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If you've looked at a woodworking magazine, watched anything wood-related on YouTube, or just browsed anything on the internet related to woodworking, you've probably come across Odie's Oil. It's advertised as a zero-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), solvent-free, toxic chemical-free, interior/exterior use, UV-inhibiting, food-safe finish and protectant that can be applied without gloves or respirators, works with a wide range of materials (not just wood), and smells nice, too. Because there are no solvents, (almost) nothing evaporates during curing, which means a little bit supposedly goes a very long way – they advertise coverage rates of ~190 sq. ft (~17.6 m2) per 9 oz./266 ml jar, up to 20 times greater than other (unnamed) finishes.

Application is supposed to be very easy, as well. The manufacturer recommends applying with a Scotch-Brite™ pad at a higher grit than the highest level of sanding (I've seen the white pad used frequently, as I believe it's the highest grit available) and rubbing it into the grain, leaving the surface wet. I've also seen it applied using a credit card or or similar applicator and just wiped onto the surface. It should be checked 40-60 minutes later and reapplied to spots where it has completely absorbed. It can be left for some indeterminate amount of time, measured in hours, then buffed off. I've heard you can use the same type of pad as was used to apply it, and I've also heard that you should use terry cloth. I assume buffing wheels or pads could also be used, as long as they don't become saturated. New/additional coats or repairs can be applied directly on top, without any stripping, sanding, or scratching required. One of the only downsides is that it takes 2-3 weeks before it's fully cured.

So, it sounds like great stuff, and purportedly has been used for "decades" on hardwood floors. However, it's rather pricy – a 9 oz./266 ml jar currently costs about $45 (plus shipping) direct from the manufacturer in the US and £65.99 on Amazon in the UK. It also seems to be one of those products that inspires very strong opinions in people. I've read articles and watched videos where people swear by it, practically claiming it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, and showing it beating out all sorts of other finishes in various tests. However, I've also seen a lot of naysayers, questioning its price, durability, and composition – that it can be substituted by using cheaper components.

My basic question is for people who've actually used the stuff: is it all it's promoted to be? Is the coverage really as good as they say? What are the caveats for application? How durable is it long-term, and is it really waterproof (spills, not submersion)? Specifically for my initial intended project, a desk for a teenager, how does it look on highly-figured closed grain wood like birdseye maple, as opposed to a more traditional boiled linseed oil and polyurethane finish? And if you're not a big fan of it, what would you recommend in its place?

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    Short answer: no ^_^
    – Graphus
    Jun 27 at 21:13
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    I'm not going to get into a point-by-point dissection of all the ways that the makers of Odie's Oil make misleading statements but I will say that virtually every aspect of it rang alarm bells for me (even just the packaging positively screams 'snake oil') so try to read their marketing and product statements with a wary eye, looking for weasel words and stuff that could be interpreted more than one way.... not only the way they want people to read it.
    – Graphus
    Jun 27 at 22:12
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    Now in relation to comparison tests, you've obviously seen a few but there were two I recalled that I wanted to draw your attention to in case you hadn't seen/read them previously. First is this video and second is this.
    – Graphus
    Jun 27 at 22:18
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    Is Odie's Oil worth all the hype... and money? How does it look on highly-figured closed grain wood like birdseye maple? Both ask for opinion! Maybe easier to see if you change subject, are Ferraris worth it? How does Armani suit look on person of [dimensions]?
    – Volfram K
    Jun 29 at 7:09
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    The close vote is mine. I picked one reason but also there are too many queries in the final paragraph. As you know, it's basically one question per Question on SE — is the coverage as good as claimed, application tips, long-term durability, is it waterproof as advertised? These are all separate questions. While you could fold in the coverage and waterproof queries into a single Q no problem (as part of, does it perform as advertised?) the others should really be separate queries. Plus of course asking how it looks on any given wood is purely subjective (classic, all answers equally valid).
    – Graphus
    Jun 29 at 14:47

1 Answer 1

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Not a full answer (as I have no personal experience), but more than a comment. Based on the most recent SDS, this product appears to be a drying oil.

Chemical family : Mixture of: Drying oil; Lubricating oil; Natural waxes; Essential oil

The fact that it cautions that application rags may spontaneously combust support this as well.

When this product is used, combustible materials such as some cleaning rags, cotton waste, etc., contaminated by the material are subject to spontaneous combustion.

In addition, an older SDS has the following statement:

A proprietary blend of all-natural FDA approved food safe oils and waxes. This product is manufactured without the use of solvents, heavy metals, chemical hardeners, or drying agents.

This implies that if this is indeed a drying oil, it does not achieve its drying ability through heavy metal compounds like most modern drying oil (Boiled Linseed Oil being the prime example of that). I can only assume that the claim for natural ingredient together with drying characteristics are thanks to heating the oil in absence of oxygen (see here). This can be done to linseed oil as well as tung oil (meaning the actual oil from nuts of the tung tree (Vernicia fordii) and not the products sold as Tung Oil which are typically highly diluted varnishes) and would probably explain the high cost of the oil as that process requires both specialized equipment as well as time. The consistency of the product supports this as well, as stand oil becomes much thicker during the heating process.

Again from the SDS:

Paste-like to liquid

As for the durability of this product, if it behaves like any other drying oil it should have similar durability (which is not a lot). If it is indeed stand oil, it should provide greater durability and protection for the wood, but I have no idea how that would measure up to film finishes.

Finally, if this is indeed stand oil with some (natural) additives to improve workability, you might be able to experiment with stand oil sold for arts. These are significantly cheaper than Odie's Oil, but it is indeed a gamble whether or not they will work well (or at all) as a wood finish. There is one place that sells stand oil as a woodworking finish (reached through Google, no affiliation or endorsement), again much cheaper than Odie's Oil and again unclear if the products are comparable.

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    "would probably explain the high cost of the oil " I had to giggle at this, as this is of course precisely what some makers want us to believe. But metallic driers are no longer universally responsible for the faster drying of BLO — starting a few years ago (not sure how far back but possibly 10 yrs or so) versions without driers started showing up on the market. Initially they were the more expensive 'premium' or 'special' ones (self-described) but now some mass-market brands are made this way..... and it's priced accordingly, showing this doesn't have to equate with a high price tag.
    – Graphus
    Jun 27 at 21:24
  • @Graphus I'll give Odie the benefit of the doubt here, but I'm sure you're right and cost of manufacturing has little to do with it. Could you share some product offerings that are drying/curing oils without driers?
    – Eli Iser
    Jun 27 at 21:33
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    Odie's oil is a hard wax oil.
    – Volfram K
    Jun 28 at 5:13
  • @EliIser Tried & True brand products (Original Wood Finish, Varnish Oil, and Danish Oil) are all based on polymerized linseed oil that doesn't have any metallic driers.
    – Caleb
    Aug 10 at 14:24

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