! The public and the media do tend to over react every time they learn some tiny bit of science. VOCs are unavoidable. Many are harmless and many (of both harmless and harmful varieties) are entirely natural. Nature does more chemistry than we do. Scents and smells are nearly all VOCs!

          BTW I’m sure you know this but just in case do beware “turpentine substitute” which (rather like Danish Oil) could be almost anything. About the only thing it couldn’t be is turpentine!

        • David Dunnison on 17 June 2019 at 5:20 pm

          Hi Ken/Andrew,

          Methanol/Wood Alcohol/Methyl Spirits/Meths are commercially produced primarily from the methane in Natural Gas.

          Thus, while Natural Gas is not a true petroleum by-product you can think of it as coming from the fossil fuel industry.

          The largest producer of methanol is the company Methanex.

    • Frank Niering on 17 June 2019 at 8:40 pm

      I’ve used Liberon Finishing “oil” for years and find it works well: it dries reasonably quickly and is water resistant, and does not seem to discolour the wood. I’ve never seemed to have been able to get other oils to dry.

  4. Richard Kelly on 11 June 2019 at 7:29 am

    I’d love to understand how the manufacturer reconciles that this tin states “25% – 50%” VOC and yet the MSDS states that the product contains 50 – 100% Naphtha, which is a VOC…

    • Tom on 11 June 2019 at 3:35 pm

      The logical explanation is that it is 50% naptha.

  5. Ken Dalgleish on 11 June 2019 at 11:12 am

    Naphtha is a fraction from the distillation process of crude oil.

    Cobalt(II) ethylhexanoate is a catalytic drying agent. Again derived from petroleum products.

    The ethyl methyl keto is there to inhibit the formation of a skin and presumably extend the shelf life of the product. Paint manufacturers use it too.

    The “finish” is therefore whatever is left after the VOCs in heavy naphtha evaporate. Presumably a light tar like substance.

  6. Justin Masone on 11 June 2019 at 12:38 pm

    This is why I always recommend Tried & True products…no petrochemicals, no organic solvents, no heavy metal drying agents. Their Danish oil is 100% “polymerized” linseed oil (and whatever they actually mean by that is proprietary).

    • Tom Hitchner on 11 June 2019 at 1:03 pm

      This looks like a good option to try. I see it is food grade. Available on Amazon prime. A bit pricier than Watco danish oil but not that bad.

    • Paul Sellers on 11 June 2019 at 1:27 pm

      £65 ($82 (USD) for a pint here in the UK Amazon so is unacceptably prohibitive. I know it’s much cheaper in the USA though but then there is the rest of the other world out here. If it’s just boiled linseed oil then why not just use double boiled linseed oil which is polymerised linseed oil? I can buy 5 Litres, a little over a UK gallon, for around one third the Tried and True one-pint price. Time to experiment for an alternative I think.

      • Justin Masone on 11 June 2019 at 1:56 pm

        I am admittedly not familiar with DBLO as compared to the more common BLO, but the few BLOs I have used that are commercially available in the US all contain a cobalt-based drying agent. I’ve also found that their drying and curing times are longer, regardless of what the labeling states.

      • Dustin on 11 June 2019 at 9:05 pm

        The SDS says it’s approx. 80% polymerized Linseed oil and 20% natural beeswax(there’s also a version of theirs that adds in pine resin) – presumably there is some special method of preparation/ “cooking” other than just mixing them together, but who knows. I’ll be trying their version on my next project, and then see if it’s feasible to make my own, if I like the end result.

        • Owen - ORO Woodworks on 12 June 2019 at 2:42 pm

          @ Dustin — If you are taking about making a version with pine resin, then you should be aware that making your own varnish is extremely dangerous, and not easy. Getting the exact right temperatures is difficult, and you run a significant risk of fire/explosion if you don’t have highly controlled conditions. Making a “permanent” oil/wax blend is easier, and safer, but with the amount of time it takes to actually do it you might as well just find and purchase a quality pre-made version.

      • Stephan Pawloski on 17 June 2019 at 2:46 pm

        Paul, if you haven’t already, read up on the 2 finishes that Sam Maloof made. They might be more inline with your working preferences.

      • Ian Williams on 17 June 2019 at 4:03 pm

        G’Day Paul..mate i use straight mineral oil,every so often they drain the hydraulic tanks at work,(Mind these tanks hold 20k litres +) and send it back to be cleaned and have additives add (Anti wear,anti foam,anti rust),,so i “Borrowed” a couple of litres or so,
        Now not saying it is the best,but do some testing and see what you think,
        The Grade??68 cenistoke ,This a general purpose grade probably in your tractor hydraulic,there is another i use for oil stone,(Yer still use oil stone’s ) 22 centistoke,this stuff under pressure in good up to 10kpsi,Nearly 700Mpa,,
        any way just saying test it out and see what you think,
        application?? mate i just wipe it on let it sit for 30 mins and wipe it off,Buff if you must,

    • Lex on 18 June 2019 at 7:58 pm

      They mean it’s heated, as Paul says below. Raw linseed oil will cure like BLO, but the time required is rather long. Although for small items like a spoon you can use flax oil from the health food/grocery store, apply, and set outside on a warm sunny day and it will cure in that day. Flax and linseed are the same oil.

      The proprietary aspect is pretty much just what temperature they bring it too and for how long in order to start the polymerization (cure) but not have it go too far. I’m also a fan of Tried and True and really only finish with one of their BLOs or shellac.

  7. Ed on 11 June 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Flexner has a long discussion about the meaninglessness of finish names. It is rare that a finish name provides any useful information and it is common for it to be misleading, especially for anything with the word, “oil” in it, especially tung and Danish oil finishes.

    With regard to safety, it is a good idea for woodworkers to educate themselves about gloves. Gloves come in various materials (latex, nitrile, butyl, ….). You must match the glove material to the substance being worked and to the operation. Some frequently encountered solvents are not blocked well by nitrile, for example. Find a glove chart and associated information. You may need more than one kind of glove and may need to double glove.

    • Peter Akhurst on 12 June 2019 at 6:45 pm

      Regarding finishes, from the little I have read, proper oil finishes which come from what most people consider to be natural sources such as wood, nuts and grains.

      These are what I understand to be drying oils which polymerise through exposure to heat and UV exposure, and which tend to he slowed down by a humid atmosphere. Common types others have mentioned above such as linseed (boiled or not), walnut and tung. There must be many more, but my knowledge is listed to these.

      They can be thinned with turpentine.

      Regarding ‘making varnish’ as someone mentioned above, I am not sure what necessarily constitutes a varnish. Is this not just a clear finish which would typically seal and protest the surface below which polymerises, and therefore many things could be called a varnish?

      I would say go ahead and try what we consider to be pure natural finishes such as linseed (undiluted). There is no acrid smell or VOCs. Many of us are not working to a deadline and so can afford the drying time so surely it is worth considering a test as you won’t need to breath in the fumes.

      What exactly was used before the 20th century? Who made it?

      Was it not made by local people out of locally accessable products?

      • George Wall on 13 June 2019 at 12:39 am

        The term “varnish” had a fairly broad historical usage, and as you mentioned generally referred to a film building finish used to protect the underlying wood. Shellac was at one point called “spirit varnish”.

        A common varnish was made when tree resin was mixed with linseed oil and turpentine and heated. Today, that varnish has been replaced by polyurethane, which is derived from an artificial resin, and petroleum distillates being used in place of turpentine. With either mixture, there is a significant fire/explosion hazard making your own varnish in this way, and what you can find in a can will work as well if not better and will be more cost effective. Yes, people did make varnish on their own in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it was still done under controlled conditions by trades people. And fires and explosions did happen all too frequently; many furniture shops did burn down.

        And unless you have a lac bug farm, it’s probably not feasible to make your own shellac either 🙂 .

      • Peter Akhurst on 13 June 2019 at 8:05 am

        I will have a look around my shed. There are many things crawling around my shed, I could get lucky!

        But seriously, you raise some serious points about fires and the flammable nature of some of the materials being discussed. And people should be cautious, just as people should be cautious using high VOC purchased tins.

        Paul has raised the importance of disposal of rags and such from BLO to avoid fires many times.

        With making your own you have the ability to slowly add to the concoction, so dial back on the flammable turpentine, you might find you don’t need it or at least very little.

        I read a lot about linseed oil being combustible when on rags, but to my eye this seems to be Boiled Linseed Oil rather than raw, although not specifically deacribed. I am guessing this is due to the added heavy metal driers and other solvents added to it.

        Personally, I am going to get some raw linseed oil and try making a finish.

        • George Wall on 13 June 2019 at 8:02 pm

          Any curing oil (linseed, tung, etc.) poses a fire hazard when it comes to an oily rag. The curing process generates heat, which can get hot enough to allow the rag (and the oil on the rag) to reach its flash point and combust.

          Boiled linseed oil is the most risky of the commonly used finish oils, as it cures fastest, and so generates the most heat. But the same precautions should be used for any drying oil, as well as oil/varnish blends (which include Danish oil).

          • Peter Akhurst on 14 June 2019 at 1:29 pm

            Thanks, George, duly noted. Finishing a project is a good excuse for a BBQ. I may put the rags in my BBQ and try them as fire starters.

            On another note, I read somewhere a recommendation of leaving a clear bottle of linseed in the sun, possibly on a window sill which can commence polymerisation due to the UV light. This would presumably expedite curing to some degree, an alternative to “Boiled Linseed Oil” (I use the quotes as there seem to be several ways of making a product which is called BLO but not all of them involving some form of heat treatment)

            The rub of the “window sill” trick above, is that it would probably take a few months, and no telling how effective this will be. I will give it a go anyway.



  8. Gav on 11 June 2019 at 2:10 pm

    There are a lot of German companies who make a range of as far as I can tell more ‘people friendly oils’ 😉 due to some legislation brought about I think in the seventies which helped drive the production of less toxic products. There will certainly be a lot more knowledgable people than I to get information from but try companies such as Livos, Osmo and Volvox if you want a start in researching.
    In Australia there is Organoil and U Beaut. I have personally found there are a lot of products available in the mass market and invariably a great deal have very high levels of solvents in the form of petro chemicals. One had 60% hydrocarbon based solvent , great marketing as it was a natural decking oil , I was told from a colleague who worked in oil refining that mineral turpentine is a waste product that basically costs nothing which is turned into solvent. Hope I am a bit misinformed in this as I sound a bit like a conspiracy theorist but there are alternatives around to the stuff we see more readily in the heavily pushed products and from the ones I have used they smell better and don’t give me headaches.

    • natxo sainz de aja on 11 June 2019 at 7:21 pm

      Another good ones are Biofa and Auro, also from Germany. They are very easy to use and whith diferent products to inside and outside. Livos was the first one that I used and I love his orange smell.
      Auro also has a range of colors that can be mixed with oils if you want to dye the wood.
      Natxo.

    • Michal on 1 July 2019 at 4:40 pm

      I agree, German products are very good. I use Osmo very often, have it on the floor. According to manufacturer it contains plant oils and waxes – sunflower oil, soya oil, thistle oil, carnauba wax and candelilla wax. Adler finishes are also very good.

  9. Dionysios on 11 June 2019 at 5:14 pm

    A good option for Boiled Linseed Oil is Liberon. They say that it’s actually heat treated (hot air passes through the raw linseed oil, instead of boiling) and the MSDS of the product doesn’t mention anything about driers. I used it both as is and diluted with turpentine, but I saw no difference in drying time (about 24hours) and therefore I stoped using turpentine to avoid the toxic vapours.

    In regards of Methylated Spirits, usually is industrially produced alcohol (ethanol) that has an amount of methanol added and some colour. Methanol is an excellent solvent on it’s own, and highly toxic as well, and it deems the ethanol usuitable for use in parfume and drinks industry (which attracts outrageously high taxation). The methanol vapours are toxic as well and it’s better to avoid skin contact and use it only in well ventilated areas.

    • Andrew on 12 June 2019 at 9:27 am

      I had to check and indeed that is what Liberon’s BLO factsheet says. Many BLOs have chemical dryers added, which are typically based on heavy metals. Be interesting to know for sure if this isn’t the case with Liberon.

      Boiling sounds so innocent … I find it troubling that it’s allowed to call the product BLO but add extra stuff. Imagine buying boiled water and discovering it has a couple of shots of vodka added to help improve it!

