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Danish Oil Finish: What You Need to be Wary of

Danish Oil Finish: What You Need to be Wary of

Danish Oil Finish: What You Need to be Wary of

Danish oil is an extremely popular wood finish due to its low prep time and ease of application.

Danish oil is a wood-finishing product made from polymerized linseed or tung oil. Its composition can vary depending on the manufacturer. Danish oil hardens when exposed to air, creating a high-quality and long-lasting finish that protects wood from cracking and peeling.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of Danish oil finishes, including information about their composition, quality of finish, coating process/techniques, etc.

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What is Danish Oil? Explained

Danish oil on hand
Danish oil

Danish oil is a combination of the following:

  • Finish (tung oil or boiled linseed oil)
  • Varnish (exterior varnish or polyurethane), and
  • Thinner (mineral spirits or turpentine).

It is known for its natural finish and offers air-hardened protection, improved wood color, and water resistance.

Since it doesn't have a fixed mixing ratio between ingredients, their quality and finish vary among manufacturers.

Danish oil offers a great combo of protection and beauty. It is also easy to apply and has all the advantages of an oil finish.

It gives any wood a beautiful, durable finish that adds color and protects it from environmental threats like moisture and UV radiation.

Additional varnish or polyurethane can be used as an exterior finish for added moisture, wear, and chemical protection.

To aid in the absorption of the finish, use mineral spirits or turpentine. Though other oils, varnishes, and thinners may be used, these are the most common when making Danish oil.

You can use Danish oil on unfinished or raw wood surfaces, such as cabinets, desks, countertops, sculpted wood pieces, musical instruments, window frames, etc.

danish oil on spice rack
Danish oil finish on a spice rack

Make sure not to use Danish oil on treated, stained, or painted wood, as treated wood won't absorb it.

Danish oil also offers protection from bugs, and pests for wood furniture, woodwork, and carvings, helping to stop rot and degradation.

You can preserve your wood carving for a long time with Danish oil.

The following are the specifications commonly seen on Danish oil finishes from different manufacturers.

ParametersDanish oil
Resin typeSemi-drying and natural-drying oils
SolventsMineral spirits
Solids by weight42 - 49%
Practical coverage at recommended DFT (Dry film thickness)It depends on the porosity and kind of wood
Dry times at 75-85 ℉ 6 - 8 hours
Shelf lifeThree years
Technical data on Danish oil

How to Prepare for a Danish Oil Finish

Before applying Danish oil, it's essential to prepare the surface you are coating. If you're using new wood, you should finish and sand it along the grain.

If the surface has been oiled before, test a small area first and check whether you're getting the required result.

If there's any varnish, shellac, lacquer, or stain on the wood surface, use a paint remover to remove it and then apply Danish oil.

To remove wax finishes, dirt, and grease, use a rag dampened with white spirit and rub the workpiece surface vigorously.

For external use, remove and restore any decaying wood and sand gray wood until it has a smooth and bright surface.

Danish oil should not be used in moist conditions, and the temperature should be above 10 degrees Celsius for good drying. Avoid applying in the presence of direct sunlight.

How to Finish with Danish Oil

Applying Danish oil is easier than other oil finishes. Once you finish, you'll have a beautiful hand-rubbed surface.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Finishing abrasive pads
  • Rubber gloves
  • A neat rag
  • A lint-free cloth
  • A bristle brush
  • Sandpapers in 120, 150, and 400 grit
Applying danish oil on pine
Applying danish oil on pine using cloth

Preparation of the Surface

Sanding a pine surface
Sanding a pine surface

Use 120, 150, and 400 grit sandpaper to sand the wood surface and remove any particles and dust. It would help if you used rags to clear up the residual dust.

Utilize a brush to apply Danish oil

When applying the Danish oil, spread it evenly across the wood grain without missing any spots.

It's okay if your brush strokes aren't perfect. You can remove them in the later stages.

