Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish
Easy to apply: Forget about streaks, drips, and brush marks. Just wipe on boiled linseed oil with a soft cloth or flood it on until you've saturated the wood surface. Then wipe off the excess and let it dry overnight before recoating, or one week before applying a film finish. To avoid spontaneous combustion from finish in the oil-soaked rags reacting with oxygen, hang or spread them out to dry before discarding.
Easily damaged, easily repaired: Drying oil cures too soft and thin to protect against moisture vapor or abrasion. It also darkens with time as it continues to oxidize. But the lack of a film build makes this the easiest finish to repair: Simply apply another coat of finish to damaged areas or when the surface starts to show wear.
Success secrets: Reapply oil where it soaks in completely, but wipe away surplus surface oil or it will cure soft and gummy. If the oil warms after it goes on, watch for "bleeding" from the wood pores, and wipe away these droplets before the oil cures. This may need to be done more than once, so check it periodically. Should you later want a more durable finish, oils still highlight grain beneath a film finish.
Try it on carvings and objects you'll handle infrequently where you want a natural, unfinished look. Also, apply it beneath a film finish to add an amber tone and to accent figured woods such as curly maple.
But avoid it for any project that requires moisture or abrasion resistance, especially outdoor projects. Oil provides almost no surface protection and does little to block moisture vapor, making it a poor choice for most furnishings you'll use every day.
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