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Thread: Boiled Linseed Oil

  1. #1
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    Default Boiled Linseed Oil

    It has been suggested to me that I use Boiled Linseed Oil as a treatment for Douglas Fir being used as framing on my 32' Friday Island Ferry.
    The exterior will be sheathed in plywood and 6oz. glass cloth set in epoxy. The interior of the framing will be covered by 1/2' white cedar, tongue and groove. I intend to vent all of this.
    My Question is what do people think of the linseed oil being used as a preservative on the interior framing as well as under the cabin sole.
    I have read (on the internet for what that is worth) that linseed oil promotes mildew growth. Anybody hear that? Back in the day, when I was a house carpenter, we used to use a mixture of Turpentine and Linseed oil to treat the inside of Douglas Fir gutters

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    I've not hear of boiled linseed oil promoting mildew, but lately I have become a big fan of minwax wood hardener. It penetrates like linseed, but seems to seal and harden the wood very nicely. Have you considered this? I use it on all my end grains at a minimum.
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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Why would you want to? What would you be trying to accomplish?

    I wouldn't be inclined to do so. First - the protection offered by straight boiled linseed oil is so little as to make it hardly worth the time, mess, and expense. Let me quote Flexner: "It's a myth that linseed oil applied in any manner is a durable finish." It's just too thin, soft and permeable to protect well against heat, stains, wear, or moisture transfer.

    Second - if you will be using adhesives to adhere your plywood skin to your frames, the oil can interfere (if oil goes on before skin) or compromise (if oil goes on after skin, and depending upon the adhesive).

    I wouldn't worry about the mildew issue, though. Straight linseed oil, called "raw" linseed oil, which has not been cooked, and has no heavy-metal chemical driers added can promote mildew growth. It makes good rot-food. "Boiled" linseed oil, with the driers, does not.

    So... it likely wouldn't be catastrophic if you did it - assuming you take measures to make sure it isn't. But... there's so little to gain, it hardly seems worth it.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    But sealing the wood in some fashion, especially faying surfaces, is a time proven idea. Shellac is useful in this application, especially as a treatment prior to bedding interior pieces. Entirely optional.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    +1 on what David has noted - don't contaminate the surface that you're going to be covering with epoxy with the BLO. You will regret it as the bond to the oiled surface is seriously compromised. I had a student who wiped down a hull he had taken home with just mineral spirits to see the grain. It wreaked havoc on the fiberglassed surface even after we tried removing the oily residue.
    "Anyone who says they like portaging is either a liar or crazy."
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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Hmm. I use the classic oil and pine tar mixture sometimes with a little turpentine as a finish for just about every unpainted thing on my small open boats. I'd like some real information about the rot promoting properties of linseed oil.

    I believe Flexner got it wrong. I believe linseed oil makes a fine finish that does keep out water and allows moisture transfer.

    The oil and tar mixture acts as sealant and a preservative. The mixture, with not too much tar, just enough that it drags when brushed on, hardens into a nice burnt amber finish. I've also used straight raw linseed oil on furniture in my home and after many applications allowing time to dry between, the oil polymerizes and creates a semi-hard finish. And the raw stuff is non-toxic, which is a plus.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Sturgeon View Post
    Hmm. I use the classic oil and pine tar mixture sometimes with a little turpentine as a finish for just about every unpainted thing on my small open boats. I'd like some real information about the rot promoting properties of linseed oil.

    I believe Flexner got it wrong. I believe linseed oil makes a fine finish that does keep out water and allows moisture transfer.

    The oil and tar mixture acts as sealant and a preservative. The mixture, with not too much tar, just enough that it drags when brushed on, hardens into a nice burnt amber finish. I've also used straight raw linseed oil on furniture in my home and after many applications allowing time to dry between, the oil polymerizes and creates a semi-hard finish. And the raw stuff is non-toxic, which is a plus.
    I'm sorry, but this is mostly incorrect.

    Raw linseed oil does not polymerize, or harden. It remains soft, which is what allows subsequent coats (and, unfortunately, moisture) to penetrate. It's not until the chemistry is changed by either heating of the raw oil, or (the modern version) adding chemical driers, that the linseed oil will harden by oxidation.

