Items made of wood are and will always be appealing. There is something about the way the grain patterns and the color of the wood that makes it very attractive. We call the last stage of creating any woodworking item as applying a “finish.” You can read more about how to use different types of wood finishes in another of our interesting posts.
The fibers of wood arrange themselves in particular patterns known as the “grain” of the wood. After smoothening the surface of wood, we apply a finish, which makes this grain “pop out.” It effectively accentuates the grain pattern to create a pleasing appearance to the surface of the wood. It is what makes wood so appealing.
By applying a finish, we achieve two things. Firstly, the finish makes the surface appealing to look at. Secondly, it protects the wood, making it more durable. We apply different types of oil for finishing wood, and the two oils that we discuss here are Danish oil and linseed oil.
These oils are applied by wiping them onto the wood; thus, we call them wiping finishes. Other than Danish oil and boiled linseed oil, we can also use natural oils like mineral oil, olive oil, tung oil, and walnut oil. Tung oil and linseed oil are not treated and do not have drying agents, so the curing process, if at all, is prolonged.
Danish Oil vs Linseed Oil
There is a lot of confusion between different types of oil for wood finishing, and the same difficulty exists with Danish oil. It is sometimes mistakenly called linseed oil or Chinese oil, which is incorrect. Danish oil is a mixture of different resins, oils and even solvents. It gets its name from the fact that it resembles the Danish style furniture of the 1950s and 1960s after curing.
Danish oil is a type of Tung oil. It also originates from nuts of deciduous trees that grow in China. It has the property of seeping into the surface of the wood and then seeping back through the surface. As a result, furniture with a Danish oil finish has a soft, radiant glow.
Advantages Of Danish Oil
- The finish penetrates below the surface
- It has a short curing time
- It is easy to apply and restore
- You can get a clear matte or satin finish
- With appropriate sanding, Danish oil can create resistance to even hot water
- You get a light finish
- Can use it as a primer or sealant
- Doesn’t discolor with age
- Mixes well with pigments for color tinting
- If combined with other oils, you can get a glossy look
- You can brush varnish or paint over it
- The surface is not tacky on drying
- Can use on polyurethane finish
- You can wax it to create a highly-polished look
Disadvantages Of Danish Oil
- Not as durable as other finishes
- It needs to be applied to bare wood only
- Unsuitable for use on wooden cutting boards
- Needs to be reapplied and maintained regularly
- The finish does not smoothen the roughness of the wood grain
Danish oil performs well on wood because it hardens the wood below the surface. It brings out the natural beauty of the wood, with the result of a natural coating. As we mentioned above, when a finish of Danish oil deteriorates through scratches and wear marks, recoating is an easy process. A finish of Danish oil is not likely to crack like in the case of some other types of finishes like polyurethane finish.
We obtain linseed oil from flax seeds. It shares a similarity with Tung oil in that we apply it as a liquid, but it solidifies once it dries. Like Tung oil, it tends to soften and get wrinkled if you apply it thickly. Linseed oil is one of the most prevalent forms of wood finish. We get two types of linseed oil, raw linseed oil, and boiled linseed oil, also known as “BLO.”
- Raw Linseed Oil: It is the freshly-extracted oil from flax seeds. It is the purest form of linseed oil as it contains no added chemicals. However, this form of linseed oil takes the longest to cure.
- Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO): The oil is not boiled but mixed with solvents that make it behave like boiled oil. The advantage of BLO is that it cures within a day. You should only use BLO for finishing wood.
Advantages Of BLO
- Easy to apply
- Preserves wood well
- Cheap option as a preservative
- Penetrates deep into the wood
- Glossy finish
- It comes in a variety of colors and forms
Disadvantages of BLO
- Sticky to the touch while drying
- Sometimes it may not dry
- Inflammable substance
- May promote mold growth
- Difficult to remove or refinish
- Takes a long time to dry, which can be hastened with the addition of solvents
- Need to add several coats
- No protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun
- Low durability that you can enhance through waxing
- Tends to wrinkle and become soft if applied in excess
Linseed oil has played a significant role in finishing and refinishing furniture for centuries. But it has many disadvantages which outweigh the advantages as you may have observed above. The main two drawbacks are that it promotes the growth of mold and mildew, and offers no protection from the UV rays of the sun. Thus, you would be ill-advised to use boiled linseed oil on outdoor furniture.
Today we get numerous substitutes for linseed oil. You can you use Tung oil or other naturally-extracted oils. There are also some synthetic finishes like polyurethane which will offer adequate protection to wood both indoors and outdoors.
In our discussion of Danish oil vs boiled linseed oil, Danish oil has a clear advantage. After reading about the number of disadvantages that come with boiled linseed oil, Danish oil emerges with a clear advantage. It would be wrong to say that you shouldn’t use linseed oil at all.
There are a few clear advantages for using boiled linseed oil. The best approach would be to keep a stock of both these oils in your woodworking shop. That way, you can use whichever oil seems to be the most suitable at the time.