This article was inspired by a question from Brian. He writes:
I recently watched a woodworking show on TV. The cabinet maker used a mixture of linseed oil, tung oil, and polyurethane for the finish. He stated that he bought it off of the shelf. I can’t seem to find anything like it on the internet. Do you know of any product like this, or do I have to mix it myself? If I have to mix it, what is the ratio?
Making your own oil/varnish blends is a great way to save money. You can buy things like boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits in large gallon jugs, and then purchase the varnish as needed. The standard mixture is 1/3 Boiled Linseed Oil or Tung Oil, 1/3 thinner (mineral spirits, paint thinner, turpentine, naptha), and 1/3 varnish (poly, spar, etc..).
Now the blend mentioned in Brian’s question involved using both linseed oil and tung oil. That’s a bit redundant. I think its better to have a varnish component in the mixture for extra durability, unless you truly want an oil-only finish.
Another advantage to mixing your own home brew is the fact that you will have total control over the finishes properties. Want a more close to the wood look and feel? Add more oil. Want more protection? Add more varnish. Want to make the finish easier to spread around the surface? Add more thinner. The possibilities are endless and you’ll be able to customize the finish to your needs and the needs of the project.
If you prefer to buy the finishes pre-made, take a look at some of the commercial oil/varnish blends like Waterlox, Minwax Tung Oil Finish, and Watco Danish Oil. And for more information on oil-based finishes, check out our video: Oil-Based Finish Basics.