Linseed Oil Finish for a Period Home
What product can be applied over a boiled linseed oil finish on natural cherry and cherry plywood that would offer protection? He insists on brushing it on.
From contributor D:
You could try a thinned long oil varnish. This would be a film forming finish, but thin coats might pass, and they'd be a lot more durable than linseed oil.
From contributor M:
I can't comment on linseed oil's looks (I wouldn't know it from a Minwax paste finish… lol). But you better use incredible caution with linseed oil. A large, local cabinet shop here in SC had a nasty fire because of linseed oil spontaneously combusting. Caused unbelievable damage. Be absolutely certain that all of the rags and other cloth/brushes that contacted the oil are disposed of properly.
From contributor W:
I understand your client's desire for authenticity; I just hadn't realized sheetgoods were around in the 18th century!
From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Oils, waxes, spirit varnishes, and oil varnishes were all available during that period. The most durable of these, the oil varnishes, used resins that aren't nearly as good as modern resins and the varnishes of the time didn't hold up at all compared to today's varnishes. But a modern oil-base varnish certainly fits with the theme of a traditional finish. I'd do some samples for the customer to look at and explain the durability properties of each. Use oil, shellac (not widely available in the U.S. at the time, but a realistic option), and varnish. Used in combination, you can achieve a very attractive look as well as the durability needed for kitchen cabinets.
From contributor B:
Also, your linseed oil will darken most woods as compared to other finishes. Some people don't like that darkened look after it's done.
From contributor T:
So far, not a word about linseed oil being available both raw and oiled. Very important distinction that can't be ignored. Paul is correct on what finishes were available and now appropriate, but Paul, why would you say shellac is hard to obtain? It's in every catalog I get (lots). Zinsser Seal-Coat (de-waxed shellac) is on the shelves everywhere.
From contributor L:
If you've got a month of Sundays to wait for the finish to cure you can use raw linseed oil. If you want it to dry in a couple of nights, I suggest using boiled linseed oil. They boil it to make sure that it doesn't go rancid.
From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
I was saying shellac was not widely available during that period, though "seed-lac varnish" is discussed in "A Treatise of Japaning and Varnishing" published in 1688. Shellac wasn't widely used in the states until the mid 1800s.
Linseed oil doesn't go rancid; you're thinking of non-drying vegetable oils. "Boiled" oil is actually treated with metallic driers, not heated.
From contributor R:
You may want to go to this website: www.triedandtruewoodfinish.com. I have used their product, original wood finish, polymerized linseed oil with beeswax on veneer mahogany. A lot of work is needed to rub on the finish and it would take two coats, and the sheen is just below a satin lacquer finish. I did apply a Liberon paste wax to add some protection and warmth.
From the original questioner:
This is the answer I needed for topcoating linseed oil. Makes sense to me.
From contributor P:
You're absolutely right about linseed oil being a poor choice in the kitchen or bath; it just doesn't have any durability characteristics. If you use boiled linseed oil, you can topcoat it with any finish once it cures enough. One finish that's very popular and provides very good protection goes like this:
Sand to 180, remove the dust, and apply a light coat of oil (linseed, tung, Danish oil, varnish, etc.).
Do some samples, the larger the better, and see which looks best to you and the customer. Try one with blonde shellac and another with orange shellac and do a sample with one coat of shellac and another with two coats to see the difference. If you use polyurethane varnish for your topcoats, make sure to use dewaxed shellac to promote good adhesion.
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