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refinish after linseed oil

My oak cabinets are 25 years old. For the first 22 years they were coated twice yearly with linseed oil by the former owners. For the last three years I have done nothing with them. I know they cannot be painted as normal and I preferred not to paint them. They are beautiful grained wood but have gotten very dark and dull with the oil. Also the dirt does not wash off. What I would like to do is to clean them and lighten the wood back up, then finish them in a clear, shiny finish. What do I have to do to facilitate this? What product will lighten up the wood? What finish will not react with the linseed oil? I also understand that this wood cannot be sanded because of the oil. HELP!


Re: refinish after linseed oil

I would try cleaning them with turpentine/paint thinner to see if that would cut the linseed oil and accumulated dirt and grease.
The turpentine will definitely NOT hurt the wood at all.

Try an old t-shirt rag first.
If that doesn't get it off then go to one of those ScotchBrite sponges with the white scrubbie attached (they are very gentle).
Test a hidden or unobtrusive area first to make sure it won't scratch the wood.

Once you get the cabinets all clean, you may want to try Tung Oil instead of linseed oil.
Tung Oil comes from China and was unavailable for decades while China was closed to the world.
It is a MUCH better wood oil than linseed oil.
Good luck!

Re: refinish after linseed oil

I have cleaned up and refinished a couple of old military rifle stocks that have years of repeated applications of boiled linseed oil . To the above suggestion , I would also consider mineral spirits or laquer thinner . When the wood is cleaned and dry , it can be sanded if needed . Make sure you have PLENTY of ventilation before using any of those chemicals , and also wear gloves .

Re: refinish after linseed oil

I would suggest starting out with a good detergent & water to remove any and all dirt that's water soluble first..... and then get out the mineral spirits and/or lacquer thinner. Or try the MS next and follow up with the LT, if necessary. Good ventilation is an absolute must with either....and remember that LT is VERY flammable so there should be no smoking or other sources of combustion nearby. A NIOSH respirator rated for chemical solvents would also be a must in my book.

Since this is oak (and I'm guesing red oak as opposed to white oak)....I fear that you have lots of dirt and gunk down in the open grain/pores. You'll probably find yourself reaching for a toothbrush to scrub the dirt out of there, if you'll be able to get it out at all. Can't say/see from here exactly what your situation is.

(You can most certainly sand wood that has BLO on it/in it. It may clog up your sandpaper more rapidly (probably will), but you can certainly sand it anyway. You may be forced to in order to get rid of the dirt and establish a nice appearance. You can also put many types of finish right over BLO...including oil-based poly....which would make a good finish for kitchen cabs.)

A serious problem that you *may* run into if you try to varnish/poly the cabs is "fish-eye" from silicone contamination. You'll be lucky if someone hasn't used any silicone-bearing furniture polish such as Pledge or Liquid Gold or simlar on these cabs over the years. If there is silicone contamination, you'd be best off in this instance to abandon the notion of using a varnish/poly on the cabs and will be better off to re-oil them with tung-oil or similar as those types of finish won't be effected by the silicone.

An alternative finish which will give you some of the benefits of poly without having to fight with silicone contamination is a blend of Watco "danish oil" and oil-based gloss polyurethane. This blend will render a satin-like sheen and can be applied by cloth. Mix 60% Watco with 40% OB gloss poly in a glass jar. Keep the lid on tight when not in use. Apply liberally with a soft cloth and wipe off the excess with a clean cloth in about ten minutes......or when the finish starts to congeal just a bit. Don't wait too long or you'll have to re-wet the surface with the same finish to loosen it up again. (You can feel when this congealing happens by rubbing your fingertip in the finish.) Don't step out for coffee while doing this finish because the excess finish has to be removed promptly when it begins to congeal. Maybe start out by doing two doors at a crack until you get the hang of how fast the finish sets up.

Leave the first coat sit overnight and apply a second coat the next day....or when you're ready. Add a third coat if you like or if you see that it's necessary. Let the last coat dry for a few days or more and then rub it all down with some #0000 steel wool followed by a vigorous buffing with a soft cotton cloth. If you'd like more sheen, paste wax it......although I wouldn't likely do that in a kitchen myself as the wax will take more upkeep than this finish alone will.

You can clean the surface well and add more coats if that becomes necessary later down the trail.........without any prep sanding or the like.

Re: refinish after linseed oil

Another finishing option would be to first apply a "spit coat" of shellac, after stripping. This acts as a barrier between the oil finish & whatever you decide to apply over it.

Re: refinish after linseed oil

Thanks everyone for all your helpful advice. I will be trying it and will let you know how I make out.

:) Deana

Re: refinish after linseed oil

Deana, did you ever try it out?

blackdiamond13 @ Jemsite

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