Many Oils exist for use with Wood and like most Woodturners I have tried most of them all at one time or another, many I found unsuitable for my particular needs and others were either too time consuming or expensive (or both) or just too problematic to use.
Some years back I set about finding an Oil that was required to be Lightweight, Neutral in Colour and reasonably Priced, this Oil also needed to be Non-Toxic, Safe to use and store, whilst giving either a Natural Matt Finish which could then be brought to a Sheen Finish with a coating of Wax Polish.
Having experimented with some of the Nut Oils, (Walnut) with reasonable success, but at a relatively high cost and Food Oils such as Olive Oil and Corn Oil, which did not achieve the desired finish I was looking for, as well as having some useful life problems.
I was eventually introduced to Liquid Paraffin [oka Mineral Oil], which is perhaps better known for it's Medicinal uses, this Oil appeared to satisfy all of my initial requirements being a Lightweight Oil of Neutral Colour, therefore not masking the Wood in any way. In addition it was completely safe (providing you didn't drink it in too greater volume) to use and storage of the Oil and any Cloths or Abrasives used with the Oil is straight forward.
For those who have visited my Hints & Tips section you would have noted the reference to this Oil, where I describe the use of "Blusher Brushes" as Mops and the simple Storage Method I use.
The one problem you may experience is in fact buying this reasonably priced Oil, if you buy it from the Chemists you will each time get a lecture on just how much you can take and also be restricted to one ¼ liter bottle. I gave up trying to explain that I was not going to Ingest, it but use it to polish Wood, and then when they began recognising me at the counter I decided it was time to find an alternative supply.
So the Chemist is the nearest supplier you will find if you want a small amount and a lecture, some of the Woodturning Suppliers do have it on the shelf but not on a consistent basis, I found my source at the local Farm Suppliers in particular those catering for Horse Owners who use it for there Horses (I assume). I purchase it in a 5 liter container for approximately half the cost of the 20 bottles you would have to buy at the Chemist's (think of all those lectures and looks).
I apply the Oil to the bare and finished Wood, generally I use this finish on Burr Elm and Oak plus standard Elm and Oak as well as Yew, Walnut, Red Gum and Jarrah etc. etc., using a Mop to apply a liberal coating which is allowed to soak in for approximately 5 to 10 minutes depending on the porosity of the Wood. Often where you have a Burr you will have areas that absorb the Oil much quicker than in other areas, if this is the case then I will re-coat these areas as soon as it is seen that the Oil has been fully absorbed.
I then wipe the surfaces of the Piece using Kitchen Towel (or any suitable absorbent material) to remove any excess Oil prior to "Wet" sanding the surface of the item.
Wet Sanding is carried out with the Lathe running, at the highest speed you feel happy with, using my standard cloth backed Abrasive (400 grit) or Wet n Dry Paper, to finish off the piece, generally I will continue sanding until all signs of the Oil have disappeared from both the Wood and the Abrasive.
This method of finishing using the Wet n Dry principle is not new, but the one benefit you get with using Liquid Paraffin is that it is not Self Igniting, which can be the case with some other Oils (generally those with Chemical Dryers added). I have only one piece of Abrasive in use and I keep this in an old Jam Jar with a screw lid to keep it clean, on average this probably lasts for a year but I am not consciously keeping a record of this.
After checking the work for any obvious signs of marks from the Abrasives, which will require further work to remove, I apply another thin coat of Oil which is immediately wiped off, again using a suitable Paper Towel.
If I require the final finish to be Matt then the process is now complete, other than checking after 24 hours to see if the item would benefit from an additional light coating of Oil. However if I want more of a Sheen type finish then I apply a coat of Wax Polish which is allowed to harden before being buffed to a finish.
I have used a number of Waxes over the years, Bison Wax, Bri-Wax and even a Beeswax Balm to name a few, all have given me the result I am looking for, although I now use exclusively Bison Wax, simply because at the end of the day you can only have so many tins / jars of polish on the shelf.
You can at this point add some Colour enhancement to the work with the choice of Wax, using either the Clear or Natural Shades up to the much darker Mahogany or Elm Shades.
This Finish has served me well for a number of years and only requires a single coating of either Oil (Matt finished items) or Wax Polish once or twice a year to rejuvenate the appearance of the Vase, Bowl or whatever I've used the finish on.
I have not experimented much to see if additional coatings of the Oil, or longer times between coats are beneficial and I would be, as I'm sure others would, interested to hear of your experiences with this or your variant of the finish described.
LaymarCrafts Woodturning is the Web Site
of Richard & Sheila Stapley
Last update 17 July 2007
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