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I just got a GERTON table top which is made of solid beech. In the instruction they says:

Apply a thin coat of BEHANDLA wood treatment oil. Leave the oil to penetrate the wood for about 2 hours. Wipe off surplus oil with a cloth or kitchen paper. During the first week of use the table top should be treated every second day and after that every third day until the surface is saturated (after about 2 months). Then treat the surface as required.

But in the BEHANDLA instructions they say:

Apply BEHANDLA with brush or pad in a thin, even film. Leave to penetrate the surface for approx. 15 minutes. Wipe off any unabsorbed oil with a soft cloth. Let the surface dry and repeat the oil treatment 1-3 times in accordance with the absorbency of the wood.

I will solely use the table as a computer desk.

My question is, which set of instruction should I follow?

Also, is there another (better) alternative for my use? The color of the table top is fine as is and I prefer matte surface finish over glossy finish.

  • Do you care if this tabletop gets dinged up? Oil finishes are nice and all, especially in a kitchen where you worry about food safe-ness, but they don't provide much mechanical protection. – TX Turner Aug 18 '15 at 19:29
  • My dad built a desktop out of one of these for my mom, and she loves it. For what it costs to buy the premade top, it's hard to justify doing the glue-up yourself. I think you'll be happy with it. – grfrazee Aug 18 '15 at 20:29
  • Hm. How well would one of these work as a bench top? – keshlam Aug 19 '15 at 2:06
  • (Answering my own question: Beech is apparently a respectably durable wood.) – keshlam Aug 19 '15 at 13:17
  • In cases like this, I would either experiment to see which one I like best, or go with whichever instructions are less generic. The BEHANDLA instructions are general and are intended as a guideline for any type of wood. The GERTRON instructions address applying BLO to a specific type of wood. This is similar to airing up your car tires. You're generally fine inflating them to the max pressure indicated on the sidewall of the tire (or slightly less than that), but a better recommendation is to inflate them to the pressure indicated for that specific car model (usually on a label on the door). – rob Oct 15 '15 at 4:09
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I would use so-called Danish oil (I have used Watco for decades). It has the matte surface that you are looking for and if it gets any dings or scratches, a little sanding will get rid of them and a quick recoat of the surface gets it looking as good as new in minutes.

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Boiled linseed oil is easy to apply, has a matte finish that you prefer, and will soak into the wood with repeated applications. For something more durable, but still natural, go with Danish oil. But that will build up a more glossy coat with more applications. i think I read somewhere that the Ikea oil is a camelia oil, which is foodsafe, but that wouldn't be necessary for this desk.

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I will solely use the table as a computer desk.

By this, I will assume you have no need for a food-safe finish.

The BEHANDLA oil appears to be little more than boiled linseed oil (BLO) per IKEA's product description page:

Product description
Linseed oil, Wood treatment oil, Lead free drying agent, Emulsifier

BLO is a non-food-safe grade of flax seed oil (or conversely, flax seed oil is just food-safe BLO).

When I apply BLO, I generally pour some onto the surface and spread it around with a rag to a generally even coat. I continue to do this until the surface doesn't soak in any more of the oil. After wiping off the excess, I'll then use a clean rag to clean up the surface of any remaining oil that the soiled rag missed. Then let the surface sit for an hour or two to make sure nothing else seeps out. If it does, clean it up like you did previously.

There would be no issue with following the instructions on the GERTON table top, which has you reapplying every few days for a while until the surface is saturated. However, this is more labor- and time-intensive, and to be honest, you probably won't notice too big of a difference from my instructions above.

Note that BLO-soaked rags have a chance of autoignition if left in a pile, so make sure you allow them to dry out flat and away from any fuel sources. Or just chuck them in a fireplace if you're having a fire anyway.

Also, is there another (better) alternative for my use? The color of the table top is fine as is and I prefer mat surface finish over glossy finish.

If you want a matte finish, BLO is a good way to go. It preserves the color (mostly) of the wood and leaves the tactile finish of the wood the same. Using a film finish will result in that plasticy feel you get on some furniture.

Otherwise, if you're looking for a matte finish using a different type of oil/varnish, a matte polyurethane will work, as will Danish oil as @JasonRDalton suggested.

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    I agree you can get a matte water-based 'clear' polyurethane which will certainly be hard enough wearing, although it will make your table look more plastic. If you want it to feel like wood, the best option is Danish oil. If you can get a product like OrganOil Danish Oil I would, as it also smells beautiful, too. – Benjamin R Aug 18 '15 at 23:14
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For use as a computer desk, I'd go with a polyurethane. Much harder, less likely to gouge or scrape the wood, and you be done in a weekend, provided the weather's not terrible.

I'd probably shoot for an oil based poly for hardness, or a water based one if you want to be able to clean up without smelly solvents.

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