The best oil to varnish hardwood

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What’s the best oil to varnish hardwood?

The Guardian, Saturday 30 May 2009

I’m replacing some of my hardwood windows and don’t want to varnish or paint them – I was thinking of treating them with oil. However, I have received differing advice about which oil to use – Danish or linseed. Which would you advise?

DIY expert Julian Cassell, co-author of DIY: Know-How With Show-How (Dorling Kindersley, £25), says, “The basics are that linseed oil is made purely from flax, whereas Danish oil is a blend of different natural oils, often including linseed oil. Danish oil (sometimes called Scandinavian oil) is generally felt to be a superior treatment for hardwood, because the blending makes it easier to apply than linseed oil, and provides a more even, satin finish. Both options provide good treatment, because they penetrate deep into the wood, but the main issue is what will happen to the finish on the inside of the windows compared with the outside. Interior surfaces will retain their natural colour when oiled, but with the exterior surfaces the weather will change things completely. The initial application should be three coats of Danish oil; or four or five for linseed oil. If you use Danish oil, once weathered, the wood will tend to turn silvery grey. With linseed oil, it tends to go darker and sometimes black. In both instances, this colour change is preventable with regular recoating – at least once a year.

“My preference is for Danish oil, but as long as it is applied correctly, linseed oil will also provide a great finish. If you do opt for Danish oil, wood-finishes-direct.com offers a litre for £11.75. Its boiled linseed oil is less expensive at £6.95 a litre – always use boiled linseed oil, because the raw version takes for ever to dry.”

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