Sticky linseed oil

29 Nov 2004
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United Kingdom
Applied boiled linseed oil to a door that I stripped and sanded. After about 6 coats (the first 2 were thinned with white spirit), the finish has begun to go glossy but is also quite sticky and doesn't show any sign of drying completely. Also, the finish is still quite uneven with the knots seeming to absorb a greater amount of oil than the rest of the wood. I'm reluctant to add more coats if all this does is make the surface even 'stickier'. Any advice on what I should do next ? Is it possible to remove the oil and, if so, how ?
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you should have wiped off what doesn't soak in after an hour or so. Anything lying on the surface oxidises and goes gummy then hard, a sort of simple varnish.

You can soften it with white spirit and swab off, if not very hard. You may do better to soften and then use a scraper.
You should have coated the knots with shellac first (knotting). This seals the end grain, and stops any resin weeps. The oil can take weeks to harden, and is best done at around 25 deg C, which speeds things up a bit. The coats should have been very thin too. Let things dry for as long as possible then try rubbing down and re oiling.

I use raw oil, it's slower, but less hassle.
Thanks to both of you for your comments. Clearly, applying linseed oil isn't as straightforward as I had naively assumed.

If I am able to remove the glossy film and start again, can I then apply a different type of oil (e.g. danish or tung) or must I keep using linseed ?
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Linseed is OK, you just have to take care not to let an un-absorbed film build up on the surface. In the early stages when the wood is hungry you can apply it with a brush and it will soak in, but as it becomes loaded with oil you should wipe it on (and later off) with a rag.
Careful use of a cabinet scraper is a stress free way of removing what you have.

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