    There's nothing wrong with the yaaarrrr look of boat soup, but it's not a lot of protection. The pine tar helps, but if you get too much on, it rubs off on clothes and sails, and bags. With hot weather, it can seep and really make a mess. In small amounts, though, it's not a huge problem, but it's also less protection.

    If you're going to argue finishes with a fellow like Flexner - who's devoted a career to understanding them - you'd best bring more to the discussion than, "I believe". Why do you believe he got it wrong? What point, exactly, are you taking issue with? What expert opinion, or testing data would you cite to support your opinion?
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Boiled linseed oil and turpentine (about 50/50) works fine as a sealer on doug fir. It's a tried and true "soup." I use it frequently on workbench tops and such. I wouldn't say it can be relied upon for any sort of rot prevention, though.

    If you want to seal the wood and provide a good primer for enamel and varnish, I'd say Smith's Clear Penetrating Epoxy (CPES) is pretty much as good as it gets. The only sure prevention against rot is a lot of ventillation.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    FWIW,
    I agree with David on his first, and most recent post.

    BLO is chemically dry, no mildew, min help.
    RAW linseed, does indeed promote growth, look into the chemical nature of it, you will find the answers there.

    Boat soup with tar and other additives is NOT what the original posted asked about, thus not germaine.

    As a side note, I don't understand the intent of the original poster to mix epoxy on one surface, then oil finishes on the other. I usually see them as exclusive. On old style boats, boat soup is fine, replenish frequently, no real issues. But on more modern styled boats for all the reasons David listed (gear bags messy, seeping etc.) built with epoxy, I usually don't see that.

    Either way, best of luck. CPES/red lead/shellac are all other options too.
    LBPC member since page 14, wood flour tip, green cap, no chips....

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    What I am hearing is "Why bother ?" I am inclined to take David G's post to heart because of two reasons.
    1- I have taken his advice in the past and it worked. The formula for laminating beams that he posted was spot on.
    2- Because I am at heart lazy and if I can avoid a step I will.

    So perhaps the better question is should I treat the uncovered sides of the 1 1/2 x 1 1/2" Doug Fir framing with anything at all? And if so what?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    I would not use linseed oil for frames that are going to be covered by ceiling. I think it has little value as a preservative against rot.

    If you want a "preservative" to combat potential decay, there's always copper napthenate. My first choice would be to use the most decay-resistant wood available.

    I've never bought-in to CPES as a preservative. A sealer, yes; but not a preservative.

    Wayne

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Jeffers View Post
    I would not use linseed oil for frames that are going to be covered by ceiling. I think it has little value as a preservative against rot.

    If you want a "preservative" to combat potential decay, there's always copper napthenate. My first choice would be to use the most decay-resistant wood available.

    I've never bought-in to CPES as a preservative. A sealer, yes; but not a preservative.

    Wayne
    Sealing is preservative technique. When wood is well sealed any present wood-eating microbes are locked in and will die because they are cut off from supplies of air and/or water. If the seal keeps out water no new microbes can get in.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Cuyahoga Chuck View Post
    Sealing is preservative technique. When wood is well sealed any present wood-eating microbes are locked in and will die because they are cut off from supplies of air and/or water. If the seal keeps out water no new microbes can get in.
    With a perfect seal, that logic would apply. However,

    1) I do not buy the notion that the "seal" obtained by CPES will be sufficiently impermeable to air/moisture. It may slow it down, but it won't stop it.

    2) In the application for which the OP is asking, the "seal" will be punctured by a large number of fasteners used for the ceiling. Plenty of opportunities for air and water to enter.

    If someone wants to tell me that CPES is a good sealer to use under paint, that it will cause the paint to adhere better, etc., I have no quarrel with that. But to prevent mold/rot, I personally will choose something inherently toxic to the microbes, i.e., the proper wood or a chemical.

