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Linseed oil and wax finish

bobcrafts's picture

I am looking for some advice on using pure lindseed oil followed by wax as a finish for quarter sawn white oak living room furniture. My client wishes a "natural" finish. After a lot of Q%A with him he tends to dislike laquer/urethane/poly/..... I ahve seen the results of lindseed and wax and it is indeed beautiful. Any advice? I've been using a wiping varnish and a waterborn spray poly the past few years.


Edited 4/19/2006 8:18 pm ET by bobcrafts

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110429, reply #1 of 20)

As a finish Boiled Linseed Oil is natural, but ofters virtually no protection to the wood and requires continual maintenance to maintain its attractiveness.  BLO of course does have added driers, without them raw linseed oil takes virtually forever to cure.  In addition BLO darkens over time.  (Tung oil darkens a bit less, and is slightly more water resistent, but not dramatically more protective.)  No oil can be allowed to build on the surface because it is so soft.  Wax too adds little to the protective qualities.  In the wood finishes do look good on oak, but I would much recommend substituting an oil/varnish mix instead of the pure oil.  Watco is an example.  The look will be quite similar, but the result will be considerably more durable. 


If natural is a criterion, for some reason, then the only other natural finish, without getting into exotics from bygone eras, is shellac.  Shellac is dramatically more protective than oil finishes, builds a very hard film that can be rubbed to very attractive sheens, ranging from high gloss to satin.  It is subject to being scratched but is easily repaired, and while moderately water resistant it is susceptible to household chemicals. 


All varnishes are "synthetic", but the traditional resins alkyd and phenolic are clearer and more attractive than the other choice polyurethane, a good choice for floors and stair trend, and in my opinion, little else.  Disliking poly and urethane makes sense, but lacquer rubs out very, very nicely and can, if well done provide a very attractive, versatile finish that looks nothing like polyurethane varnishes.   


 


 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

bobcrafts's picture

(post #110429, reply #3 of 20)

Thanks for the reply. I fully understand the durability issue and prefer, myself, wiping varnishes and the like. My client, however, wants a finish like Thomas Moser who advertises the use of pure likndseed oil and wax. Since this is upscale, fine furniture, the issue of a tough protective coat is secondary to the look one gets from the lindseed/wax finish. I've seen Moser's furniture and the finish is like nothing else that comes out of a can.

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110429, reply #7 of 20)

Well, Moser also speaks of warming the BLO, and likely has a warm curing place so that his BLO finishing doesn't take an inordinate amount of time.  Probably most important part of the oil finish is preparation of the surface.  The BLO can't be allowed to build on the surface, since it would be too soft.  Consequently there won't be a film to hide any thing.  Sand to 400 grit, ensure no little dings or scrapes mar the surface, and fully wipe off excess oil after each application.  At be sure that the client has also seen the blotchyness that occur in the Moser cherry finishes.  You might also show them the Maloof finish, which is an oil/varnish, and is WAY higher end than Moser. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

Gretchen's picture

(post #110429, reply #8 of 20)

And the  client will love the white marks left when a sweaty glass makes a ring in the wax finish.

Gretchen

Gretchen

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110429, reply #9 of 20)

And, if it were on a Moser piece they would blame themselves for not using a coaster, but on a custom piece from a local craftsman, they will blame him.  I suppose this factor could be reduced if you charge at least 25% more than a similar Moser piece. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

Gretchen's picture

(post #110429, reply #10 of 20)

Great dissecting of blame!!!

Gretchen

Gretchen

bobcrafts's picture

(post #110429, reply #11 of 20)

Thanks for all your replies. I haven't seen any evidence in the Moser line of blotchy finish. On the contrary, it is one of the finest I've seen. They do take their surface prep to a high level, however (800 grit final sanding). The problem with white spots and such becomes the customer's responsibility since I warn all my clients about the care and feeding of fine furniture. If it spots due to water rings or such, it is the clients problem. Once out of the shop.......

SgianDubh's picture

(post #110429, reply #12 of 20)

That's unusual furniture you make there bob. I've never seen furniture that needs three square meals a day, ha, ha-- ha, ha, ha.


If you're talking of having to 'feed' the wood oil every now and then, that's nothing more than advertising baloney from aftermarket polish manufacturers. Dead wood doesn't need feeding in any form.


It's my experience though that if you sell a piece of furniture to clients with a finish that's unable to withstand normal usage, eg, a coffee table that develeops blush and white rings in contact with water and spillages, then they'll be back on your phone in no time complaining about it.


Personally I'd never countenance selling a dining table, coffee table or any other hardworking surface with finishes inadequate to prevent damage at the first sign of mild adversity. Pure oil and wax only finishes are always going to fail on this score immediately they get they're first spillage.


If your clients are insistent on such a finish I'd draw up a written contract that spells out very clearly that this type of finish will fail. Unless it's in writing you'll get the blame, and even if they read the written contract stating the expected failure, you'll still get the blame.