Applying Danish oil over an oak wood
Applying Danish oil over an oak wood

The areas that absorb the oil faster will require more coats. You can check if the oil has been fully absorbed by shining a light on the surface.

After that, give it about 20 minutes for the oil to sink into the wood.

Clean Up the Area

After applying the Danish oil, use a clean rag to remove any leftover oil from the surface. Pay special attention to areas where the brush marks are visible.

Wiping away any excess oil will give you a non-glossy finish. Doing this also prevents surfaces from becoming blotchy or sticky.

Wiping off excess danish oil from pine wood surface
Wiping off excess danish oil from pine wood surface

Dry it for six hours

Let the initial application of Danish oil dry completely inside and outside the wood for at least six hours before applying another layer.

If the humidity in your area is high, the drying process may take longer. If you add another layer before the last coat has dried, problems can occur.

Ensure you touch the dried surface without leaving a stain before adding another layer.

Use a cloth to apply Danish oil.

Apply a second coat of Danish oil with a lint-free cloth.

Make sure the entire wooden surface is wiped down, not leaving any area out.

To ensure the wood absorbs the oil properly and the residue does not stick again, wipe the wood in the direction of the wood grain.

After the second layer is done, use cloths to remove any extra oil, but be gentle not to remove the first layer of oil.

Lightly sand the surface.

After giving it a Danish oil soak, you can softly sand the surface by wet sanding with 400 grit sandpaper or abrasive pads.

sanding a danish oil coated pine wood surface
Sanding a danish oil coated pine wood surface

Use 3 - 5 coats

To properly use Danish oil, apply it to the wood surface three to five times. Wait for each layer to dry before lightly sanding it. Then, apply the next layer.

Use Poly as an Additional Layer of Protection

Once the last layer of Danish oil finish has completely dried, apply a single layer of poly (polyurethane) to add extra protection to your wood.

However, be careful not to use too much poly, as it can make your wood look greasy. You only need one layer of poly to keep the original look of the wood.

Danish Oil Finish: The Good and Bad

FactorDanish oil
Interior and External useSuitable for both
Brush or clothEither
BurnishingBurnish using a soft cloth to get a glow
Coat thicknessCustomizable
Number of coatsDepends on usage and type of wood
Coverage12.5 m2/l (600 sq ft/gallon)
Curing time6 hours to dry and 14 days to cure
Repair and MaintenanceEasy to maintain
Spontaneous CombustionRags used for the process must be disposed of properly to prevent exothermic oxidation.
Factors affecting Danish oil finish

Danish oil is suitable for all kinds of furniture. It penetrates deeply into the wood and enhances its grain with no issues.

However, due to environmental factors such as temperature changes, insect infestations, moisture, and UV radiation, Danish oil lasts only around two years.

To keep your outdoor furniture weatherproof, reapply Danish oil yearly.

Brush vs. Cloth

Comparison of danish oil applied using cloth and brush on pine oil
Comparison of danish oil applied using cloth (left) and brush (center) on pine wood.

You have two options when applying Danish oil: a brush or a lint-free cloth. If you take the proper steps, it doesn't matter which one you choose.

Danish oil absorbs quickly into the wood, so it is recommended to use a brush for the initial layer for the best finish.

Burnishing

Before each application of the Danish oil, you should burnish the surface with a soft cloth or steel wool.

Doing this each time will create a better glow. The more you brush the surface, the brighter the glow will appear.

Coat (thickness, number, coverage, etc.)

You can choose the amount of Danish oil to use based on the result you want to achieve.

Generally, 3 - 5 coats are enough for a smooth, natural-looking finish that provides excellent protection.

However, this may vary depending on the type of wood and how it will be used.

If you use more than five coats, the surface may take a long time to dry and cure, and it could look blotchy.

To get a protective, non-glossy surface, 3 - 5 coats are enough. It covers an area of 12.5 m2/l (600 sq ft/gallon).

