Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Introduction to Danish oil versus normal stain

When we originally bought our kitchen table and then stared at its fugly self for a few days trying to figure out what we would do, Rob's mom and another British friend kept recommending a Linseed/Danish oil treatment. I wanted to be like everyone else and just stain it "Dark Walnut" then follow it up with a coat of poly. Rob very much disliked this idea because he thought that the idea of making one wood look the color of another is cheap (Danish Oil complements a wood tone, it doesn't change it to look like another). And now I agree with him and am SO glad that we argued about it for a week because Dark Walnut stain would just have looked hum drum. 

So, after we sanded the top of the piece down and painted the base Honeymilk, we walked the aisles of Lowes and attempted to find the oil that Jane and Danyel kept nagging us about.

And here it is, we found it at both Lowes and Home Depot, next to the minwax:

Watco Danish Oil is actually a product of Rustoleum, which I only found out right now when I researched it, ha. 

Danish Oil is a penetrating oil, which is obviously oil based, that comes in various wood tones like stain does. It's NOT at all like stain though. Stain sits on the surface of the wood and forms a shellac almost. Danish Oil is absorbed into the wood and penetrates deep down (but not so deep down that you can't sand it away). Think of it like this: Stain is to cheap children's rub on tattoos as Danish Oil is to a good quality Henna. Henna gets into your skin better but it's still not indelible ink. 

Along with this, Danish Oil gives a warm hand rubbed glow to wood-- making it look well loved and antique-y:

Just like butta'

In contrast, staining is more of a sticky "new furniture" look. 

Walnut Stain via YHL

See the difference? My personal opinion is that Danish Oil looks much more hand crafted, wealthy, and less like a DIY job... even though it is. Does that make sense? It just makes wood look expensive, like that gorgeous antique that you drool over every time you go in the thrift store that no one can afford because it is in such perfect condition. So, if you want a piece of furniture to look hand rubbed and craftsmanlike, then use Danish Oil. If you're going for a more modern sleek look, then stain is probably better. 

A second Pro to using Danish Oil is that it doesn't highlight imperfections. Our coffee table was a banged up mess:

After the Danish Oil treatment and a mild sanding (believe me, we did NOT sand out those deep gouges or scratches, we sanded just enough to remove the existing finish and then moved on, no need to kill yourself):

What scratches?

See? Stain on the other hand, turns into this when you have bangs and scratches:

Our coffee table would have looked a hot MESS if we'd put stain on it. 

Thirdly, Danish Oil is completely fool proof. You simply soak the bare wood in it for 30 mins, then scrub the oil remaining on the surface away. Wood will only soak up so much oil; it does not really matter how long you leave the oil on, once it's "full" then it just stops soaking it up. Many carpenters soak carved wooden figures into a warm oil bath to coat it. 

Even oil job. 

With stain, you put some on and then wait some amount of time before rubbing it off. Depending on how long you leave the stain on, the darker the finish is. So you have to be fairly consistent to get a piece of furniture all one color of stain. 

Baaaad stain job. Via 

Lastly, Danish Oil is it's own protective top coat. So it treats and colors the wood, while also forming its own hard top coat. If you wish, you can coat it with poly or wax but it doesn't need it at all. Over time, like wax, the oil will break down and dry/fade out, so every few years you have to apply it again depending on the usage. With stain, you really need to apply a top coat of poly or wax as stain chips fairly easily (like a cheap rub on tattoo). 

Similarities between Danish Oil and Stain:

- Price - both are around $8 for a quart (although considering you need some poly or wax to go with stain, Danish Oil is actually cheaper)
 - Mixing capabilities - both can be mixed to form varying shades
 - Both can be applied over existing paint as a way to darken the paint (similar to dark wax). 

Personally I think stain is a bit of a money making gimmick considering that stain by itself isn't a very durable surface. Wood workers have been using Danish Oil (and variations of it) for hundreds (and probably a lot longer) of years. It's smooth buttery texture feels better than a wax or poly finish, and the dull sheen is so warm and rich. I'm not saying there is no market for stain, because there is, but I definitely Danish Oil needs some more lovin' considering how lovely a finish it produces. 

Who knows, maybe Miss Mustard Seed will make it a hit in a few months like she did chalk paint. Then I can gloat. :)

I was going to include a tutorial in this, but I think I'll save that for another day. Enough words!

1 comment:

  1. LOVE Danish oil, I love the end results, inspirational!


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