Over the years, I've tried several different kinds, with the exception being raw linseed oil. I've never used it as a regular finish. It's time to put them to a head to head test.
- raw linseed oil
- Off-the-shelf BLO
- Home-refined linseed oil - batch 1
- Home-refined linseed oil - batch 2 (from the previous post)
|Test material is some brown oak scrap.|
I took a single stick of brown oak and cut it into four pieces, so they all should be very similar. After cutting it and thinking some more, I decided I needed one more piece as a control. I got another piece from a second stick of brown oak originating from the same tree, only this one is a bit more quarter sawn than the others. I don't think this affected the results much.
First, I should explain how I apply a BLO finish, which may or may not be how you do it. I see some people really take care in applying it, using many coats and sanding between coats.
Normally all I do is slather a bunch of oil on the wood with a rag or a paintbrush, or whatever is handy. I wait ten or fifteen minutes, then I wipe off the excess and buff it out with a clean rag.
It's not often I use more than one coat this way, unless there are obvious dry spots. Usually, after several months, the oil finish starts to get a bit dingy looking, and a fresh coat of oil applied the same way freshens it up.
For this test, I decided to apply one kind of oil on each of four different scraps, front and back. I then waited a day or two and applied another coat, just to make sure everything was applied nice and even.
|The first coat of oil absorbing into the wood.|
- All of the test pieces would eventually look very similar.
- The raw linseed oil would take much longer to dry.
- The store-bought BLO would look like an inferior finish.
- My home-made versions would be clearly superior in every way.
|I honestly can't see the difference after the first coat.|
This I didn't expect at all.
|My home-made paste wax.|
My plan with the wax was to leave one side of the test pieces finished with only the linseed oil, except for test piece #5, which is left in the white.
The other side of all five sticks would get three applications of my paste wax. I apply a light coat of wax, wait about 15 minutes, then buff it off with a clean cloth.
|The sticks with the unwaxed sides up.|
|Closer view of the BLO-only sides. They all look the same, except the unfinished one.|
I applied the three coats of wax and left a day or two for the wax to cure between coats. I was a bit surprised that the wax darkened the un-BLO-ed piece nearly as dark as the others. Giving it some thought, it makes sense because most of the paste wax is my home-refined linseed oil.
|All five pieces with the oiled and waxed sides showing.|
|Close-up of the oiled and waxed sides.|
|Home-refined oil #2 and wax on the left, wax only on the right.|
|Home-refined oil #2 without wax on the left, unfinished wood on the right.|
I spent a lot of time and effort making my home-refined oil, and raw linseed oil doesn't take significantly longer to dry on wood.
Clearly, I'll have to use raw linseed oil a lot more in the future to see if it really is this easy.
I used a high-quality raw linseed oil with no additives. It is the same thing as flax-seed oil, if you'd rather get it at the health food store.
All of the finishes look pretty close to the same. If this is the only concern of yours, I'd go for the big-box BLO. The other oils are much nicer to apply and use, because they don't smell of artificial chemical dryers that make BLO stink. After a few days of air, the finish will completely cure and be odorless.
If you are worried about a food-safe finish, the natural oils probably all will be safe. However, Bob Flexner says that any finish is food-safe once it's cured. I have no problem using BLO on a cutting board, but you might be more picky than me.
Another bit of information I've found out since my last post, is that one woodworker used a refining process similar to mine for his raw linseed oil, but only left it to cure in the sun for one day, rather than all the months that I did. A super clear version of linseed oil might be desireable for painting, but perhaps it isn't as valuable of a quality for a wood finish. My next batch of home-refined oil will reflect this.
But first, I'm going to find out if raw linseed oil will work for me. That way, I can get all the benefits right out of the jug it came in.
If you have experience with BLO, sun-bleached linseed oil, raw linseed oil, stand oil, or something like that, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.