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Boiled Linseed Oil on Maple

Terry_B.'s picture

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I'm finishing a maple coffee table using the method described by Jeff Jewitt in FWW #135. I have put on the second coat of boiled linseed oil, and sanded it in with 400 grit wet/dry. At this point I have two problems:

1. The oil is taking a long time to dry (5 days so far and still sticky). I can live with this if it will dry eventually.

2. At two places on horizontal surfaces (the top and the shelf) I have patches of what I guess I should call orange peel - rough surface on the oil. It doesn't rub out with a cloth, although perhaps it would have when the oil was newer.

What can I do about this? If I thin it (with what) will that damage the dye stain beneath the oil? In most of the surface it really looks great and the curl really pops, so I'd hate to mess it up or start all over. Any advice?

Jeff_Jewitt's picture

(post #110141, reply #1 of 14)

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I'd "scrub" the excess oil and rough spots with some 0000 steel wool and naphtha - which will be strong enough to remove residual oil but not affect the dye (assuming you used a water or alcohol soluble dye)
As with any advice -- try a test spot first to make sure nothing egregious happens -- but you should be fine.
If it doesnt seem to work -- and the oil starts tearing off (for lack of a better description) just let the oil cure so that it isnt tacky anymore --(this may take awhile) then continue on with the rest of the finishing process. Use shellac to seal in the oil, but you can layer a coat or two or varnish instead for added protection

Jeff

Terry_B's picture

(post #110141, reply #2 of 14)

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Jeff,

Thanks. I'll give it a try. I do plan to use polyurethane varnish rather than shellac because this is to be our family room coffee table and it will get a lot of hard use (verging on abuse).

The technique really works as advertised in terms of making the curl beautiful. Can you make a guess as to where I went wrong and what created the "orange peel" areas?

Terry

David_Malen's picture

(post #110141, reply #3 of 14)

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Jeff,
I just built a blanket chest out of curly
maple and I am thinking of using your method
as described in Fine woodworking. My concerns are the following: I planed and scraped the finish.
Won't sanding off the dye dull the clarity of a hand planed and scraped finish? Maybe I should use another method? What do you think?

Thanks,
Dave

Terry_B's picture

(post #110141, reply #4 of 14)

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Jeff,

This follows up my message of July 1. It's now been three weeks since I put on the boiled linseed oil, and it still hasn't dried. I've scrubbed it down with naphtha and 4-0 steel wool (and also grey scotch-brite) numerous times - as soon as the naphtha dries, the surface is just as sticky as before.

Is there anything else you can suggest? At this point, I don't mind telling you, I wish I'd never read the article or tried this method. The curl looks nice, but if I can never use the table, what good is it?

Jeff_Jewitt's picture

(post #110141, reply #5 of 14)

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All is not lost --- You can remove linseed oil with lacquer thinner and you may have to scrub it hard, with scotchbrite (green) to get all the semi droed oil off. If that doesnt work try a liquid stripper that contains methylene chloride.

Neither of the solvents will remove the dye, but the scrubbing amy. Thats OK --- just re-dye the maple.

It sounds like you may have not removed or wiped off the oil in the original process. If you are satisfied with the color -- just leave it alone or rub a small amount of linseed oil into the surface (about a thimblefull per sq. ft. Then remove all the excess and wit two days - then apply topcoats.

Sorry about your problems

Jeff

John_O'Connell's picture

(post #110141, reply #6 of 14)

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I also tried this method on a quilted maple frame bordered with walnut. It's one of the prettiest pieces I've ever done! Thanks Jeff. BTW I use 50/50 mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil with a dash of Japan drier in it. Never any problems with stickiness that way. Could Terry's problem be caused by old oil or maybe raw lineseed oil. I've seen some pretty poor labeling on this stuff.

Stephen_Shepherd's picture

(post #110141, reply #7 of 14)

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Doesn't anybody use turpentine anymore? Cut your linseed oil with turpentine 50/50, it is a much better solvent and it natural not a petroleum distillates. McCloskey Marine Spar varnish, thined 25% turps, 75% varnish to reduce the drying time.

John_O'Connell's picture

(post #110141, reply #8 of 14)

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Stephen,

Does turpentine come from the fruit on a turpentine tree? No? If you tap a pine tree does turpentine fill up your bucket? Of course not, it's a oleoresin distilled from pine trees. Mineral spirits is likewise distilled from petroleum. Therefore neither product is more "natural" than the other and I sure wouldn't want to find either in my drinking water. My point is this - We should not simply advocate one product over another because someone dubs it to be "natural". It would be interesting to have a complete environmental cost/benefit analysis of these products including total life cycle, energy to produce, etc. etc.. But then of course you'd still need to sort through the politics and economics to reach a totally scientific conclusion. Both are byproducts, one from fuel and plastics the other from wood and paper. Which harms or helps the environment more or less?

