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After sanding my wood table with sandpaper grit 80, 180 and finally 240, I applied a first layer of a mixture of 25% turpentine and 75% raw linseed oil, then two layers of 100% raw linseed oil.

After 48 hours the table shows no signs of drying. I realize that I should have used turpentine or other drying agents on all layers, but it's too late.

Is there anything I can do to speed up the drying process? Would sanding it again with a very fine sandpaper (grit 240?) help? Wiping off excess oil with a cloth lightly soaked in turpentine? Adding a layer of beeswax? Any other tip?

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I realize that I should have used turpentine or other drying agents

Turpentine doesn't really promote the drying of linseed oil despite many references to the contrary. In a woodworking context what it does is thin the mixture so that less oil is actually applied, and that obviously dries more quickly than more oil.

Is there anything I can do to speed up the drying process?

Provide plenty of air for the linseed oil to react with. Linseed oil 'dries' by oxidation and it needs air to do so.

Higher temperatures help quite a bit too, but the main thing is to ensure there's plenty of moving air going over the table.

Assuming you do nothing to the table but give it plenty of air the surface should be reasonably 'dry' in about a week (assuming all excess was wiped away after every coat as should be done). But expect it to take many months to be more fully cured.

Would sanding it again with a very fine sandpaper (grit 240?) help?

You'll probably clog the sandpaper fairly quickly but sanding will remove oil-saturated wood and what's left in the surface will dry more quickly.

Wiping off excess oil with a cloth lightly soaked in turpentine?

Yes again this will remove some oil from the table and what's left will then dry faster.

Adding a layer of beeswax?

No. This will slow the curing of the oil.

The problem with removing some of the oil is that you still need to oil further to give the table a proper finish. In my experience four full-strength coats of linseed oil are the bare minimum needed for a decent finish, and 7-10 is usually much better. With boiled linseed oil* this process takes as much as two weeks, with raw linseed oil I guess it could take 3-6 months!


*Not boiled but instead has metallic drying agents added to speed curing.

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  • Awesome, thanks for the great answer! As I described in a comment to Ast Pace's answer, I've put my table in the upright position in a warm room with a fan blowing (cold) air on it 24 hour a day. It seems to help somewhat. I've also wipped the excess oil (if there was any; the table looks dry but touching it leaves a slight oily residue on the fingers) with a rag lightly soaked with turpentine. – François Beaune Feb 27 '18 at 15:23
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    @FrançoisBeaune As a general thing when you oil wood you should wipe the surface dry enough that you don't get an oily residue on the fingers if you wipe them over afterwards. This is the reason that oil finishes build up so slowly, there's an absolutely tiny amount of oil actually left in/on the wood. – Graphus Feb 28 '18 at 14:53
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You really cannot speed up the drying of raw linseed oil - it takes somewhere between a long time and forever to dry.

Your best bet is to wipe off as much of the raw linseed oil as you can using rags. You can try more fine sanding, but the sandpaper will clog up very rapidly.

Once you get to a point where you are satisfied that no more raw linseed oil is coming off, apply multiple coats of boiled linseed oil.

One common adage is to apply one coat per day for a week, then one coat per week for a month, one coat per month for a year and one coat per year forever. While this is extreme, it does drive home the point that a boiled linseed oil finish should be maintained regularly.

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  • Thanks! Regarding wiping off excess oil using rags, should I use any turpentine or just dry rags? – François Beaune Feb 27 '18 at 8:12
  • Here is one thing I tried in the meantime: I put my table upright and I placed a fan in front of it. The fan has been blowing for a little less than 24 hours and it seems to have helped the drying process. Is oil likely to start sweating again once I stop blowing air on it? – François Beaune Feb 27 '18 at 8:15
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    Use dry rags. I can't say whether sweating might occur when you remove the fan, but if it does occur, wipe it off. You are probably over-thinking this whole issue. Relax. – Ast Pace Feb 28 '18 at 20:23
  • Thanks for the advice, Ast Pace. I'm not as much over-thinking this as I'm trying to get back my wooden desk as soon as possible. In the meantime I'm using a temporary desk which is highly uncomfortable. I hadn't expected oiling my table to be such a long adventure! – François Beaune Mar 1 '18 at 8:00
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It will eventually dry and soak in. Raw linseed not boiled is what the Military used to dip stocks in. It is great at keeping wood from drying out and cracking. They then turned to Raw Tung oil, which smells kinda like peanuts and is waterproof. Both take forever to dry. Both will dry in a week if wood is very dry( by oxidation) I’ve seen wood soak it up but then slow down. Linseed will darken wood a good bit, Tung oil just barely. Linseed can mold Tung oil no. Sometimes after thoroughly dry I put Tung oil finish or tru-oil on top to seal the finish. Or boiled linseed, it has chemical dryers. Raw linseed and Tung oil are non toxic and can be applied by hand.

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