Wood Finishing Tips Cards – Oil Finishes

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This wood finishing tips card is about oil finishes. When you are a new woodworker, oil finishes are some of the easiest to learn. They make finishing simple, and can have you feeling like an expert right away. Here is how you get started.

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The Humble Oil Finish (Wood Finishing Oils)

wood finishing tips cards oil finishesOil finishes have been around for a long time. There have been people coating things in oils to preserve them for thousands of years.

They are a penetrating finish that is easy to apply, and you won’t have brush marks because you can use a clean cloth as your applicator.

Everything from early pottery, to paintings, and even wooden creations have been preserved in oil. After all, thousands of years ago there were few woodworking stores available to buy lacquer from.

Oils were all around early wood finishers. Linseed, Olive, and other plant oils were found in nature, and used to coat and preserve things.

The beauty of an oiled piece of wood is amazing. Very few modern finishes can even come close to the look of a well oiled piece of wood. In fact, most modern finishes are all trying to accomplish the same look as an oil finish, but with the modern protection that a film finish offers.

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There is beauty in oil finishes, but there is one drawback that can affect the way you handle the pieces you finish…

See Also: 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing

Oils Are Beautiful…and Fragile

Oil finishes are beautiful, but they are not a film finish. That means they do not sit on top of the wood and form a protective barrier. Instead, they sink into the surface very slightly, and alter the look of the material.

Oils can penetrate deeply, depending on the area being treated. However, most surfaces that are not end grain will only absorb the oil just into the immediate surface. This is enough to change the look of the wood, and give the finish that oils are famous for.

While they are fun to look at, they are going to offer little to no protection from scratches and abrasion. This means that you need to handle your projects differently.

If you are going to finish in oils, just remember that you can’t be as rough on your pieces as with other finishes that form a layer on the top of the wood.

Applying Oil Finishes is Easy

Anyone with a small cloth and a can of oil finish can apply a great looking finish. The real trick is to apply thin coats, which I cover in depth in The Secret to Wood Finishing. Once you know that one trick, you are all set to being applying your oil.

Read the directions on the can or bottle, but for most finishes all you are doing is transferring the oil from the can to the wood. You can use a clean rag, and apply  very thin layer on the surface, almost to the point where it just looks damp.

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Allow the oil to dry according to the manufacturers recommendations, and then coat again if that’s part of the directions. If not, then you can enjoy your piece once the finish has totally cured according to the directions.

Not All Oils are The Same

People love oil finishes. The manufacturers of finishes know this, so they are sometimes not as honest as they should be when packaging their goods. Bob Flexner covers a lot of labeling issues in Understanding Wood Finishing, which is my favorite book on wood finishing.

Some oils are not even really oils. Others are oils mixed with other chemical finishes that work together. Even more are oils that are treated with dryers that make them perform differently when applied.

It’s important to read the packaging when you are buying an oil finish. This way, you will know what you are getting.

For example, if you are a pure oil finisher, you will need to search for unaltered plant oils for your projects. If you don’t care about modern additives, then you can go for the standards like Boiled Linseed Oil, Polymerized Oils, or Tung Oil.

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All of which can be found in numerous variations in fine woodworking stores.

Tips and Tricks for Oil Finishes

Here are some tips and tricks for using oil based finishes for your projects:

  • Natural oil based finishes are some of the most beautiful in the world, and they bring out the grain of the wood more than water based finishes.
  • Mineral oils, Danish Oil, and oil varnish blends are all easy to use, and they all leave a great looking surface behind.
  • Even large surfaces like table tops can be made to look amazing with wood finish oils.
  • You won’t have to steel wool your surface with a natural oil too, because it will penetrate and there will not be a layer to scuff.
  • If you are stuck on a wood finish to pick in the beginning, use an oil that you can apply by hand and you will be happy you did.

Oil Finishes Wrap-Up

If you are thinking about an easy finish for a beginner, oils are the way to go. You can learn to apply an oil finish in an afternoon, and after a few pieces you will be an expert. The product can be purchased just about anywhere, and the final look is beautiful.

When you buy your oil, follow the directions on the packaging, and you can be assured that the final look will be great. Don’t deviate from the directions unless you find a reliable tutorial online or from an expert.

If you have any questions about Wood Finishing Tips Cards – Oil Finishes, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

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