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Finishing Touches --
PART TWO -- Applying an Oil Finish


Oil finishes are among the easiest to apply and most difficult to botch. And, since they produce a soft, natural-looking appearance that emphasizes the grain of the wood, they're also among the most beautiful.

Oils are penetrating finishes, soaking deep into the wood and protecting it from within. They can all be applied with the same tool -- a soft rag, wrapped around a piece of sponge. The sponge is saturated with the finish before the rag is wrapped around it. As you work, you can control the flow of the oil onto the surface by squeezing the sponge.

However, although all oils are applied with the same tool, the actual method of application varies since there are many different types of oil finishes. Some of these are 100% natural, some are synthetic and others are a blend of both. Many serve a variety of different purposes, while others are manufactures specifically for application to only a few types of wood or projects. The application method will depend on what you build, the wood you build it with and most importantly, your choice of oils.

Linseed Oil
The most ancient of all oil finishes is hand-rubbed Linseed Oil. Its application may take a lot of elbow grease, but the end results are well worth the effort. Linseed Oil slowly darkens with age to create a warm, rich glow. This is especially attractive on curly maple and other highly figured or burled woods. Over the years, the burls and figuring will become even more prominent.

To apply, mix two parts of boiled Linseed Oil with one part of turpentine and heat the mixture in boiling water with a double boiler for 10 to 15 minutes. This heating process will thin the oil and allow it to penetrate the wood more easily.

WARNING: Do this with extreme caution over an electric heating element...NOT over a gas-fired burner or open flame as these materials are highly flammable.

Rub the oil over the entire surface and continue rubbing until you achieve an even color. Now comes the work. Go back and rub small areas of the project for 10 more minutes at a time, reheating the oil if it cools, then wipe off any excess with a clean cloth.

After 24 hours, repeat this process and keep repeating it every month, six months or year, until you achieve the depth and quality of finish you seek.



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