Best Wood Preservation Techniques

| 10/28/2010 1:00:29 PM

Tags: question to readers, wood preservation,

Autumn is a great time of year. While you’re putting away the outdoor tools and equipment, you can put a new coat of waterproofing on wood surfaces that are exposed to the elements.

wood preservationMy dad used a mixture of boiled linseed oil and turpentine — 2:1 — as both a waterproofing mixture and when refinishing antique furniture pieces. First, he’d go over the wood with very fine steel wool. Then he’d apply a thin coat of the oil and turpentine mixture and rub it in well with a soft cloth, removing any excess liquid. One piece of furniture — a 300-year-old tavern table — must have had 20 coats of finish on it. It has the most marvelous velvety patina!

Do you have a favorite furniture refinishing or preservation technique? Please share it in the comments section, below. 

8/14/2015 12:18:51 AM

Aside from proper disposal or airing out of rags, the thing to know about using boiled linseed oil and turpentine mixture is that one MUST wipe off any residue before it becomes tacky. At first the mixture gets sucked into the wood, but that process slows as the outer layer of wood gets saturated, and the wood has had enough. Start with a higher percentage of linseed oil, say 3 to 1. As it penetrates less with application, increase the proportion of turpentine, up to 50/50 and remember to wipe off anything that does not absorb within a few minutes. Use a soft clean rag for that--and you are finished until next year, when you will just need a 50/50 touch up coat, most likely. And remember to wipe away that residue before it gats tacky and then hardens. If you are concerned about mold you can inquire at the paint store about what they recommend as a fungicide for a gallon of paint. Use that in about a quart of your linseed oil/turpentine mixture.

nathalie roy
1/27/2011 8:13:49 AM

I agree with security, old rags served for oiling purposes will catch fire if left tossed in a corner! My best friend lost her house this way, after letting her rags on the wooden balcony, not knowing this fact...fortunately no-one was hurt, but they sure cried over the lost, they had built it from old recycled wood and material. They've rebuild it since, nicer even, but have know a fear of fire....don't play with safety, even kitchen oil, or motor oil will get rancid and can catch fire, cause it heats up while oxydizing.

1/4/2011 7:53:49 PM

To clean the gunk off wooden kitchen cabinets, we use 0000 steel wool soaked with butchers wax. Be gentle until you know just how much pressure you can apply without removing any of the finish. Go in the direction of the grain, of course. Keep the steel wool plenty moist with wax. Let dry a bit before buffing with a clean, soft rag. Takes some effort, but worth the results! To refinish our old pumpkin pine floors, we clean them well (if really dirty, use turpentine with 0000 steel wool). Apply Waterlox (for boat decks). It's water repellant, but does not form a permanent seal like polyurethane that eventually can crack and yellow. Let it dry completely!!! Lasts a couple of years depending on wear.

agnes conway
12/30/2010 11:12:11 PM

I have used the linseed oil, turp and apple cider vinegar for over30 years to coat new wood, clean antiques and preserve them, it's the best I have used in 40 years of decorating. I have also used Glitsa for floors and did an old Hoosier kitchen cabinet which went thru a very hot, smokey fire in the house and never phased the finish,. Have to wear a mask to use it tho

celeia dammann
12/30/2010 9:20:25 AM

I need advice on how to clean gunked-up kitchen cabinets from years of abuse. I don't want to sand and paint them. Is there a good solution? Nothing I have used on the market works. Cele

gulshan hinduja
12/29/2010 8:46:41 PM

the linseed+lurpentine oil gives an oily finish and darkents the colour of the wood as well. I have also used tung oil instead of linseed oil and it gives a dryer(less oily) look and retains the original colour of the wood. The dry finish gives an advantage that the wood does not attract dust / dirt.

jason prairie
12/29/2010 5:29:00 PM

I also use linseed oil for finishing wood, especially my hardwood handles on axes, hammers, ect. A friend of mine had small hardwood floor that was linseed oilled in the house he bought. We thought it was a total loss but we mopped it several times, to remove all the grit. Then simply buffed it with a small floor buffer with a wool bonnet. It looks much better, hope this helps.