    Wayne

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    I believe our kind hosts at WB Magazine sell a book that has an article promoting the use of red lead on all faying surfaces in larger boats. This would be better for surfaces that will be fastened together rather than glued, of course. But the use of practically anything on faying surfaces, including oil paint which traditionally was linseed oil and color, is better than raw wood -- again and of course, unless it will be glued.
    http://www.painting-ideas-and-techni...oil-paint.html
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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Originaly "Boiled Linseed Oil" was produced by heating the oil and adding lead based dying oil to it. It would not support mildew as the lead would not allow it to do so. However, polymerized oil is a different critter and mold will thrive on it.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    There were a set of mahogany handrails 'hanging from the rafters’ in an old boat we bought four years ago. Black stain under cracked varnish and dry.

    After wooding them, I wiped on 3 coats of boiled linseed oil, leftovers from a couple of suppliers. Took about a month to dry in a PNW winter. Wiped on semi-transparent oil stain as the wood was light and boring in grain. Covered with a cheap linseed-oil based house deck product that requires twice a year recoat and touchup staining now and again in areas of wear.

    Easy to maintain in place, minimal sanding. Looks good from the road, like Cetol. No mildew noted as yet, but I knock on them regularly. / Jim

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    My wife Anne and I were once guests in the Herreshoff home, known as The Castle at Crocker Park in Marblehead Mass. There was an eliptical dinning room table and was located in what could be called the Family Room. This room was on the bottom floor of LFH's last home. That table was unique in that it was made of cherry and finished with a soft glaze of boiled linseed oil. Skipper paid a young man come, each spring, and apply what is known as a dry shine on it using a mixture of turpentine and boiled linseed oi that was applied with a pad made of cheese clothl. Over the may years of repeated polishing with minutely thin applications of the oil, the table took on the soft glow and look of a fine antique of a by gone era. At the far end, close to the kitchen, was the place where Skipper would slice off a piece of bread, for his breakfast toast, with a special knife he used only for that purpose. Once cut, the bread would then be placed on an antique electric toaster that had exposed heating coils and a spring lever to hold the bread in place, one to each side of the appliance. The intersting point is that there were thousands of tiny scars cut into the surface of the wood in that area. They were incised at roughly a 45deg. angle to the end of the table which, as mentioned was built in the form of an elipse. Most amazing of all was, the fact that every scar was parallel to the adjacent ones and were just as accurate as if they had been layed out with a protractor and a straight edge. We often ate at this table. It was also used by Mr. Herreshoff for the construction of his famous double paddle canoes during the long winters in Marblehead. He must have protected it during its use as a building bench as the only scars were the once that resulted from his carving of bread for toast.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 02-15-2012 at 11:25 AM.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    You are a lucky man for that, Jay. I was once a guest in the home built by Myles and Beryl Smeeton when they came ashore in Alberta. To hear stories on some of the artifacts in that house was boggling. / Jim

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    My wife Anne and I were once guests in the Herreshoff home, known as The Castle at Crocker Park in Marblehead Mass. There was an eliptical dinning room table and was located in what could be called the Family Room. This room was on the bottom floor of LFH's last home. That table was unique in that it was made of cherry and finished with a soft glaze of boiled linseed oil. Skipper paid a young man come, each spring, and apply what is known as a dry shine on it using a mixture of turpentine and boiled linseed oi that was applied with a pad made of cheese clothl. Over the may years of repeated polishing with minutely thin applications of the oil, the table took on the soft glow and look of a fine antique of a by gone era. At the far end, close to the kitchen, was the place where Skipper would slice off a piece of bread, for his breakfast toast, with a special knife he used only for that purpose. Once cut, the bread would then be placed on an antique electric toaster that had exposed heating coils and a spring lever to hold the bread in place, one to each side of the appliance. The intersting point is that there were thousands of tiny scars cut into the surface of the wood in that area. They were incised at roughly a 45deg. angle to the end of the table which, as mentioned was built in the form of an elipse. Most amazing of all was, the fact that every scar was parallel to the adjacent ones and were just as accurate as if they had been layed out with a protractor and a straight edge. We often ate at this table. It was also used by Mr. Herreshoff for the construction of his famous double paddle canoes during the long winters in Marblehead. He must have protected it during its use as a building bench as the only scars were the once that resulted from his carving of bread for toast.
    Jay
    Ah, yes, but LFH was a bachelor! I doubt any married guy would ever get away with slicing bread on the table top! Life can be so much simpler and civilized when one doesn't have to worry about accommodating the ladies!

