Types of Finishing Oil for Wood

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We usually don’t leave wood on its own after making woodworking items and wooden structures. We apply a wood “finish” which means applying a coating to protect the wood from environmental damage. If we do not apply a proper finish, cracks may develop in the wood and it could swell on drying and deteriorate.

Types of finishing oil for wood are many, and you could easily get confused as to the best type of oil to use for a particular type of wood to achieve optimal results. In this post, we provide you with all the information you need to know on wood finishing oil.

Woodworkers will always recommend a finish, which also serves to improve the appearance of the wood. We usually add the cost of wood finish to the cost of the woodworking items, and you can spend a considerable sum of money on wood finish. One of the most important finishes for wood is finishing oil.

We usually apply an oil finish on furniture and kitchen utensils. The oil we apply on kitchenware is typically non-toxic, eco-friendly and food-safe. These types of wood finishes are the traditional sort of finish and bring out the wood grain pattern on the surface of the wood. They are a traditional variety of wood finish, but protection is limited.

Penetrating Finishes

Penetrating finishes seep deep below the surface of wood. We usually apply this type of finish with a rag for best results. Application of this type of finish is quite easy. Here are a few of the major types of penetrating finishes:

Linseed Oil

Sunnyside Corporation 87332 Pure Raw Linseed Oil, Quart
Pure Raw Linseed Oil (Image: Amazon)

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We also call linseed oil flaxseed oil and it is among the most popular type of wood finish that you can get. It penetrates deep under the surface of the wood and offers some protection against scratches and a certain degree of protection to moisture.

You can apply it easily. It is eco-friendly and the color of the wood comes out while creating a satin finish at the same time.

We get three types of linseed oil – raw, boiled and polymerized. All of them come from the flaxseed plant, but the method of processing varies. The purest form of linseed oil is raw linseed oil, but we seldom use it for finishing furniture due to the extremely long time it takes to dry.

The other two types of linseed oil are more practical for use with wood furniture. Boiled linseed oil is commonly used as an oil finish for wood, but it contains toxic drying agents. The ideal choice however is polymerized linseed oil, because it dries fastest and does not contain any hazardous additives.

Tung Oil

HOPE'S 100% Pure Tung Oil, Wood Finish for Furniture & Floors, All Natural Moisture Resistant Sealer, One, 32 Fl Oz
Tung Oil (Image: Amazon)

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We get Tung oil from the seeds of the tung tree and we often use it in preference to linseed oil for wood finishing. It is among the oldest types of wood finishing oils. The tung tree grows in East Asia and is popularly used by woodworkers in the US for finishing wood. It is food-safe, eco-friendly and non-toxic.

You may find pure tung oil rather difficult to procure. Many manufacturers tend to add chemicals and put tung oil through a polymerization process to make it more versatile. Although they label it as tung oil, it may contain hazardous substances.

Always procure tung oil from reliable and well-known manufacturers and check the information on the labels. Woodworkers prefer tung oil because it is non-toxic and eco-friendly. It also will not yellow like other finishes like linseed oil, varnishes and lacquer.

Danish Oil

Watco 242219 Danish Oil Wood Finish, Low VOC, Pint, Natural
Watco 242219 Danish Oil Wood Finish (Image: Amazon)

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Although Danish oil is another popular choice among woodworkers, its composition isn’t clearly defined. It is much like mineral oil that we shall discuss further down, but it may contain a variety of substances. Many woodworkers tend to club most oil-based finishes as Danish oil.

You can buy Danish oil over the counter or you can mix it on your own. It is a combination of oil like linseed oil or tung oil, varnish and some thinner. Commercially available Danish oil may contain added substances, but if you mix your own, you will only need these three ingredients.

We will show you further down how to mix Danish oil. The advantage of Danish oil, especially if you mix it yourself is that you can vary the properties like consistency, viscosity and drying time to suit your specific requirements.