As part of my day job I order Phase I Environmental evaluations and make recommendations on leasing prospective properties. Former gas stations get a better recommendations than wood processing plants. Turpentine is a VOC (volitile organic compound). If it's also water soluble and/or heavier than water it will do more damage and is harder, if not impossible to clean up than say crude oil. Also keep in mind that the plastics this medium is made from and the fuel that runs it came from oil not trees. This is fortunate. Back in the 70's or 80's Washington State tried to make electricity from wood. It was unqualified disaster, economically as well air pollution wise. Unless there's a tangible benefit I'd rather leave the pine trees on the mountain for all to enjoy.

Not to belabor the point but here's an example of the complexity of this type of issue. A few years ago we had a major drought in CA. The People's Republic (City) of LA was putting the brunt of the conservation on the residential water customer mandating for a 10% cut back and imposing penalties. Meanwhile commercial/industrial customers continued voluntary conservation. Only 6% of the total statewide water consumption was residential. Water allocations to agriculture are 'use it or loose it' year after year. A diss-insentive to conservation. When you look at what it takes to grow feed and raise beef it's one of the worst water wasters (mainly because of the politics of water rights). Therefore a person could save equal amounts of water by a)eating 4 less Big Mac's (assumming there's actual beef in there) or b) not showering for a year!

Sorry about the rant. BTW is there any practical (strickly wood working) advantage to turpentine over mineral spirits?

Stephen_Shepherd's picture

(post #110141, reply #9 of 14)

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Dear John,
By your reasoning Maple Syrup is not a natural product. While you are correct that it is distilled from tree sap, most petroleum based products require a cracking process, not simple heating and collecting the volitals. I would rather drink a cup of turpentine than a cup of mineral spirits. Turpentine is from a renewable resource, petroleum is from limited fossil fuels. Breathing the fumes of turpentine is probably not as harmful as breathing the fumes of petroleum products.
Stephen

Bob_Godfroid's picture

(post #110141, reply #10 of 14)

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Stephen,

This may not be a value-added exercise, but for what it is worth there are a few points in your argument that are a little off base.
A. Petroleum is as natural as pine trees is as natural as maple syrup. Also there is not a whole lot of wind left in the argument that oil is a limited resource. Recall the price of crude was recently at an all-time low and dipped below $17/bbl. Show me a place where 294 lbs of "renewable" pine can be had for $17. And forget getting 42 gls of maple syrup for $17! As to the supply of oil the more they look the more they find.
B. The mineral spirits cut is present in distillable amounts from crude oil and does not require cracking. Cracking will however raise the yield of the desired cut.
C. Turpentine is heavily treated to remove sulfur impurities. Commonly hypochlorite and hydrogen peroxide are used to eliminate undesireables. Not exactly maple syrup. Arguably, the process to cook turpentine from wood can be considered cracking. One process takes the wood to coke, which is a rich bed for chemical transformation. Be it at Exxon or Georgia-Pacific, making big resinous molecules smaller and more volatile is cracking.
D. Cheers -- Drink up, and huff away. There's natural oils from other plants that might also be attractive, like castor bean oil. In the meantime consider that OSHA has set the permissible (8hr) vapor exposure to turpentine at 100 ppm, whereas for mineral spirits the level is 500 ppm. For shear toxicity, the "immediately dangerous to life and health" level for turpentine is 800 ppm, contrasted by 20,000 for mineral spirits.

In this light, I'd take my chances with the mineral spirits. Back to the bench.

Stephen_Shepherd's picture

(post #110141, reply #11 of 14)

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Bob,
You right about the value-added exercise, however it is enlightening and enjoyable. Thank you for your response and information. I am a traditionalist and just can't bring myself to use these modern products. If I restore a piece of antique furniture, I use what the originating craftsmen used. You can not or should 'improve' upon history. A 20% change from the original negates its standing as an 'antique'.
Stephen

John_O'Connell's picture

(post #110141, reply #12 of 14)

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Stephen,

I certainly can appreciate traditionalism to a point, but not for it's own sake. I can't see where the solvent used in a restoration of any antique could amount to a 20% change. Generally refinishing an antique greatly diminishes, if not destroys it's value. If a piece is so far gone that any loss in value is moot, then refinishing might actually restore some lost value. In that case then it would make sense to restore the finish using the original material. Anyway my original question is still pending. Are there any practical advantages to using turpentine over mineral spirits?

Stephen_Shepherd's picture

(post #110141, reply #13 of 14)

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John,
Practical advantages? Perhaps not. Turpentine is more expensive but it does smell better. Long term exposure to petro chemicals is a concern. Using turpentine on a regular basis does keep ticks from biting.
Stephen

Navin_Kanodia's picture

(post #110141, reply #14 of 14)

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I have a old staircase. Can I give it the linseed oil finish. The staircase is much in use. Please tell me the application of the linseed oil also and does it require any sealing also.