Oil & Varnish Finishes

Oil and Varnish Finishes

Danish Oil

Butchers block finished with danish oilDanish Oil is a hard drying oil which provides a tough, water-resistant but not waterproof finish. The finished sheen could be described as low satin but is not as elegant as a wax finish. The advantage is the water resistance which may be found necessary in certain situations. The exact formulation varies from maker to maker, but it is generally Tung oil and polymerised Linseed oil mixed with commercial driers and resins.

Applying Danish Oil, First Coat

To finish your door you will need:

  • 1ltr of danish oil (3-4 coats)
  • lint-free cotton cloth (2 pieces 300mm x 300mm)
  • 32mm paint brush
  • white spirit (for diluting first coat and cleaning)
  • “0000” or “000” grade wire wool (very fine)

If you have followed the section on preparation you are ready to oil finish your door if not please read through preparation before starting.

As with the preparation, oiling your door is more easily done with the door lying flat but if that is not possible it maybe easier to apply the oil with a rag or Scotchbright pad, otherwise use the 32mm paint brush.

After giving the tin a good shake, pour some of the oil into a clean container.  (aluminium or plastic takeaway containers are ideal and disposable). For the first coat of oil it is a good idea to add 10% white spirit to this and mix well.  This will give better penetration into the wood. Apply a liberal first coat making sure the oil penetrates every part.

leave this first coat for 10-15 minutes to penetrate, then wipe back the excess oil with the lint free cotton rag noting any holes or unsightly cracks. Turn the door and repeat the process on the other side, then leave to dry. Return any left over oil back to the tin and screw the lid tightly. Depending on the make of danish oil you have used (read makers instructions) you will need to leave the door as a general rule for around 6-8 hrs to harden depending on room temperature and humidity. Overnight is always the best time period for drying.

Important ! 

Once you have finished the wiping back or oiling, the rags used should be laid out flat to dry; otherwise they may catch fire
due to oxidisation .

When your first coat has hardened, using the “0000” grade wire wool, gently rub down the door to de-knib  (remove the small raised fibres and dust specks). Move methodically from one panel to the next and then the framework.

At this stage you will need to fill any holes or cracks you noted earlier using the dry pigment powders supplied when you collected your door mixed with decorators filler powder. If you have not read the section on mixing filler and filling please jump to the page and read that section before continuing the oiling process.

Second and Subsequent Coats

You will need to apply at least three neat coats of oil to your door to get a lasting finish. Apply these as you did the first coat letting each coat dry before adding the next. As the timber is now primed you should get a more even coat without the need to wipe back.


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Varnishing has the advantage of making an item waterproof to a greater or lesser degree depending on which type of varnish you use. Over the last twenty years waterborne varnishes have come a long way. Now with the latest generation they are easy to use, give a good finish and a reasonable water resilience. On the other hand traditional oil based varnishes can give superb waterproof properties, particularly the two pack polyurethanes.  One problem with varnish is that it will highlight any marks or defects in your door. Particularly  the oil based varnishes, so if you do not need the waterproof qualities a wax finish always looks good.

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