Pratensis Countryside Services


Application of linseed oil is thoroughly recommended on unvarnished wooden tool handles and other items. The oil soaks into the wood somewhat and provides a protective coating as well as a pleasing appearance. Where the oil occupies the pores and vessels in the wood, it prevents the damaging cycle of water getting in, then the wood drying out again.

The old adage goes that application of linseed oil to a new bare wood item should be once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, then once a year for life. However it is more important to get some oil into the wood anyhow, than to worry too much about how often, or whether to use raw or boiled. If you are going to store your item in a damp environment though, try and adhere to the adage, or find a better place to store your treasured tools.

The main ingredient is alpha-linoleic acid, which polymerises on exposure to oxygen in the air. So the 'drying' is curing or setting, rather than drying as a solvent evaporates. Apply thin coats, as raw linseed oil can take weeks to fully cure if applied thickly. 'Boiled' linseed oil (BLO) dries more quickly. Despite the name it has not been boiled, but has solvents added to it to speed the drying process. BLO is generally the same price as raw, so cost is not an issue. A similar product can be made by adding turpentine or white spirit to the raw oil, and this is often recommended for first applications to bare wood as it soaks in well.

The presence of other chemicals in BLO detracts from the ideal of using a local product. Linseed oil comes from Cultivated Flax (Linum usitatissimum) that is grown widely in the UK. So personally I would use raw linseed oil, and add spirit occasionally when required. The result after a number of cycles of use, staining, cleaning and oiling, is a lovely patina of warm colours, and a long lasting implement.

Linseed Oil


Photo Jean Vernon