Boiled Linseed Oil what everyone uses?

I’m new to woodworking, and in my searching it seems if you want a nice finish without dealing with stain and sealers, that boiled linseed oil is the go-to.

Is this the stuff to get? or any other good/simple options?

I’m working on some pieces to be used indoors and like to just bring out the richness of the wood without having to do shellac and stains.

Also about to do some outdoor signs and would maybe shellac over the linseed oil (unless that doesn’t work)

I’ve been using lacquer, myself. Deft brand, in the rattlecan. Often with a coat of Minwax Natural stain under it to bring out the wood a bit more, but often just over bare wood. It makes a very nice finish, sands glassy smooth, and drys to recoat in about ten minutes. It’s not nearly so twitchy about application times as polyurethane either!

Boiled linseed oil never seems to fully cure — in the past I’d then apply wax, but then that needs to be maintained.

Agree w/ DanBrown that rattlecan Deft lacquer is a good option, if one can spray — it’s a "hot’’ finish, so can be reapplied and repaired.

A low tech option is applying wax — using a “polissoir” is now in vogue — I’ve done that sort of thing, sometimes applying a food safe oil beforehand.

Great to hear and didn’t know that about Linseed and Waxing. That doesn’t sound fun.

Will check out the lacquer stuff. Unfortunately my Lowes/Home Depots (in GA) don’t stock the Deft lacquer

Dang, that’s a bummer. Our local Lowes does not, but Home Depot does. Failing that, you can always use a spray polyurethane. It just has a narrow application window and you have to pay close attention to the recoat times. Dries slowly as well, but produces a tremendously durable finish. Unfortunately, that finish is not a repairable one like lacquer is. I use poly on signs for outdoor use fairly often, in a large number of coats for maximum UV protection. Just plan several days for finishing, due to the protracted drying time.

1 Like

Looks like the only thing our Lowes carries is the Rust-Oleum kind and the Minwax kind in the rattle can.

Maybe lacquer is lacquer is lacquer?

I’ve never tried either of those, but lacquer DOES tend to be lacquer, more or less. I’d definitely give them a shot! (Pun intended)

Different brands of lacquer should be compatible (just check the specific formulation) — the difference is how the cans are filled and how well engineered the nozzle is. Deft is a brand which I’ve had good experience w/ and can recommend.

I would suspect that Lacquer from differing manufacturers is basically the same thing, lacquer.

Like @WillAdams says the formulations may vary slightly but they should be pretty much compatible with one another. I’ve mixed brands with no issues in the past.

Polyurethane is wonderful for it’s durability but as mentioned, repairability of the finish is virtually non existent. Also, standard poly is not recommended for outdoor projects due to the lack of uv protection in the finish. The finish itself doesnt break down, but rather the bond between the finish and the surface it’s covering degrades to the point of separation and leads to flaking and peeling of the finish.

For outdoor projects I use Spar varnish, also known as marine varnish or spar polyurethane. It has the uv blocking components in it to stand up to the sun’s destructive ability. But even this need maintainance from time to time in the form of a recoat application.

Shellac over oil WILL NOT WORK. Think oil and water. shellac is alcohol based and oil is , well, oil.

oil over shellac is pointless as well since the shellac will seal the surface and the oil wont penetrate at all and then you will be saying bad words as you clean up the mess.

1 Like

IKEA do a tin of linseed/wood oil with an emulsifier called Behandla. Designed for indoor use. Works really well on everything I’ve tried it on and for what you get its cheap too. I used it on their kitchen work tops when I fitted the kitchen a year or so ago and have been using it every since :smile:

Danish oil is similar but here it’s usually teng oil based.

Both give a satin finish that I find very attractive.



True, you definitely want to use outdoor-grade poly with the UV-blocking additives if you’re going to be using it outside! I’ve been using Varathane Outdoor “UV Resistant” spar urethane for mine, so far it’s been working well. Time will tell, though.

My 2 cents, a lot of good comments in here already.

Shellac will be very disappointing outdoors as an outer coat - shellac isn’t a great moisture barrier, as it is just an alcohol solvent - in fact it’s well known to get milky ‘rings’ in it if you put on a damp cold glass on a shellaced furniture. Use it more often than not under another finish to prevent blochiness from uneven stain absorption, or as a ‘sanding sealer’ (e.g. provide a more uniform base for a ‘tinted’ lacquer, or what car custom painters would call a candy clear-coat).

BLO is a good color or pop layer to create that holographic “chatoyance” effect - especially if diluted down with naptha or mineral spirits (hereafter ‘MS’) - but it doesn’t really harden into much of a protective coat on its own. It will also yellow/darken somewhat with time (can take a long time - no panic). IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO CURE. If you’re using BLO under anything - urethane, lacquer, don’t care - give it a good long week or so first to be sure it’s dry, or the next coat may orange peel, bubble, fisheye, cloud…depending. Old school finish is a good BLO soak, let it cure, then buff on a good wax. Fine for indoors, not so much for outdoors, and will require long-term rewaxing. Provides a kind of mellow glow, like the 2nd snifter of a good whiskey.

