boiled linseed oil + turpentine + ???

My father did a lot of wood working in his day, and used a mixture of equal parts of boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and something else for cleaning/refinishing wood.

I have used it before with a very fine steel wool and it really rejuvenated the wood. I can’t remember what the “something else” was, and with his Alzheimers, my father doesn’t remember either. Heck, I’m not even sure if it was mineral spirits instead of turpentine, but I think I’ll recognize the “recipe” if someone triggers my memory with some suggestions.

I know some of you folks know what this is. Can anyone help me out with some suggestions to trigger my memory?

Thanks, Jill

Linseed oil varnish
My recipe is 2/3 linseed oil, 1/3 turps, and a capful of Japan Drier per quart or so.

boiled linseed oil & turpentine
I - and many others - use a mixture of boiled linseed oil (never raw linseed oil), mineral spirits, and a urethane varnish. I suspect that any varnish would do but we use polyurethanes. Clean the wood well and sand it smooth (but not with such a high grit paper that you close the pores). Flood the wood with the finish mixture. Wait a few minutes (5 to 10?) to wait for the wood to absorb the finish - but not so long that it has set. Wipe off any finish that remains liquid on the top. Then repeat the process. I usually do 3 applications. Then, wax it and buff it. What are you in the process of - or thinking about - finishing or re-finishing? I’ve used the process on everything from furniture to rifle stocks to carved figures.

not urethane or varnish
My dad used this mixture to clean furniture. He probably also used it on gun stocks, but I don’t remember. I’m mostly just cleaning the wood. The particular item I want to use it on is an antique walnut bed. It is not varnished and not painted. It is a natural walnut. I have used it on furniture before. It cleaned it up, conditioned the wood, and looked wonderful. I am not varnishing or putting anything on after using the boiled linseed oil mixture.

the third ingredient might be vinegar
It might be equal parts of boiled linseed oil, vinegar, and either turpentine or mineral spirits…

might be vinegar
Vinegar is sometimes added to a mixture of 1/3 turpentine 2/3 boiled linseed oil as a fungicide.

I have seen some people recommend a 1:1:1 mixture of linseed oil, turpentine, and kerosene for oiling wood.

For just cleaning wood, I would first try plain Naptha.

Oil & Vinegar do not mix.

Tung Oil?
I have used a mix of linseed, tung, & turp for wood treatment.


Careful with that stuff
A buddy of mine’s house burned down when he forgot to dispose of some cotton rags soaked in linseed oil after a project in the garage.

That’s true for any oily rags
Same for Watco oil, Deks Olje, Teak oil, Tung oil, etc.

I have not done it, and it is true that vinegar and oil are immiscible liquids, but I believe the people who recommend this add only a small amount of vinegar to a 1:2 mix of turpentine and linseed oil and suspend it to form an emulsion.

for furniture
The traditional oil finish for furniture is turps, boiled linseed (and sometimes a drying agent to help it cure a bit).

It’s called a varnish, because it does form a very thin film finish, but it is primarily just soaked into the wood. It’s an excellent finish for any furniture, and it fairly durable, and is resistant to heat and moisture damage, unlike most other traditional finishes. It’s very easily applied (wipe on with a rag, then after 15 minutes or so wipe off the excess with a clean rag, and repeat a couple times a day). The downside is that it takes many many coats to build up a nice finish. Like 10-20. And like all oil finishes, it will darken the wood with time and exposure to sunlight.

If all you want to do is clean the wood, you could use a furniture restoration cleaner like vulpinex (which will not harm the original finish on the furniture, but will remove dirt and oils on the surface - this is the stuff used by museums to clean and brighten their 200 year-old aquisitions without changing the historical finish on the piece). Or you can wipe it down with some turpentine on a rag, which will remove waxes and oils and some dirt, but may also remove some finishes.

Or, you can just clean the furniture with a slightly damp rag (damp with water). That’s the most basic and least invasive cleaning for an antique. Don’t leave any water standing on the surface, and never have the wag so damp that it drips.

Good luck.

Same here,
But I don’t mix them.

I use the tung oil for the finish.

My wife does the gunnels on our comp cruiser and my J boat annually and it stands up nice and makes a nice satin finish.



It’s Vulpex
and comes with its own set of cautions, but your are correct that it is widely used by conservators and restorers to clean a variety of objects and artifacts.

Tung Oil
I have heard that Tung Oil is very durable but can get gummy and hard if applied too thickly. Any trick to applying it?

vinegar recipe and procedure

How DO you dispose of them
I left my rags on gravel and they got rained on(not that it affects the oil in any way) and on garbage night threw the thing in the can and put the can by the street.

There has to be a better way.

pretty much what I do.

I found my own recipe in 2002 archives!
I thought maybe I had posted the recipe before and did a search. I didn’t know the archives went back as far as 2002, but I found it. It’s kind of poignant to me because I talk about my father’s recipe and his woodworking. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2005 and although he is doing well, the disease is progressing and he doesn’t remember the fine woodworking he did, or how he did it. He used to make musical instruments, knives, furniture, anything you described to him, he could make it. He was in great demand for his exquisite work on gun stocks. He even made a set of delicate doll furniture for me when I was a child. All of these things were done “in his spare time,” after his long day was finished at the refinery, and after working in the garden or around the house. Working with his hands was an integral part of his very being, but he doesn’t remember those things now. Of course, I’ve used the recipe and couldn’t remember it, either. :slight_smile:

Here’s the post…

“I checked with my Dad, who is an old-timer woodworker (and boat builder).

His “recipe” is very easy to remember because it is in equal proportions of 1/3 each.

1/3 BOILED linseed oil (label must say boiled)

1/3 Turpentine

1/3 Vinegar

He says it isn’t necessary to wait to use it–ready to go as soon as mixed. Just keep stirring it up or shaking it as you use it, as it will settle.

He says it is great for restoring antique furniture that you don’t want to varnish. It cleans the wood without damaging it & restores it beautifully. He does not use it on outdoor projects and recommends that you select a product that is specifically designed for outdoor or marine use.

I’ve also used his formula to restore a beautiful antique desk, and it turned out soooooo nice!”


p.s. I used extremely fine steel wool for the applications and used cheesecloth for the final cleanup on the furniture. Thanks to all who responded.

I was marvelling at the fact that I could still remember that name, but I guess my self-satisfaction was premature. :slight_smile: