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BLO / Danish Oil for Butternut? Shellac finish?

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  • BLO / Danish Oil for Butternut? Shellac finish?

    I am about to finish a carving of a bear in Butternut. I'm thinking about using boiled linseed oil or danish oil on the carving, as I like how it darkens the wood and makes the grain stand out. I haven't used oil-based finishes before, so I'm hoping someone can answer some basic questions:

    1. Is there any significant difference between Boiled Linseed Oil and Danish Oil (probably Watco)? I've read about the chemical difference, but they still seem similar in how they look.

    2. Other than sanding, is there anything I should do to the wood before applying these oils? Any sealer, etc. needed or recommended for butternut?

    3. What's the best way to apply these oils to a carving-in-the-round? Watco Danish Oil, for example, says to flood it with oil, but I'm not sure that's possible for my carving. It seems like everything but the top would drip off.

    4. Finally, I've heard of folks adding a layer of shellac and wax over an oil finish. Is this to make it look better, or for other reasons? Why or why not should I consider this?

    I should note that the carving will just be sitting on a shelf indoors.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    Last edited by JPA77; 09-06-2017, 10:06 AM.

  • #2
    JPA77, I like the danish oil, and it does have some blo in it, but it has less smell, and drys a little quicker. You can then put on a coat of Deft Satin finish after the danish oil drys for a few days. You could also just put on a couple of Deft and be done. I have done both, and been happy with both

    Time to experiment, Tom
    If I took the time to fix all my mistakes, I wouldn,t have time to make new ones.


    • #3
      1. I believe the danish oil may have something added that helps it dry quicker. BLO takes quite a while to dry (weeks or more).
      2. Any kind of sealer would prevent the oil from penetrating and it would easily rub off and possibly take even longer to dry.
      3. I would use a chip brush to put a heavy coat on. If it was small enough, I would dip it in BLO. As for danish, I've always applied it with a rag.
      4. It may be to add some protection.

      All of that said, I no longer use BLO as a finish, although I know many carvers who are very successful with it. I stopped using it for several reasons:
      1. It takes a really long time to dry, especially if you are using multiple coats. It seemed to keep me from completing my carvings in a reasonable time.
      2. It doesn't seem to offer much protection, it attracts dust, and it changed appearance over time. I tried different methods touted by others, including mixing it with other finishes and thinners and didn't really like the results. One carving seemed to develop a whitish blush underneath the lacquer sprayed over it as a finish coat, completely changing the appearance of the carving after several years.
      3. The rags and materials used to apply BLO can spontaneously combust unless properly disposed of.

      So I stopped using BLO as a sealer before painting and as a finish coat after painting. I use Minwax Satin Polyurethane in a can. I like to buy the smaller cans, so that it is fresh and really thin for brushing on. I flood it on with a chip brush, let it sit briefly, then blot it dry with paper towels. This gives a matte finish that enhances the grain of the wood and provides a protective durable finish. I have used it for years with great success. But i would recommend that you try whatever process you choose on some scrap pieces first to see how it looks and what you like.
      'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"


      • #4
        Butternut often has a beautiful grain figure and we like to show it off in our finished carvings. It is an "open" grain, meaning it has pores which need to be filled or sealed like walnut. In fact it is sometimes called American or White Walnut. Some woods and finishes change over time though I haven't experience this much with butternut. Many oil based finishes like varnish tend to turn yellow with time. I have gone to water-based finishes for all of my recent carvings, both as a sealer and final coat. I like Minwax Polycrylic.


        • #5
          Danish oil is a mixture of BLO, mineral spirits and varnish. Instead of Danish, I would use Watco teak oil, it is about the same mixture except the varnish also has UV protectors added Danish is lighter colored than teak oil if that matters. It will also be a little bit darker.


          • #6
            Thanks everyone for the advice! I think I will give Danish Oil a try. I've already tried it out on scrap wood, and it looks nice. I will let you all know how it turns out.