Nitrocellulose-based lacquer (Deft and others) is a nice thin coat, repairable, pretty clear, rapid drying (but takes a while to fully harden like any other), and is usable indoors or out. It can trap moisture underneath it and fog if applied in overly humid conditions, or exposed to a lot of external moisture, but a repair coat will heal that a lot of times. It can be tinted with the right dye chemistry (or even a couple drops of most oil-based stains) and as a result can be used to help even out color. A lot of people who work with cherry - which darkens with age, will tint a lacquer coat to give a bit of ‘aged’ color to the piece when new, then as time goes on the dye color fades while the wood darkens naturally. The biggest issue with lacquer in my mind is it’s nasty stuff, solvent-wise - need good ventilation and ideally want to protect yourself from inhaling it much more than with any of the others mentioned so far.

Polyurethane (or urethane - one is just a cross-linked variant of the other) aren’t bad go-to-coats for interior use. They build some, harden pretty well, stay a little bit ‘soft’ so they can absorb a little bit of damage w/out cracking, tend to be pretty clear (oil based will be a tad yellower than waterborne, but waterborne tend to be a little less perfectly clear in exchange). I’ve used it a lot on interior projects. I’ve used urethane on hardwood stairs and they still look great about 8 years along. On exterior projects it will look good for about a year at most in my conditions (TX), then start to yellow, fog, peel off like a snakeskin, etc. When it fails outside, it fails BAD.

None of the above as a finish formulation offer much of any UV protection to the wood beneath on their own. The so called Spar Urethane (NOT the same thing as spar varnish - see below) was originally named that way because it stayed a little more ‘rubbery’ than other urethanes thus it would flex rather than crack off of moving things like spars - it still isn’t better for UV protection of the wood beneath.

Today’s outdoor-branded finishes, whether they’re poly or urethanes or alkyds (oops, I’m showing my hand early) add UV blocking additives to the finish - like sunblock on your skin - that attempt to protect the finish a bit longer, and as a result give a little bit of protection to the wood by shadowing - but they only extend the life some, not make them UV-proof.

When polyurethane or urethane fails due to UV it tends to de-adhere from the surface it’s on, but not cleanly. I would tend to recommend against it for all outdoor projects, based on painful past experience before I learned better.

Now there is such as thing as a ‘spar varnish’ that has nothing to do with urethane, poly- or mono. Brands like Cabot’s (I think it’s a subbrand of Varathane). It’s an alkyd resin. Like the urethanes it’s oil based and can be put on over BLO after a proper cure, and stays a little bit ‘rubbery’ vs. ‘rigid’ to take some flexing with thermal variations and such. It can be thinned with naptha or MS to go on in wiping coats vs. brushed on in thicker coats depending on how concerned you are about the quality of the finish surface itself. (I’m a big fan of many thin wiping coats, rubbing out dust nibs only when necessary, vs. brushed on thicker coats sanded back smooth between to get rid of brushstrokes.) The ones marketed as ‘spar varnish’ add UV protectors as with the ‘spar urethanes’ that help protect both the wood a bit and the coating itself.

Their advantage is when the alkyd resin’s deteriorate due to UV and elements, however, they sort of ‘powder’ off of the surface. A little surface sanding with fine grit and a good dusting wipedown with MS and/or tack cloth, followed by a couple refresher coats, and they’re good as new. FAAAAAR easier to maintain long term than urethanes for exterior projects.

We have a mahogany front door and I finished with a thinned BLO soak to get the chatoyance effect, let that cure a good week, then 4 brush coats of Cabot’s spar varnish. That was done 2 years ago and I think next summer I might give it a light sand an a thinned varnish refresh coat. If it was urethane I know it would already be peeling like a snake with eczema. Alkyd varnishes will still yellow with time but by maintaining the thickness (e.g. don’t glom it on) and refreshing periodically as needed you keep that down. The bigger issue is virtually all woods turn more yellow with time themselves (a very few - like walnut - go more ‘grayish’ and lose their brown). Of course bare wood outside that doesn’t rot turns greyish as it dries out…if you’re using something with natural oiliness like cedar or teak, best to use something that works with its natural oils vs. any actual sealer finish. (Look up for example … one of the pics on their website is my dad’s old boat…that stuff rocks.)

For inside wood projects my favorite right now is Pratt and Lambert #38. It’s an alkyd varnish not a polyurethane. Oil based but using soy oils so doesn’t tend to be very yellow (either when new or over time). 50/50 diluted with MS it wipes on and penetrates beautifully, even without a good oil soak beneath.

IMO don’t waste your money on ‘wiping polys’ … buy a small can of normal poly and dilute yourself. Don’t waste your money on ‘satin’ or ‘semi-gloss’ - they just put particles in it to try and diffuse the gloss, which only work if its well stirred…easier to use full gloss and if you want more of a satiny sheen, buff down a bit with ‘0000’ steel wool to flatten the gleam to your taste (the scratches do the same thing as the particulates in terms of scattering light, but in a controllable fashion). So called ‘gel’ or ‘paste’ varnishes (usually poly based) are a pain in the tookus and serve no purpose I can see - they’re just partially cured so they won’t cross-link as well in the long run, supposedly wipe on and back off but diluting works better for wiping, since getting a gel out of profiles and such is a pain whereas a high flow just runs out or can be wicked back out, and if you ever do have to sand them they gunk up your paper in a heartbeat.

And at this point I’ve unloaded well beyond your original question, so I’m going to try and shut up if I can…



If you’re looking for an oil finish, try tung oil. It can be waxed or burnished to give a very nice finish. It’s also known as china wood oil.

I make oak wine barrel outdoor furniture and my favorite coating is Teak oil. It is a combination of linseed oil, lacquer and some distillates drys hard and glossy