Wood oils to preserve your furniture

What is wood oil?

Using oil to “finish” wood has regained popularity in recent years. While oil isn’t as robust or long-lasting as a varnish, it brings out the grain of the wood, is easy to apply and is natural. What different types of wood oil are there? Most people have heard of linseed oil, as it’s used to season and protect willow cricket bats, but there are several other types, like Danish oil, which leaves a subtle lustre, teak oil which also leaves a sheen and tung oil, which is highly regarded for its resilience and beautiful finish. Linseed and teak oil are also very resilient.

How do you use oils?

You should apply Danish or teak oil with a soft cloth or a brush, making sure you apply just enough to sink in completely. In between coats, use a fine sandpaper on the surface – three or four coats is usually enough to get a good result. Linseed oil is more complicated, as it needs at least three day to dry between coats. Some woods might need more than ten coats and linseed isn’t suitable for outdoor furniture. Using tung oil is probably the most complex method, as it involves a special technique called wet-on-wet burnishing, which means using several coats and increasingly fine dry and wet sandpaper. It’s best to get professional advice before using tung oil, as a respirator is needed.

What’s the difference between wood oils and varnish?

Oils are more natural – they penetrate the surface of the wood and “cure” over time. Coats of oil are applied until no more can be absorbed. Varnishes are made by boiling an oil, such as linseed, soya or tung, with a polyurethane resin and the varnish sits on the very surface of the wood, where it dries and hardens, forming a hard protective layer.

What’s the best oil to use for outdoor wooden furniture?

If you have wooden furniture that is used outdoors, or is in a bathroom or kitchen, you need to use good quality teak oil. There are also proprietary oils for garden furniture, so do ask sellers for advice.