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I'm not sure if different oils have wide varying techniques as far as application goes. Yes some might take longer to cure/dry but I figure in general the approaches are the same. If I am wrong then this question is meant to have a focus for Boiled Linseed Oil(BLO).

I am just getting into finishes and experimenting with BLO. I am trying to figure out the ideal method for applying it to wood. I don't know how much of this could be covered in one question or should be separated. The points I am looking to cover are

  • How do I know if a coat is thick enough?
  • How do I know if coat has set/cured?
  • How long between coats?
  • How many coats am I suppose to use?
  • Should I apply something to the wood before the oil?
  • In the case of BLO: Does the smell go away over time? Is it an indication of something?
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  • A bit late, but Chris Schwarz has a nice article on applying BLO. – RoyM Oct 2 '16 at 15:43
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I'm not an expert with BLO but I have successfully used it on different projects, so here's my take.

How do I know if a coat is thick enough?

More thinner coats are better than thick coats. it will cure faster and smoother that way. I apply a light coat and if it is runny at all I wipe off the excess.

How do I know if coat has set/cured?

The canister usually tells you a good time frame. Should be at least 24 hours in good curing conditions before applying a second coat. If it's still tacky, wait more.

How long between coats?

At least 24 hours in my experience.

How many coats am I suppose to use?

This is more based on what look you are going for. More coats fill in more pores and give it a shinnier look.

Should I apply something to the wood before the oil?

Depends, if you want the wood stained then of course do that first. Also some open grained woods can be sealed prior to reduce the amount of oil and number of coats needed to get to your ideal finish.

In the case of BLO: Does the smell go away over time? Is it an indication of something?

Yes the smell keeps fading, though after a year I can put my nose to the chess board I finished with it and can still smell a faint odor of BLO. But it does fade quite a bit.

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  • Something I forgot.... Do you need to do anything after it cures like buff it or anything? – Matt Apr 17 '15 at 15:58
  • @Matt I never had the need to buff it. It just looked great! – bowlturner Apr 17 '15 at 16:07
  • Awesome.... I'm totally a wood working guy now – Matt Apr 17 '15 at 16:09
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The procedure that I learned for applying linseed oil is as follows:

Apply a coat of RAW linseed oil, allowing it to soak-in for a day or so. This is also the time to give the wood piece a good hard look and discover those missed sanding places and tiny nicks and clean them up.

Then apply a coat of boiled linseed oil every day for a week.

Then a coat per week for a month.

Followed by a coat per year forever.

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BLO is an easy but limited finish. It is not very protective, can seep months later with temperature change, is fairly time consuming due to long dry times and multiple coats, and requires solvent type dyes to mix. I use a water based BLO emulsion stain base from Target Coatings, EM4000, that looks identical to BLO but dries in 2 hours, can be tinted with water based dyes (I use Transtint), can be recoated, used as a topcoat, and can be top coated with solvent or water based finishes.

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