  10. Yuleidys Duenas on 11 June 2019 at 9:28 pm

    Danish Oil is a mixture of natural resins, natural oils and Tung oil. Penetrates deeply into the wood and offers a water repellent surfaces. It also has a very pleasant orange smell. This can help me in my projects,
    I am very happy with this product, Thanks!

    • Paul Sellers on 12 June 2019 at 8:45 am

      I am afraid not all Danish Oils are created equal and you must accept that protocols of manufacture are not the same so you saying, “Danish Oil is a mixture of natural resins, natural oils and Tung oil.” is more likely to be untrue than true as there is no such thing as Danish oil as a prescribed recipe. Everyone should look at the data sheets relative in their country to see exactly what a particular brand of Danish Oil they are using is made from.

  11. George Wall on 12 June 2019 at 3:09 pm

    The amount of confusion around finishes is truly amazing. I second Flexner’s excellent book, as he helps demystify a lot of the marketing hype around various finishes. Unfortunately, the marketing departments of the finish companies continue to do everything they can to keep things mysterious.

    There are a lot of finishes called “Danish Oil”, as Paul noted. Also, there are a lot called “Tung Oil Finish” which are very different than actual Tung Oil, and often don’t contain any Tung oil at all. If you are looking to use true Tung Oil, look for “Pure Tung Oil” without any use of the word “finish” in the label.

    You can often create your own “Danish Oil” by mixing a polyurethane varnish, mineral spirits, and an oil like BLO or true Tung Oil in equal parts. As for Boiled Linseed Oil, the term “boiled” goes back to the day when raw linseed oil would be heated to a near boil to enhance curing. Nowadays the metallic driers are used instead (they work much better). While they are toxic when the oil is liquid, they evaporate when the oil cures and pose no risk.

    Finally, I prefer Klean Strip Green (in the US) brand of denatured alcohol. It contains about 5% methanol. The 50/50 blends that are common in hardware stores worry me when being used inside; methanol is nasty stuff.

  12. michael on 13 June 2019 at 5:24 pm

    I learned fossil fuels are a hoax to increase prices by saying it is limited.. so earth naturally produces oil

    • Richard King on 17 June 2019 at 10:57 am

      Some suppliers of Boiled Linseed Oil simply describe it as ‘Boiled Oil’, presumably because its not Linseed. In fact I suggest that many types of cheap vegetable oil could be substituted, although not Olive or Rapeseed, which are naturally resistant to oxidation, which explains their health benefits.

    • Trinity Too on 17 June 2019 at 3:05 pm

      Michael – ‘Earth naturally produces oil’. Um. You might read up on a reputable site (Wikipedia tries its best) on how oil is formed before you believe and spread the statement you posted.

  13. Tony W on 17 June 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Just wanted to pick up your comment about people describing their finishes as ‘hand rubbed’. I think this comes from the traditional method of finishing finer woodwork with linseed oil, which (as I guess you know) required a good deal of hard work rubbing the oil OFF the work (after it had been left a little while to ‘soak in’) – or attempting to do so rather – in order to leave behind the thinnest possible layer each time. I doubt there are many who would take the time or expend the effort do this commercially now, or would know how to do it, but IMO it is an unbeatable finish for certain woods. I have never used “Danish’ oil, simply because I have never known what on earth was in it or understood what the listed ingredients (if any given at all) actually do to the wood.

  14. Trinity Too on 17 June 2019 at 3:13 pm

    I reread the safety data sheet. There are three ingredients listed. Two are stated as being less than 1%. Together that’s less than 2%. Then the naptha is 50-100%. If the naptha can be less than 98%, what makes up the up to 50% difference? Colron must hope no-one reads the content sheets, or the finish is so great no-one cares about the discrepancy and the contents of the missing ingredient(s).

    • William Allen on 17 June 2019 at 4:34 pm

      Material Data Safety sheets need only list those ingredients known in that jurisdiction to be Harmful. Therefore, they don’t list all the ingredients in a product. For example, if they used Olive Oil in their product, it would not appear on the MDS as an item because it is not considered harmful and therefore has no safety implications. Different Jurisdictions vary greatly on what they require in the MDS and how things may be called. Even known hazardous chemicals need not be listed specifically if they put in a rider element called “Proprietary formulation” to “protect their commercial interests”.