    As I said above, I never use anything but 50/50 turpentine and boiled linseed oil for finishing wood when I don't want a high gloss finish and particularly if I expect it to get some wear. It penetrates and dries quickly and, to my nose, at least, has a pleasant aroma. I don't use cheesecloth, though. An old tee shirt will do. (Being sure to hang it out of doors to dry thoroughly in the wind after use, so as to avoid spontaneous combustion!)

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    I'm sorry, but this is mostly incorrect.

    Raw linseed oil does not polymerize, or harden. It remains soft, which is what allows subsequent coats (and, unfortunately, moisture) to penetrate. It's not until the chemistry is changed by either heating of the raw oil, or (the modern version) adding chemical driers, that the linseed oil will harden by oxidation.

    There's nothing wrong with the yaaarrrr look of boat soup, but it's not a lot of protection. The pine tar helps, but if you get too much on, it rubs off on clothes and sails, and bags. With hot weather, it can seep and really make a mess. In small amounts, though, it's not a huge problem, but it's also less protection.

    If you're going to argue finishes with a fellow like Flexner - who's devoted a career to understanding them - you'd best bring more to the discussion than, "I believe". Why do you believe he got it wrong? What point, exactly, are you taking issue with? What expert opinion, or testing data would you cite to support your opinion?
    Raw linseed oil will most certainly form a dry film, without the addition of dryers or heat treatment.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by S B View Post
    Raw linseed oil will most certainly form a dry film, without the addition of dryers or heat treatment.
    Raw linseed oil will cure/harden somewhat with exposure to oxygen. Boiled linseed oil (which in modern times means adding salts of heavy metals - cobalt, manganese, or zinc - not actually boiling) will cure harder. Both cure very slowly in comparison to most other finishes, but the boiled will absorb oxygen quicker (that's the point of those added chemicals) and cure faster. When they dry, both leave a satin, not gloss, sheen. Neither will cure very hard, and neither cure hard enough to allow the buildup of a film of protection on the surface of the the wood. That's the distinction between a 'penetrating finish' and a 'film finish' like shellac, varnish, lacquer, or water-based finishes. Therefore - neither are very resistant to moisture, chemicals, etc. Of all the finishes - except wax - linseed oil is the least protective.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Don't Question Flexnor Because He's an Authority?

    Hardly. Judge him on what seems to be the merit of what he's saying' using what ever means you have at your disposal, common sense hopefully being one. The fact that one talks or talks a lot or talks loudly or especially talks professionally says very little about the validity or the value of what he has to say. I wold say, listen and question and then decide. Especially question authority. Or supposed authority. Some people love to talk and love to give advice and even make money at it. Whether they are right or wrong has little to do with it.

    There were some good points made here from experience, some maybe just passing on what they've heard. In the end, you just have to make up your own mind.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    lesharo,

    I don't think I said "Don't Question Flexnor (sic) Because He's an Authority". What I said was - if you're going to argue with someone who knows as much about finishes as he does, you'd best bring more than 'I believe'. Believe based upon what?

    Having done finishing of various sorts for nearly 40 years, I can offer up plenty of anecdotal experience, and - I hope - a fair bit of common sense. So... I'd agree with most of your second paragraph. Question what you're told. Compare it to your personal experience. Find out what other knowledgeable people say on the matter. But I begin to take issue where it seems to tip over into - My Opinion Is As Valid As Yours... No Matter How Little I Actually Know (aka the Democratic Fallacy).

    In my experience, I've found very little to quibble with Flexner about. That's why I cite him. If you have some specific issue to take up with something he claims... make your argument. Cite your personal experience. Back it up with research by others. There are other sources one can find. Use inductive and deductive logic to extrapolate the data to reach a conclusion. But don't try and suggest that Flexner should be disregarded because 'he's some sort of self-appointed expert'. That's just ignorant and self-defeating.
    Last edited by David G; 02-16-2012 at 12:39 PM.
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Cosmo Lengro’s Boatbuilding Voodoo Hall of Fame
    One-liners taken from a decade+ of reading boatbuilder’s on-line forums.



