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I have completed a small woodcarving and finished it using a beeswax paste. I've just found out that the paste uses Linseed oil, which I know can be a combustion risk on rags when drying.

This is a gift and I want to box and wrap it - my question is whether the carving itself could be a fire risk while contained in the box, or if the risk is just for the rags used to apply it? If so, how long do I need to wait before boxing and wrapping? I do not want to give someone a combustible gift.

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my question is whether the carving itself could be a fire risk while contained in the box

No, there's no risk of fire, or more accurately spontaneous combustion, from a finished item. This can only happen when enough of the oxidising oil is in a confined space with enough air, and enough easily combustible material — one classic example is "a bundle of rags" (although it can be just one rag or paper towel, scrunched up)1.

how long do I need to wait before boxing and wrapping?

Honestly, you could apply the finish, wipe off the excess, then buff it out some time later and wrap it up immediately. That's perfectly fine as far as safety goes. But you should wait as long as your schedule allows.

This isn't because of any risk-of-fire reason, it's to give the finish a chance to cure further (reduces the chance of fingerprinting/dulling from handling)2 as well as simply to allow any smell from the linseed oil a chance to dissipate — while some people love the smell of linseed others find it very disagreeable!


1 It can also occur in a pile of wood shavings or sawdust, and apparently a wad of steel wool soaked in a drying oil can begin to smoulder too.

2 But note this finish is not hard and durable, and provides minimal protection. The surface of any item finished in a typical wax/oil mixture can be expected to get dull over time.

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