  15. bobh on 17 June 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Great discussion on oil finishes. I learned long ago that Danish Oil was a product of the imagination of marketeers. I don’t use it. When I need an oil finish, I go to boiled linseed oil; and I’m careful to buy that which is made from authentic ingredients, insofar as possible. I rarely use it alone – except to protect the wooden handles of garden tools. I usually thin it with turpentine or mineral spirits (paint thinner). When I need a ‘harder’ final finish, I add oil based polyurethane. Usually my mixture is 1/3 parts each of blo, turpentine (or other spirity) and polyurethane. Dyes and inks allow custom colors to suit my needs. Of course, I don’t make fine furniture and only rarely make anything for anyone other than myself.

    Because we are on the subject of finishes – and because Paul urges us to use shellac on projects – I’d like to see an article about how to mix shellac from flakes (ratios of weight of flakes to volume of alcohol or other solvent) to achieve different ‘pound cuts’.

  16. Brian McNamara on 17 June 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Paul, Thank you for writing this. I’ve been wondering for years about Danish oil finishes.

    Can you speak to exterior wood finishes at some point? I’m trying to find a really good UV resistant clear coat for a gate I made, and the choices are confusing.

  17. Steven Zara on 17 June 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Paul. Thanks for sharing. I have to say that I was disappointed not to see what the alternatives to some of these misleading/mislabeled products are.

  18. William Allen on 17 June 2019 at 4:30 pm

    All of these rub on oil finishes have chemicals added to make them dry faster, cure faster, apply more evenly and so on. In a lot of countries there are no laws governing what they can call their ingredients (they may say “natural oil” but they include anything made with petroleum as natural). This includes Tung Oil, which in a lot of countries may contain no Oil of the Tung tree at all. Old fashioned “Danish Oil” use to contain boiled linseed oil and Varnish and Alcohol. That’s it. But, technology and the rush to reach the bottom price wise have replaced these delicate truly natural elements with a host of petroleum products. Rendering store bought oil finishes a chemical mine field. Fortunately one can still buy pure linseed oil(which takes an age to dry, even in full sun(drying oils convert their fatty acids into polymers via heat and UV)). Boiled Linseed oil, because all the watery components have been carefully boiled off takes far less time to cure off. It is very hard to find pure Boiled Linseed Oil these days, as they have added tons of chemicals to stabilize them in the can and make them dry faster than they would naturally. Even replacing some or all of the linseed oil with petroleum oil. Sadly the same thing applies to Tung Oil. Our local fine woods store use to carry only these chemical nightmares, but I pointed them in the direction of pure products, and now they carry Pure Tung Oil and Pure Linseed oil. They have not yet found any Danish Oils that are anything like traditional products, but they continue to look. Watco Danish Oil in Canada is probably the least nasty of these products, it uses 5% Napthalene as the drying agent and Alcohol.

  19. Iksta Iner on 1 July 2019 at 2:15 pm

    One product I can recommend is Devon Wood Oil. It’s really easy to use in a huge variety of circumstances and has a pleasant pine smell due to the natural ingredients. Suitable indoors and outdoors, it’s great for finishing walking sticks, tool handles, antiques and even unfinished wooden floors. It is heat resistant, water resistant and household spills resistant, including vinegar, wine, coffee and much more. It’s one my one regret in leaving Exmouth that I can’t easily wander into Wilson’s paints and pick up a tin! There’s a reason why David Wilson holds a Royal Warrant.

  20. James on 2 July 2019 at 2:43 am

    At the beginning of this post Paul hit the nail right on the head! Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner is an excellent reference book on the subject. In it he explains the many finishes, paint, shellac, varnish, etc. In the chapter on “oils” he explains that most of it is nothing more than varnish thinned with mineral spirits. If the label mentions any kind of mineral spirits it is not oil. He said you can make your own, e.g. one-to-two parts mineral spirits to one part varnish. I’ve used it many times as a wipe on/off, three or four coats, and it works splendidly(thinning with naphtha vs mineral spirits reduces drying time). He also explains why linseed oil was once used as a finish. Good book and well worth having in one’s library.

  21. James on 2 July 2019 at 4:45 pm

    Ooooops, my mistake…. should be one part varnish to one or two parts mineral spirits or naphtha.

  22. Derek Eder on 23 July 2019 at 11:00 pm

    I prefer Danish øl : )

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