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I got a piece of acacia that was already oiled. I cannot specify what kind of acacia that is.

I cut it to size and sanded the surface smooth. As the sanding removed parts of the oiled wood, I applied some linseed oil (It was some left over from a can of oil bought from ikea. Called "behandla" and labelled "linseed oil". It is still available.)

I applied oil until the wood wouldn't soak it up any more. After that I let it sit for a few days with puddles of oil on the surface.

I wiped off the excess.

However, as soon as I first wiped the countertop with a wet cloth, it soaked up the water (I could clearly tell from the smell). The surface that was very smooth after sanding got rough again. The fibers of wood are noticeable on the surface.

It's not a problem for me, the wood looks rustic anyway.

Because this was the first time I ever did this, I would like to know:

  1. Should I apply more oil? I wonder how, because the wood soaked up as much as it could
  2. Can I get the surface permanently smooth by sanding and applying oil again? Wood is a natural material after all, that takes and gives humidity. Maybe it was dry and just needed a bit more water. Or maybe I have to adjust my expectations of what's possible with wood as a material?
  3. How do I keep the oil in the wood? I noticed that when I put something heavy on the countertop, the surface of the wood becomes oily. I think this is because the applied pressure forces the oil out of the wood
  • Is this boiled linseed oil or raw linseed oil? – saltface Apr 21 '15 at 19:07
  • Also, what kind of acacia are you using? – saltface Apr 21 '15 at 19:08
  • @saltface: I added information about the origin of the oil to my question. It is declared as "linseed oil". I am not sure if that means it is raw or boiled. I will try to take an image of the wood because I have no idea what kind of acacia that is. – null Apr 21 '15 at 19:20
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    I believe most oils need a at least a couple coats, apply, dry, apply again. – bowlturner Apr 21 '15 at 20:14
  • According to IKEA, Behandla contains a "lead free drying agent" so it is boiled. Bowlturner is right, oils need multiple thin coats to cure properly. I've seen blocks of wood placed in pools of BLO to demonstrate the capillary action of xylem (the block is placed with the grain vertical and BLO starts seeping out the top). – saltface Apr 21 '15 at 20:33
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I applied oil until the wood wouldn't soak it up any more. After that I let it sit for a few days with puddles of oil on the surface.

I wiped off the excess.

I don't know if this was the application method recommended on the tin but this is the wrong way to oil wood. The correct application method is to apply a generous coating, let it sit for between 20 minutes to a couple of hours at most and then to wipe off every trace of excess from the surface with clean cloths or paper towels. When you're done the wood should no longer feel oily.

This needs to be repeated multiple times. A traditional oiled finish on wood is not a quick process because of the number of coats called for and the necessary 'drying' time. 15 or more coats would not have been unusual in the past and this took a very long time.

One traditional application regimen is:

"One coat per day for a week, one coat a week for a month, one coat per month for a year, then one coat per year for life."

Most people don't have the time or patience for this today, but you want to build up at least 4-7 coats and let them cure for good durability. So in addition to not building up coats there hasn't been sufficient time for the oil to 'dry' (oils of this type don't actually dry, they cure by a process called oxidative polymerisation).

But beyond that there is the fact that oiled finishes are actually not especially waterproof. Proper water-resistance is only provided by a film-building finish, for example a varnish.

Safety note
Using a drying oil such as linseed oil you must take care to dispose of any oil-soaked rags or paper properly. They are a significant fire hazard as they don't need an ignition source, if left wadded up they can spontaneously combust.

So either dry flat on the floor (once dry they are no longer a combustion risk), or put into a suitable metal or glass container with plenty of water.

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  • It said "repeat that process", your suggestion is a lot clearer. Would it be helpful to sand before applying the next coat in order to get a smoother finish? – null Apr 23 '15 at 11:27
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    @null, well they did have limited space :-) but they could still have explained it clearly even if briefly. If there are rough areas in the wood that you want to smooth then do sand them (or better, scrape). Because of the heavy previous application of wood it may be advisable to wait a few days to a week or longer before proceeding to the next coat. – Graphus Apr 23 '15 at 14:15
  • maybe I did not read it carefully enough too long ago. They are probably not to blame. =) We are (or is it just me?) so used to the "figure out how it works while using it" mentality that user manuals are often overlooked. (at least for apparently "simple" things like oil, not power tools) Important lesson here is to take a look at the documentation, even if it's not just for safety reasons and the operation seems obvious. – null Apr 23 '15 at 15:11
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Are you certain you want an oil finish? Will you be using it as a cutting board?

I know a lot of blogs/websites suggest an oil finish because it's advertised as food-safe, but all finishes are food safe when fully cured (except for led-based finishes). I just installed butcherblock countertops from ikea (see image below).

enter image description here

I used a polyurethane (varnish) and am VERY glad I did. Not only does it resist dents and scratches, but it protects the wood in other ways such as from water damage. Case in point--one of my kids left their school papers on the counter and another kid spilled water over it. It wasn't until the next day that I noticed the ink had bled through onto the countertops. I just wiped it with dish soap and it was gone. (Which wouldn't happen if it only had an oil finish).

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  • I chose oil finish, because the wood already had some oil applied to it, which made me wonder if anything else would work. I never worked with PU. I guess it would look a bit more plastic-y and countertops are most commonly made up of press board with some plastic veneer, which I did not want at all and decided to go for a more natural look. I do not use this as a cutting board. – null Apr 23 '15 at 11:32
  • +1 for the image and the additional thoughts. I considered getting one of those from IKEA but they were a bit expensive. What I did differently is the sink. I used a router to add a groove at the rim of the cut out, which allows the sink to plunge into the countertop entirely. This way the top of the rim of the sink is flush with the work surface. I never liked how the rim of the sink forms a barrier between work surface and sink. This requires some silicone to gap the groove and appears to be a common technique for stone counter tops. – null Apr 23 '15 at 11:40
  • I don't think it looks plastic-y at all with a PU vinish. The majority of furniture is finished with either PU, shellac, or varnish and all are indistinguishable in terms of how they look at feel, yet few think that these are plastic-y. There is a very clear and noticable difference between laminate and real wood countertops and I don't think a PU will come close to mimicking laminate. I thought about doing the undermount sink but worried about bacteria. But it sounds like you did a flush mount? Sounds cool! – dfife Apr 23 '15 at 15:31
  • I guess that's what it's called. =) I will definitely try PU in the future. Sound like great finish. – null Apr 23 '15 at 15:40
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    @dfife I have got the same worktop but I followed IKEA's instructions to oil it. Now I have to keep re-oiling and I wish I'd gone for what you did. – Magnus Smith Apr 24 '15 at 14:58

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