Woodworkers Club of Houston

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Using Linseed Oil on a Maple Floor


Q:  My problem is that since applying a first coat of linseed oil on my not too great maple wood floor, I have now a darkened floor and slighly sticky surface.  I followed a friend's advice in using it and lack the experience of using linseed oil other than hand tools. What should I do.  I got rid of the gummy surface problem by scrubbing it with small amounts of kerosene to dislodge the yellowing linseed.  I like the idea of your recipe of mixing a gloss varnish with the oil. But at this point what can I do to bring in some shine to the floor. Thank you (T.Stavros)

A: First, paint thinner would be a better solvent than kerosene. Kerosene leaves an oily residue. And, while paint thinner does leave a slight residue too, it is a lot less than kerosene. If you want to residue, then use Naptha.

OK, I'll assume you used BOILED lineed oil and not raw linseed oil. Raw linseed oil almost never fully cures. Boiled linseed oil is raw linseed oil with chemical driers added to it to cause it to cure faster.

How did you thin the linseed oil, or did you? I always thin linseed oil (with paint thinner, AKA mineral spirits) to get it to soak in better. 50/50 works greats.

There are really (for practical purposes) only 2 pure (straight) oils available. Tung oil and linseed oil. Both oils soak into wood and never leave a film finish on top of the wood. Most of the products you will buy commercially are blends or either tung oil or linseed oil, togehter with a solvent(s) and some type of varnish.

Linseed oil will definitely cause wood to yellow. That's what it does. Over time, it will get darker and darker too.

What I would suggest is a mix of 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 mineral spirits and 1/3 of a good quality floor varnish. 3 coats over 3 days and you'll be happy with the results.

A good quality floor varnish will say "FLOOR" varnish. All polyurethanes are not the same. Some have a lot of thinner already added, and others won't have as many solids. For a floor, you want a high solids polyurethane.

I don't know that I would use a spar varnish on the floor, although if it is good enough for boat decks (and it is), it should hold up inside a house pretty good. It will probably be more maintenance than a high solids poly, but the good news is that spar varnish is spot-repairable, whereas polyurethane is not as forgiving in blending.

Boiled Linseed oil is cheaper than pure tung oil, and a whole lot more available. That's what I would use! Tung oil will darken too.

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