So, what do all those different wood finishing oils do?

Wood finishing oils have been cherished for centuries as a means to enhance the natural beauty of wood while also protecting it from the wear and tear of daily life. From ancient times to the present day, woodworkers and artisans have relied on various types of finishing oils to achieve different effects and characteristics in their projects. In this article, I will explore the diverse world of wood finishing oils, discussing their unique properties, applications, and advantages.

Tung Oil

Tung oil, derived from the nut of the tung tree, is known for its remarkable durability and water resistance. It dries to a beautiful, deep matte finish, highlighting the wood’s natural grain and color. Tung oil is an excellent choice for outdoor furniture and surfaces that require protection from moisture. It’s important to note that pure tung oil can take a long time to dry, but there are faster-drying tung oil-based products available that offer similar benefits.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil, obtained from flax seeds, is one of the oldest wood finishing oils. It’s a versatile option, available in both raw and boiled forms. Raw linseed oil takes a longer time to dry compared to boiled linseed oil, but it provides a more natural appearance. Boiled linseed oil has drying agents added to speed up the drying process. Linseed oil enhances the wood’s natural warmth and grain patterns, making it a popular choice for antique restoration projects.

Danish Oil

Danish oil is a blend of various oils, resins, and solvents, often used for interior woodwork and furniture. It provides a beautiful, low-sheen finish that is both durable and easy to apply. Danish oil enriches the wood’s appearance without significantly altering its color, making it ideal for showcasing the wood’s natural character.

Teak Oil

Teak oil is specially formulated for tropical hardwoods like teak and mahogany. It provides excellent protection against moisture and UV damage. Teak oil penetrates the wood deeply, enhancing its color and grain while maintaining a glossy finish. It’s commonly used on outdoor furniture and boat decks.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil, derived from walnut kernels, is a natural and food-safe option for finishing wood. It is often used for cutting boards, salad bowls, and other kitchen utensils. Walnut oil darkens the wood slightly, enriching its appearance and providing a warm, natural finish.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is another food-safe option used for cutting boards and wooden utensils. It doesn’t provide the same level of protection as other finishing oils, but it is easy to apply and maintain. Mineral oil is often used for items that come into direct contact with food because it is odorless and tasteless.

Polymerized Tung Oil

Polymerized tung oil is tung oil that has been treated to speed up the drying process and improve its durability. It forms a hard, glossy finish that offers excellent protection against moisture and wear. Polymerized tung oil is a popular choice for high-traffic areas and is known for its amber-like appearance.


While not an oil in the traditional sense, shellac is worth mentioning for its wood-finishing qualities. It is derived from the secretions of the lac bug and is commonly used as a wood sealer and finish. Shellac provides a glossy, durable, and easy-to-repair finish. It’s often used for fine furniture and musical instruments.


Choosing the right wood finishing oil depends on your project’s specific requirements and the desired aesthetic outcome. Each type of finishing oil offers distinct advantages, from the deep luster of tung oil to the natural warmth of linseed oil. Whether you’re working on indoor furniture, outdoor decks, or kitchen accessories, there’s a wood finishing oil that’s perfectly suited to your needs. Experimenting with different oils can be a rewarding journey for any woodworking enthusiast, allowing you to discover the unique beauty and protection that each one brings to your creations.

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