I'm a newbie to woodwork and surprised myself by successfully creating an even Black Japan stain on some Tasmanian Oak. I then decided to finish it with Danish Oil. Somehow I decided to brush on a heavy coat of the oil and leave it until it dries. A week later the wood has an inconsistent tacky/ gummy and shiny finish and the grain seems to have risen. I've read that wiping down the surface daily with mineral turpentine or methylated spirits will eventually remove the tacky surface. The issue is that the wood is also stained and in the small section I tried this on the turps stripped about 25% of the stain.

TLDR: What can I do to remove the tacky/ gummy Danish Oil finish from Oak without removing the stain?


enter image description here

Stained and Oiled enter image description here

enter image description here

  • I don't want this to sound over-critical so I left this out of my Answer, but the results in the first photo show you didn't get the "even Black Japan stain" you think you did. A "black Japanned" finish is a solid, essentially featureless black. It's supposed to replicate black lacquer work, which is jet black and completely obscures the material underneath.
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 8:38
  • I used Feast Watson's Black Japan stain and I applied one coat, left it on for one minute and wiped it off. My point that the stain evenly dispersed through the wood. I wish I used the same technique with the oil. I don't know how I arrived at the decision to flood it and leave it to soak. Jan 8, 2017 at 8:49
  • I'm throwing the wood in the bin and purchasing a new length. Cost-benefit. Jan 9, 2017 at 2:27
  • Ouch, don't say that. I wouldn't chuck it, it's still perfectly good wood. Once you're committed to the idea of starting again removing the surface to get back to bare wood becomes a much easier proposition, you can just plane, scrape and/or sand (remember this doesn't need to be done all in one go, you can do it piecemeal every time you have a few spare minutes in the workshop).
    – Graphus
    Jan 10, 2017 at 8:48

1 Answer 1


What can I do to remove the tacky/ gummy Danish Oil finish from Oak without removing the stain?

I suspect you're not going to be able to I'm afraid. Well done for doing a test but your experiment indicates that the least aggressive method, wiping with spirits, also removes your stain. You could try the meths (US: denatured alcohol) and see if it works for you which is my best suggestion but I think it'll have a similar effect.

To fully remove a partially-dried "Danish oil"-type finish1 you may have to resort to using acetone. This has a stronger/more aggressive solvent action and therefore is more likely to attack the stain than either of the above options. It won't remove all of it, but it can attack all stain types to some degree and along with the rubbing you'll probably get a very similar effect as in the pictures above, if not more pronounced.

Once you've removed as much of the "Danish oil" as you can by solvent means some of the finish will remain in the surface fibres of the wood, which is a problem if you want to re-stain as this will resist the penetration of all wood stains.

So the bad news here is that if you want to stain again to get back to the colour you had originally you generally have to remove the surface entirely to get back to bare wood. In addition to the fact of having to start completely from scratch it also means you'll lose some thickness from every piece from the planing, scraping and/or sanding you need to do to take off the contaminated surface wood.

Take-home message on finishing
Test first. Always test first when doing something new, particularly when you're inexperienced and don't know how various finishes work. But it is good advice for anyone of any level to test the finishing process they propose to use on scraps before committing to working on the finished piece — the finish, and the wood itself, can often surprise you.

And obviously it's usually a good idea to read and follow the instructions2. The instructions on the "Danish oil" you bought I'm sure would have told you what you know now, that you should wipe away most of it after applying it to the surface and letting it soak in.

1 Usually these are a blend of oil and varnish, heavily diluted.

2 Unfortunately not always. As just one example most commercial "wood conditioners" have instructions that don't give the best results with the product.

  • Thanks for your reply. I'm trying to decide between Methylated Spirits and Mineral Turpentine. What is the least harsh? Jan 8, 2017 at 10:08
  • Mineral turpentine is Australian for mineral spirits/white spirit in the UK (usually exactly the same sort of thing, poss. identical) and generally it would be the weakest and least aggressive solvent. But the exact nature of the stain's chemistry is important because solvent action is related to chemistry. Acetone for example is up the scale in terms of solvent strength, but can have no effect on shellac even though it is dissolved by meths, a weaker solvent. [contd]
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 11:38
  • Remember if you'll need to stain again it doesn't matter what you use since you need to get back to bare wood anyway. An alternative would be to use a coloured overcoat or finish instead of a stain proper, which if you are going for black doesn't have to be anything exotic or expensive, you could simply use thinned black paint (oil-based). Two coats of that is generally a great cheap way of getting a black finish on wood and it doesn't look like paint at all.
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 11:42
  • Ok, I've just tested three products on three sections. 1. Wax and Grease remover (removed tackiness slightly but not the sheen) 2. Methylated Spirits (stripped back the oil aggressively and pulled out the stain leaving a really lacklustre surface with less grain) 3. Mineral Turpentine (way less aggressive but uniformly removed most of the Danish Oil with minimal effect on the stain). I tried different dilutions. Jan 8, 2017 at 12:23
  • 1
    @ChrisH Yes this sort of thing is highly dependent on the cure of previous coats (hence the softness and drag). Also surprisingly much variation from brand to brand in 'drying' time, from recoat times of as little as a few hours to the following day being advisable.
    – Graphus
    Jan 8, 2017 at 19:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.