If you want to apply a finish to bare or stained wood, a good option is to use oil. It accentuates the natural beauty of the wood. It also offers protection from the elements especially if you are going to leave it outdoors. The advantage of applying oil is that it is easy enough for anyone to do without needing professional help.
The type of wood finish you use largely depends on the environment in which the wood will be. An oil formula that we call “teak oil” enjoys wide popularity in woodworking circles. This oil works best on teak, but you will get excellent results with other types of wood as well. In this post, we take a closer look at the various aspects of teak oil
What is Teak Oil?
Many people have the misconception that teak oil comes from teak trees or teak wood. It is not so. Teak oil is the oil that we apply to the wood to enhance its looks and add protection. The main ingredients of teak oil are boiled linseed oil and tung oil.
Some claim that teak oil offers protection from the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. But these claims are yet to be conclusively proven. There are “teak protector” products on the market with “UV absorbers” that claim to block UV rays – like this one below.
Woodworkers prefer teak oil as a part of the wood finishing process, useful for garden furniture, fencing, doors, and windows. Teak oil replenishes lost oils as a result of weathering and restores the rich honey-yellow shade of teak. It also provides resistance to water, dirt and prevents the wood from warping and splitting.
If you mix teak oil and apply it properly, you can use it on a variety of wood types other than teak, making the grain “pop.” It imparts an attractive matte finish, depending on the type of wood you apply it on.
Making Teak Oil
You can get premixed teak oil from the market, but many woodworkers prefer to make teak oil by mixing the ingredients in the required ratio. The first main ingredient of teak oil is linseed oil extracted from flax seeds and we add chemicals to it to make it dry more rapidly. We call this process “boiling” although we don’t boil the oil. The second ingredient is tung oil which is an extract of tung tree nuts.
These two oils then combine with solvents to improve the penetrability of the solution, and the teak oil is ready for use. The ratio of linseed oil to tung oil and the amount of solvent is critical and you need to mix them in a particular ratio to achieve the required viscosity.
You will not find a standard recipe for teak oil. The ratio of the ingredients varies from user to user and also with the type of wood that you are applying to oil to. You may also find yourself varying the proportion of the ingredients according to the orientation of the wood surface, and you might even need to add alkyd or polyurethane.
How to Apply Teak Oil
Different brands of teak oil contain varying proportions of the ingredients, namely boiled linseed oil (BLO), tung oil, and solvents like petroleum distillate, and sometimes alkyds, polyurethane, and naphtha.
When you prepare teak oil, the idea is to make it thin enough to apply easily and uniformly and for it to sufficiently penetrate tight-grained woods like teak. Hence, you can use it for other similar woods like mahogany, and rosewood. Here are the basic steps involved in applying teak oil:
Use chemical strippers or solvents to remove any existing finish on the surface. You can use 100-grit sandpaper to give the surface a rough sanding to get rid of the stripper residue. Finally use 120-grit to 150-grit sandpaper, rubbing along the direction of the wood grain.
Handy Tip: Try out the overall effect of the teak oil on an inconspicuous spot on the wood (where the wood is hidden from sight) or on a test piece before applying it to the main areas. You can make small adjustments in the mixing ratio until you get a satisfying result.
With a paintbrush or rag, apply the teak oil to liberally the wood surface. Ensure that the strokes move along the direction of the grain. Use even, steady and continuous strokes. If some areas seem to soak up more oil, apply more to those spots. Ensure that the oil is clean and clear of dust particles. Ensure that the area you choose to apply your teak oil finish is dust-free.
Using a dry, lint-free cloth, gently wipe off any excess oil you see on the surface of the wood.
Allow for about 30 minutes for the wood to become dry before you repeat the process for applying the second coat.
Now, leave the wood to dry for about eight to ten hours or overnight.
If you want a smooth finish, you can apply a third coat of oil. Once the wood is completely dry from the second coat, scuff the surface with 220-grit sandpaper. Use a damp, lint-free cloth to wipe off the debris and once the surface is totally dry, add the third coat in the same way that you added the previous two coats.
After another, eight to ten hours or overnight, the oil should have dried completely, and your wood should now take on the desired appearance.
The Downside of Teak Oil
Applying teak oil is not a permanent solution, and it can cause long-term issues. Teak oil has the advantage of preventing the wood from becoming grey through oxidation.
However, over time, the oil that you apply will begin to evaporate. It reduces some of the wood’s natural oils also, as it evaporates. Thus, the wood becomes more susceptible to damage than if it had not been oiled in the first place.
You can reduce the counteractive effect of teak oil drying on the wood by reapplying oil regularly. But if applying teak oil regularly can compromise the wood’s resistance to UV rays of the sun. Further, the presence and evaporation of teak oil create conditions conducive to the development of mold in the presence of moisture.
Applying a wood sealer to the surface of the wood can resolve this issue, but we discuss that in another of our informative posts.
Applying teak oil is a useful procedure that can enhance the look of the wood as well as offer limited protection. Although premixed oil exists in the market, you can easily mix your own with the right ingredients. Applying teak oil is not too complex a procedure, but you have to follow certain steps.
We hope that we have provided sufficient information to answer the question, “what is teak oil?” Whether you are an experienced woodworker or a novice, you should now be confident of knowing when and how to use teak oil and its limitations.