I find a happy customer maybe tells a friend or two a couple of years down the line. An unhappy one complains to every man and his dog immediately about the useless furniture maker that botched their highly expensive commissioned piece and won't fix it for free. Slainte.


SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110429, reply #13 of 20)

I agree that Moser has a very smooth, well prepared surface, and high quality cherry is well matched.  However, some pieces do have some of the small color variation that is often call "blotch" in cherry.  These are not surface defects at all, just the "pre-figure" as some have called it, that is the normal state of cherry wood.  Even Moser doesn't have magical linseed oil. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

Gretchen's picture

(post #110429, reply #14 of 20)

I looked up Moser furniture and I find it hard to believe that it is only linseed oil and wax. That finish will just not hold up to the type of furniture and places it would be used.


As for sanding to 800. Done prior to finishing that would probably burnish the wood and further complicate the finishing process.


Why not take a good size scrap of your wood and do a complete finishing process on it to show the client--and  include some varnish in the schedule. You could even do a demo on how durable it will be.  Trying to duplicate a factory finish of unknown procedure and products seems to be untenable to me. You run the risk of delivery and the guy says--"it ain't Thomas Moser". He would be correct, of course, because you aren't.


Gretchen

Gretchen

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110429, reply #15 of 20)

I've visited Moser show rooms on several occasions, and the look and feel under my finger tips suggests that it is in fact just linseed oil and wax.   And, I've seen the mottled cherry color on each visit, though not on each piece of furniture.  Comes with a lot of mythology attached of course.  The company's web site speaks of sanding with 400 grit between applications of BLO, and suggests that only two coats of BLO applied at 170 degrees and allowed to soak for an hour before wiping off, with sanding and steel wool between each coat.  Is that true, I don't know, but I do know that shop tours are available at the plant in Maine, so it can't be far from true. 


I agree it won't hold up well and I sure wouldn't sell a dining table with such a finish on the top.  I do very much like the idea of actual samples of different finishes.  Having the customer make choices that way helps them "buy into" the product, not just pay for it. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

Gretchen's picture

(post #110429, reply #16 of 20)

Thanks for the feedback.

Gretchen

Gretchen

BG's picture

(post #110429, reply #19 of 20)

Steve,
I agree with you and Gretchen about the need for a finish with more protection for a dining room table. On the other hand, our cherry dining room table is 20 years old and has never seen an object placed upon its surface. I only get to see the wood when my wife changes the linens, pads, etc...its treated like a new born...

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110429, reply #20 of 20)

I sympathize.  So why not just change it out for a sheet of A/C plywood.  Not many do take those pains to protect the table. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

bobcrafts's picture

(post #110429, reply #17 of 20)

If the "blotch" is normal figure in cherry, it's NOT bloch

Gretchen's picture

(post #110429, reply #18 of 20)

But some people do not like it and call it blotch and want to get rid of it. They don't appreciate beautiful cherry.

Gretchen

Gretchen

SgianDubh's picture

(post #110429, reply #4 of 20)

There's a 'natural' finish you missed Steve-- bare, nothing, zilch, ha, ha.


A traditional finish, definitely, used on hardworking country and kitchen furniture. Once it gets grimy enough you send the maid in or any other lackey you have to hand (sic) and ha, ha, with a bucket of hot water and some salt or vinegar and scrub the tops with a stiff bristle scrubbing brush. Let it dry and knock back the fuzz with a bit of 120 or 150 grit abrasive paper.


Perhaps it wouldn't have an application here on living room furniture, especially if there's a white long shag carpet around as well. Slainte. 


WillGeorge's picture

(post #110429, reply #5 of 20)

Once it gets grimy enough you send the maid in or any other lackey you have to hand (sic) and ha, ha, with a bucket of hot water and some salt or vinegar and scrub the tops with a stiff bristle scrubbing brush.

OH Geeee I loved this Post!

Rick.. (I call my Son THAT.. He never listens...)

I tried that on my Wife ONCE!

After that I KNEW... I had to clean Everything twice!

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110429, reply #6 of 20)

Yes, the scrubbed pine look has its merits.  Around here, it's mostly found on tables that the seller wants one to believe were made 200 years ago, despite having been glued up from 6" boards with planer ripple left on the undersides. 


 At high end shops the planer ripple disappears from the underside and the price doubles. 


At really upscale shops, they do the same thing, but do use recycled boards, leaving one up puzzle why someone had put, and removed square nails in the table top, and to wonder why something becomes an "antique", if the wood spent its first 100 years in a barn before becoming furniture, rather than spending it in the forest. 


 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

WillGeorge's picture

(post #110429, reply #2 of 20)

Gee, I'll get ALOT of flack on this.. BUT.. most of the things I make I just use shellac or Danish Oil followed by a Wax...

Not much protection but looks good AND ALOT easier to fix and up-keep is a snap.. USUALLY!

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!