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So I have stained and oiled my project (well... oiling is ongoing right now for me buts lets pretend!). Is that it? Am I done? Assuming it is fully cured my project is complete? This is not a question of appearance or aesthetics as that is subjective. More of can the oil survive as the outer finish.

Most of the projects I work on just use white wood, like pine, and the odd one I get lucky with an oak pallet. I don't know if the wood in use matters. Can oiling be the final step in finishing a project or do I need to throw a coat of varnish, or some other finish, on it?

The pictures in this answer show some works with just oil and other with oil and varnish or lacquer. That suggest is could work if I just leave the oil.

If I leave the oil and pass of the project to another person for their use can they get away with not oiling it themselves? This is not a butcher block or bread board but a piece of furniture. Any other implications to consider beyond that?

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  • I do my best when asking questions but is there something wrong with these people care to share?
    – Matt
    Sep 29 '15 at 16:23
  • The question is vague, easily researched, and highly subjective. Your project is done when you say it's done -- if you're happy with just the oil, you're done. If your project is going to experience hard or frequent use, you might want more protection than just the oil.
    – Caleb
    Oct 2 '15 at 17:55
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    @Caleb We have already established in meta that any and all question can be asked even if they are easily searchable. We want the content here so when people are looking they end up at WW.SE. The question was not about appearances but where oil can just be used as the final step. I have never used oil before and wasn't sure if leaving it bare was good enough. Almost every picture I saw appeared varnished or some other finish on top of the oil. In essence your last comment is also a partial answer.
    – Matt
    Oct 2 '15 at 18:16
  • I was responding to your comment -- seemed to me that you were wondering about the reason that someone had downvoted. I haven't yet voted on this question in either direction, but I can understand why someone would find that "this question does not show any research; it is unclear or not useful" and so I tried to point out the flaws. The subjectivity here isn't limited to appearance; whether an oil finish is "good enough" in general is a matter of opinion, and also subject to factors such as environment, wood species, type of project, type of oil, etc.
    – Caleb
    Oct 2 '15 at 18:55
  • The fact that ww.se is open to searchable questions doesn't mean that you shouldn't do some research. You could really improve this question by including references to existing sources and more information about the project and how it will be used, e.g.: I've read X, Y, and Z, and there seems to be a lot of disagreement about whether one should apply varnish over an oil finish. I'm working on a cherry dining table that will receive little routine maintenance. What, if any, additional finishing steps should I consider and why?
    – Caleb
    Oct 2 '15 at 19:06
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Can oiling be the final step in finishing a project or do I need to throw a coat of varnish, or some other finish, on it?

This is a subjective question. Obviously oiling alone is fine for some woodworkers, but it's not for others for reasons that go beyond practical considerations of expected use for the piece in question — aesthetics being such an important factor for some people.

Can be? Yes, most definitely.

Is it enough to finish a project? Depends on the user and the project.

On a purely practical level, if you need decent waterproofing then oil alone doesn't fulfil the requirements (even a fully-developed oil finish adds surprisingly little water-resistance to wood).

If I leave the oil and pass of the project to another person for their use can they get away with not oiling it themselves?

Yes. Broadly speaking, assuming they take care of it in certain ways, e.g. by using paste wax or another type of furniture polish every now and then (even once a year is better than nothing).

Because oiled finishes are in the wood and not on the wood the wood in question is quite important. A very hard wood like oak when oiled holds up much better over time than pine with just oil on it, to get something of the same durability on a softwood you'd generally need to use a film-building finish, e.g. varnish or lacquer, as your topcoat.

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  • In my case it is pine. I need to put on something else for protection. Man, finishing can be an involved process. If I end up varnishing anyway makes me wonder why I bothered with oil in some cases. I see that it adds colour but if I stained already then I already added colour. It does give it warmth though...... OK... It depends on what end result I am looking for and the overall quality of my work. Thanks.
    – Matt
    Sep 29 '15 at 13:12
  • @Matt, "If I end up varnishing anyway makes me wonder why I bothered with oil in some cases." yes indeed! Many users these days just use oil for appearances, to 'pop the grain', but in many cases it actually makes zero difference in appearance, particularly if you thin your first coat or two of varnish (e.g. 1:1) which turns it into a penetrating finish.
    – Graphus
    Sep 29 '15 at 17:43
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    I am going to try several coats and see how it buffs. If I don't like the look I might varnish over but if done right I think oil will suffice.
    – Matt
    Sep 30 '15 at 4:34

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