Cedar Oil

Cedar Oil - Giles and Kendall - Restores the Original Aroma of Cedar Wood, 8 oz
Cedar Oil (Image: Amazon)

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We also call this oil cedarwood oil. It has a woody odor and is useful for making wood more durable, giving it added protection against insect attack, rot and moisture. We rub cedar oil into the wood by hand, but you can also use a brush.

The advantage of cedar oil is that it is natural in its purest form and it imparts a bright appearance to the surface of the wood. It takes on a light, silvery-grey color once the oil cures.

Surface Finishes

We apply surface finishes to the surface of the wood and there is little or no penetration. It provides a protective layer to the surface of the wood rather like a wood sealer. Surface finishes play a prominent role for use on wood that will be subjected to wear and tear and perhaps left outdoors.

Mineral Oil

Food Grade Mineral Oil for Cutting Boards, Countertops and Butcher Blocks - Food Safe and Made in the USA
Food Grade Mineral Oil for Cutting Boards, Countertops, and Butcher Blocks (Image: Amazon)

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Mineral oil comes from petroleum and is a clear, odorless oil. It is usually non-toxic, so you will find it used on kitchen items like cutting boards, wooden bowls, and spoons. Mineral oil has no adverse effect if brought into contact with human skin. It is so safe that it is a major ingredient of baby oil.

Mineral oil is also the preferred choice for use on wooden baby toys. Due to its non-toxic properties, it is a safe choice as babies will inevitably put these wooden items into their mouths.

Walnut Oil

Ultimate Walnut Oil by Mahoney's Finishes: Food Safe Wood Finish for Satin Sheen/ Easy To Use, FastDrying Wood Protective Finish/ Salad Bowl, Cutting Board, Utility and Furniture Walnut Wood Protectant
Ultimate Walnut Oil by Mahoney’s Finishes (Image: Amazon)

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We get walnut oil from walnuts from the walnut tree (Juglans regia) which also yields walnut wood. Similar to mineral oil, walnut oil is also non-toxic. You can use this to finish the surfaces of wooden kitchenware like wooden spoons, bowls and cutting boards.

Walnut oil also takes a long time to dry, so we frequently mix it with mineral spirits or might be polymerized to reduce the drying and curing time.

How to Make Homemade Danish Oil

Before we close, here’s some valuable information on how to mix your Danish oil from readily available ingredients. Feel free to slightly tweak the proportion of the ingredients to achieve an optimal wood finish. You will need wood oil, varnish or poly and thinner.


You can use linseed oil. Ensure that it is boiled linseed oil (BLO). This oil is the preferred choice because of its capacity to penetrate deep below the surface of the wood, and it also imparts a dark shade to the wood. You could also try other wood oils, particularly tung oil. Add about 1/3 of the total volume of oil.

Varnish or poly

Varathane 200061H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Gloss Finish, 8 Fl Oz
Varathane 200061H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Gloss Finish (Image: Amazon)

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Any well-branded varnish will do, but polyurethane-based or “poly” as we popularly call it will give you the best results. You can read another of our posts to learn more about poly. You can use 1/3 of the volume of the total volume of varnish as well.

However, if you want to increase the water resistance, you can use more varnish. If you are looking for a shinier finish, you can use a high-gloss varnish.


Sunnyside Paint Thinner, Cleaner and Degreaser, Quart, 70132
Sunnyside Paint Thinner, Cleaner, and Degreaser (Image: Amazon)

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You can use any commercially available thinner. Here again, 1/3 of the volume of the entire liquid should be thinner. You can vary the amount of thinner to get the desired consistency.

You can make your Danish oil by using the above ingredients. It may take a bit of trial and error, but as you progress, you will find a combination that suits your preferences.


There is much you can do with wood oil to impart a fine finish to wooden surfaces. Like all other wood finishes, applying wood oil is also an acquired art. The more you use it, the better you get. We hope that the information in this post gives you a better insight into the different types of finishing oil for wood and where to use them.

Happy Woodworking!