Curing Time

Wait at least six hours for the final Danish oil coat to dry before using it. After that, the Danish oil coat needs about 14 days to cure and fully reveal its actual color.

Repair and Maintenance

To keep your Danish oil finish looking great, you should apply it once or twice every two years.

With proper care, it can last for many years. But, if your furniture is exposed to harsh weather, you may need to reapply the oil once a year.

Before the existing coating wears off, reapply Danish oil to protect the wood from moisture and rot.

If you have wood that is already rotten, use a product like Flex Seal before applying Danish oil.

It is essential to keep an eye on Danish oil-finished furniture and take care of it regularly.

Spontaneous Combustion

To stay safe, you should always dry your rags flat before throwing them away or soaking them in water.

Rags used on Danish oil could potentially catch fire due to exothermic oxidation.

DIY Danish Oil - How to make it?

From stores, you can buy regular Danish oils such as Watco or Tried & True, which have standard formulations and charming finishes.

But you can mix and make your own Danish oil formulation for more control over the finish.

Combine equal parts of poly, boiled linseed oil, and mineral spirits (each 1/3). Pour the ingredients into a glass jar and mix them well.

Make sure to avoid regular linseed oil, which won't fully dry, making the finish harder.

To get better moisture protection, replace poly with marine varnish and tung oil with boiling linseed oil.

However, remember that tung oil will take longer to dry, so you'll need to wait longer between applications.

Combining 1/2 poly, 1/4 oil, and 1/4 thinner will give you the desired wear and tear protection while keeping natural wood beauty like an oil finish.

To get even more protection, apply a coat or two of wipe-on poly after the Danish oil finish has completely dried (give it a few days to a week).

Store-bought Danish oil will work well for general usage, and you can even buy it in different shades for specific staining effects.

How does Danish Oil compare to other finishes?

Danish, tung, linseed, and teak oil
Danish, tung, linseed, and teak oil
Danish oilTung oilLinseed oilTeak oil
FinishMatteTransparent, wet finish satinSatinSatin or semi-gloss
Drying time4-6 hours24 hours24-72 hours8-10 hours
UV protectionProvidesPolymerized tung oil providesDoesn’t provideProvides
Danish vs tung vs linseed vs teak oil

Danish oil and teak oil are different in how they work. Danish oil leaves a satin or semi-gloss finish, while teak oil leaves a matte finish.

Danish oil is more water-resistant and offers better protection against wear and tear than teak oil.

If you want to shield outdoor furniture from UV rays, teak oil is better than Danish oil.

Danish oil works better for freshly cut, untreated wood because it dries faster than linseed oil.

Linseed oil is an excellent finish, but Danish oil is a better choice because it has a variety of finishes and advantages.

If you're looking for a fast-drying oil, Danish oil is preferred over tung oil as it dries in 6 - 8 hours, compared to 24 hours for tung oil.

Danish oil contains some of the same qualities as tung oil, but tung oil is more eco-friendly. And unlike Danish oil, tung oil does not darken the wood.

Try them on a small wood piece to choose the right one for your project.

Final Thoughts

Danish oil is, without a doubt, one of the clearest finishes to apply. On top of that, it also provides many other benefits.

It can protect items like art pieces, cabinets, bookshelves, occasional tables, and even chairs from light to moderate use.

Also, it can make any wood look beautiful and quickly be restored since it is applied lightly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will more coats of Danish oil darken the wood?

Yes, adding extra layers of Danish oil will make the wood darker. Remember, though, that the final color of the wood depends on what type of wood you're using.

Do you need a mask for Danish oil?

It is essential to wear a mask when applying a Danish oil finish to prevent inhaling the fumes. Inhaling these fumes can cause headaches, vomiting, and nausea. Therefore, you should take proper safety precautions when handling this product.

Does Danish oil dry sticky?

Yes, danish oil can become sticky if applied too quickly. Also, avoid spraying disinfectants on the oil when it is freshly used, as this can cause it to become sticky.

About V Susan

Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com

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V Susan

Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com

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