View Full Version : Oil Finishes

08-31-2007, 08:15 PM
Any fans of oil finishes around?

I just tried out the technique linked below with Minwax Antique Oil, and the result is amazing - it is truly a "can't stop touching it" finish. Much more luxurious than anything I've been able to get up to this point, even with wipe-on poly.


I know that in general oil finishes are not as durable as poly or other finishes... but this one feels so nice, I'd like to use it on pieces where appropriate.

Where do you use oil finishes in your woodworking? How do you find they hold up? Do you enjoy the "ease of repair" you get with them? Who else likes oil?

- Thanks, Kevin

08-31-2007, 08:43 PM
I'm a huge fan of oil finishes, especially Minwax AOF. You really have to work to mess it up. I like the MAOF followed by paste wax but LOML will not polish furniture so I usually cover the MAOF with a 50/50 cut of Polyurethane.

09-04-2007, 08:47 PM
Rich -

Looks like it's just you & me - maybe we should start our own "oil finish" forum :-).

I'd be interested in what you found difficult in other approaches, that's so "hard to screw up" with oil. I've always had good results with Minwax stains, at least on oak... it was always the poly step that didn't turn out quite right - I could never get it as smooth and touchable as I can get an oil finish.

Do you find that poly overtop of the oil finish can still be as nice of a "feel"?

- Kevin

09-04-2007, 09:06 PM
>Any fans of oil finishes around?

I like oil under a clear coat, but not by itself.

A) I hate finishing projects. I don't want to have to keep refinishing the thing every year. :)

B) I like a finish that can handle some abuse.

09-04-2007, 10:24 PM
The things that I find difficult are staining a large area and using full strenght poly.

I tried to stain a large (2'x4') area with a gel stain. Uneven is the polite term for the disaster. I was lucky that the large area faces the wall.

Ordinary stains don't penetrate like the stains we had 20-25 years ago. (Thank you, EPA) On soft woods, todays stains are at best blotchy.

I have found the solution to the poly thing. On unseen areas or surfaces, I use the poly straight out of the can and a single coat. On the surfaces that are visible on the piece, I use a 50-50 mixture of mineral spirits and poly. Then 2, 3, 4 coats of what ever it takes and applied with a rag.

I find water based poly a bit too cool in color. I've used it thinned about 1/3 with distilled water to 2/3 poly. Minwax does not recommend thinning but I have had reasonable results. I'll do a couple of coats, sometimes three. I'll usually only use Polycrylic over bare wood and then just white oak. The poly gives the oak a true blonde finish but shows off the grain of the wood.

I've tried Polyshades on sun faded panelling of a patio. The application process, yuck! The finished look, OK. (i.e. Nothing to write home about.)

I've seen water based stains mixed with Polycrylic and sprayed (HVLP) on. The result was about the same as most of todays store bought "stained" furniture. Perhaps I'm being kind in calling a thin coat of brown pigment, stained.

Finally I've put the 50-50 mixture of poly on some walnut. I have to admit, the results were very good. I think that oil and then poly would have been better. Oil followed by paste wax would be best but then there is the LOML thing and waxing furniture.

Edit in

There is one thing that I forgot.

I have done some experiments with a block of mahogany, oil and poly.

Sanding to 400 grit on the edge or face grain is about right, maybe too much.
Sanding to 600 grit on end grain is good but 800 grit is better.
A single coat of MAOF is good but a second coat of MAOF is much better but a third coat is a waste of material.
Two coats of oil based poly (50-50) are almost perfection.

Cannon Fodder
09-04-2007, 10:44 PM
I'm a fan of oil finishes myself. I used Minwax Tung oil on a futon I did about a year ago and it still looks great. Didn't even put a coat of poly on it afterwards, just the oil.

I'm going to try this antique oil finish on my next suitable project. Does it color the wood at all? Any chance you could post some pics of your project so we could see the results?



Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. -- Mark Twain

09-04-2007, 11:16 PM
I love oil finishes. I was quite disappointed when my wife didn't want to wait for the oil to dry on her pine coat hanger (courtesy of the local art store, but she stained it and I finished it)... but I did convince her to let me use Shellac as the final finish.

In fact, all I've ever used is BLO and Tung Oil... can't remember the brand of Tung Oil though, but it wasn't minwax. Then a coat of Shellac over it (I've finished more scraps of wood than I've actually built things. Typically, finishing, polishing, waxing, etc... is more my specialty than building).

09-05-2007, 12:16 AM
You might want to investigate oil/urethane blends. General Finishes makes one andit is easy application and three coats gives good protection without heavy "poly look." Can be cut, of course, for better control of the coat appearance.


09-05-2007, 12:25 AM
Hey, give a guy time to get here would ya?

I really like the feel of an oil finish, but they do require some periodic maintenance. I used BLO on my workbench - give it a fresh coat each year and it is good to go. Also used BLO on another thing and it has not needed re-application - it does not get handled at all.

Used Pure Tung Oil on my son's bar top and he has had to apply a fresh coat every couple months so far (it's been about 10 months or so), but he said this last time seemed much better and we are hoping that it will eventually get acclimated and only need a fresh coat a couple of times a year. Not a big deal - takes all of 10 minutes to do, but not something that everyone would be comfortable doing.

I have been wanting to try the MAOF for a while too because Rich is so gung-ho about it, but I have not had the right thing to try it on yet.

Cody Colston
09-05-2007, 12:59 AM
I like oil finishes on things that don't see a lot of use/abuse but probably prefer film finishes. I haven't used MAOF yet but have seen it on a lot of turnings. After beall buffing it looks great.

Tyler, TX

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.

09-05-2007, 07:57 AM
I believe that Minwax Antique Oil finish is a blend of varnish (likely their polyurethane) and linseed oil and maybe some added thinner. Same thing, basically, as the so called "Danish Oils" as well as "Tung Oil Finish". The oil in it requires that excess left on the surface be wiped away so as not to dry all crinkley, and the varnish does add a bit of protection to the wood.

If you tire of spending $8 - $10 a quart for the stuff, you can make it yourself by buying the ingredients separately and save some money. Plus, making it yourself you can mess around with different ratios of mixtures and maybe find something you like even more.

09-05-2007, 12:12 PM
I love to use Danish oil when the project lets you. Its so easy to put on and gives a great finish appearance, no drips or sags or any of that stuff to deal with getting the finish to look good.

09-05-2007, 01:43 PM

I've been doing that home mix brew for years. The two oils I use are BLO and pure Tung oil (brand doesn't matter). One major difference in the two oils is the Tung won't darken the wood. Any of the oil finishes that have words like finish are most likely a mix of BLO and some type of varnish.The varnish used for the mix may induce color hues to the finish.

What I found is exactly how you put it in the mixing ratios. By varying the amounts of oil, varnish, and mineral spirits, the degree of film can be graduated. I keep track (logs) of mixture quantities and the outcome. Usually, it takes a few applications to see the actual results.

It's really a fun thing to do. Makes you feel like a chemist. It's really a lot cheaper and a more efficient finish for an oil type finish.

09-05-2007, 03:05 PM
Yeah, the BLO adds an amber tint to the wood which is what "pops" the grain. One other benefit of tung over linseed is that tung has a bit better water resistance than does linseed.

For thinner, I generally prefer Naphtha as it flashes off quicker leaving less time for dust to get attached.

06-02-2010, 09:04 AM
The Kleenex box cover is firewood that I salvaged. (Walnut) The finish is oil based poly, 50-50 and probably 5 coats. (I don't remember the exact number)

The table top on the work bench is fumed white oak and two coats of MAOF. I'm planning to start the poly process later today.

The two end tables and small coffee table are fumed oak, MAOF and a poly finish.

Keven, putting poly over oil destroys the touchable feel. It looks great but it doesn't have that oil finish feel that we all love so much. The feel is, well, a poly feel.