jason prairie
12/29/2010 3:50:20 PM

I also use linseed oil for finishing wood, especially my hardwood handles on axes, hammers, ect. A friend of mine had small hardwood floor that was linseed oilled in the house he bought. We thought it was a total loss but we mopped it several times, to remove all the grit. Then simply buffed it with a small floor buffer with a wool bonnet. It looks much better, hope this helps.

jan steinman
11/3/2010 6:14:40 PM

More about charring buried posts in our December 2008 newsletter: You can sign up for this newsletter via a form at the top left of any page on our website.

jan steinman
11/3/2010 6:10:57 PM

First one: when setting a post in the ground, thoroughly char the surface and especially the end. A cedar post treated this way will last nearly as long as a pressure-treated post. Make sure you char a good 9" to a foot beyond the depth of your hole, so that it will be charred a good bit above the ground. Also, it is particularly important to make sure the end grain is thoroughly charred. After charring the outside in a pit fire, we used a large propane torch to spot-char areas missed and to make sure the end grain was VERY charred. Some photos of the process:

jan steinman
11/3/2010 6:10:48 PM

Second: you can use lacquer thinner and ordinary styrofoam (#6) plastic to make a tough, durable finish. We used that technique to finish our chicken tractor. Four years later, we can plainly see where we ran out of styrofoam finish, because that's where the moss has begun to gather -- the first part of the wood decay process. So I expect the styrofoam finish has added years to the life of the chicken tractor, while usefully disposing of something that is rarely re-cycled and generally ends up in a lanfill:

larry sharp
11/3/2010 4:05:00 PM

The above is my new email address. My old address was Please update your mailing files. I depend upon the newsletter for so many of your fine ideas. Thanks

finula mccaul_2
11/3/2010 2:40:49 PM

Alternative for damaged wood This is a habit I picked up from work in archaeology. Fragile porous items tend to decay quickly once excavated. Therefore they are often preserved by soaking them in PEG(polyethylene glycol). You can do something similar with weathered old wood as an alternative to costly replacement. It's very simple, you just buy a can of clear acrylic or acrylate from your local home supply store, and start painting it onto the wood. Keep at it until the wood stops soaking it up. The porous wood gets filled in with plastic. The acrylate hardens and the wood becomes sturdy and solid again.

rick scott
11/3/2010 1:30:08 PM

I found this on line and am getting ready to use it on some 2 inch tongue and groove lumber for the floor of my utility trailer. Mix equal parts of 30 weight motor oil and diesel fuel. That would be, for instance, 4 quarts (1 gallon) motor oil and i gallon diesel.

11/3/2010 12:15:27 PM

My parents were woodworkers when I was a kid and we always kept our rags in a bucket of water to keep the fire danger down. Unfortunately I don't remember what they did with the rags when the bucket filled up. If your wood is already grey you can restore the original wood color with the use of oxalic acid or "wood bleach". Try to find the powdered stuff as it's more economical. It also does wonders removing rust from metal - especially chrome!

pat taylor_1
11/3/2010 11:40:50 AM

It was recommended to me 6 years ago to use the boiled linseed oil/turpentine mixture on my hardwood floors. Well, after 6 years they look dirty; when using soap and water to mop, it only looks good when it is wet. Can you recommend how I could refinish these floors (3 rooms), or do I need to replace the flooring?

abbey bend
11/3/2010 10:52:58 AM

While an old method and an okay method, it is not a particularly safe or sane method to use. As mentioned one needs to be very dilgent about the left over rags and not burning the house or shop down. Also there are better, more ecologically sound finishes that can be applied today. Outside of a particular look this finish can give, it has really nothing else going for it. What was not mentioned it this type of finish is hard to get to come out looking good for many people, takes a long time to dry, and makes some nasty fumes from the turpentine.

eric dagley
11/3/2010 8:57:33 AM

I agree with Keith,,, a neighbor had finished coating his deck and tossed the balled up rags onto a junk pile of wood. Two hours later that pile became an inferno nearly setting his house on fire.

keith hallam_1
11/3/2010 8:36:38 AM

Hi, I also use the linseed oil and turps mix for wood finish. Just a word of warning. After each coating, don't screw the rag up into a ball to save it for next time. You can get spontaneous combustion with a linseed oil soaked rag. Open it out fully and hang it up to dry somewhere safe.

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