    15) Raw linseed and tung oils are great moisture barrier coatings. (Idle boredom was probably the reason man since the ancient Egyptians has added fillers, proteins, driers, pigments, hardeners and poisons trying to improve them, the end result being paint.)
    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 02-16-2012 at 12:53 PM.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Good one, Bob!

    Wayne

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Raw linseed oil will cure/harden somewhat with exposure to oxygen. Boiled linseed oil (which in modern times means adding salts of heavy metals - cobalt, manganese, or zinc - not actually boiling) will cure harder. Both cure very slowly in comparison to most other finishes, but the boiled will absorb oxygen quicker (that's the point of those added chemicals) and cure faster. When they dry, both leave a satin, not gloss, sheen. Neither will cure very hard, and neither cure hard enough to allow the buildup of a film of protection on the surface of the the wood. That's the distinction between a 'penetrating finish' and a 'film finish' like shellac, varnish, lacquer, or water-based finishes. Therefore - neither are very resistant to moisture, chemicals, etc. Of all the finishes - except wax - linseed oil is the least protective.
    Boiled linseed oil means boiled linseed oil, steamed to be exact. It is the bottom of the barrel as linseed oil goes, steam extracted after the top grades have been separated from the flax seed. Cobalt, manganese and zinc are not labeled as heavy metals. The metalic compounds act as catalysts speeding up the oxidation process. Linseed oil forms a flexible film, not impervious to moisture, that becomes brittle with age. Shellac, varnish(mixture of drying oil and resin), Lacquer(nitro celulose resin) harden by the evaporation of solvent. They are impervious to moisture, forming continuous films, that reflect the nature of the origional resin, usually brittle.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    Linseed is a natural drying oil, the problem being that without heat treatment or chemical additives it can take decades to dry.



    This is a circa 1910, straight-grained walnut rifle stock out of a common tree crotch with probably the finest natural patina I've ever seen. The reason is the original owner applied one teaspoon of raw linseed once a week, well rubbed in. After a few years and decades a gorgeous, hard finish.

    The problem on these old linseed-finished guns is linseed in the inletting. Between the metal sweating with temperature changes, the poor sealing ability of linseed, petroleum oils applied to the metal seeping into end grain, and the propensity of raw linseed to attract mold, the inletting on these fine old heirlooms is often punky and literally non-functional. Fortunately the soft, saturated wood can usually be Dremeled out and epoxy added so as not to be evident from the outside yet restoring the firearm's functionability.
    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 02-16-2012 at 10:54 PM.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    On an absorbent ground, such as a gun stock, the film only dries at the surface, much the same as paint skins over in the can. Much of the staining is caused by nondrying oils entering the wood through surfaces not covered by the drying oil, such as the mating surfaces between metal and wood. The same problem would arise had the gunstock been rubbed with varnish once a week. Just because your grandfather did it that way, doesn't mean you have to. 50 years of doing something wrong, is not 50 years experience.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    My point is that while it needs to be kept away from precision inletting, few other finishes bring out the best in the wood as linseed.

    A classic varnish finish results from wetsanding open-grained woods like mahogany with boat soup consisting of linseed, turps, Japan Drier and a touch of pine tar. The sawdust-linseed slurry fills the open pores and the polymerized bits of linseed provides a bit of sparkle beneath the varnish.


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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    I'm not argueing that linseed oil isn't the cat's ass, just that it is what it is and not be expected to do the impossible.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    The OP was asking about preservative and i wouldnt use linseed in any form for that. My boat soup for priming wood to be left bare is 25% pine tar resin, 35% turps and 40% clear wood presever. Everyone has a different opinion on this and ratios can change depending on species and grain of wood. Pine tar and turps will act as a preservative, but it needs to be done on a regular/ish basis and is not suitable for timbers hidden by ceilings unless you are prepared for stripping it all out every few years? Anyone who wishes to argue against the preservative qualities of pine tar should go and see some of the wooden roof tiles on some churches in Scandinavia......a pretty harsh life . I gave up using linseed and went over to tung oil for all the jobs i used linseed for,i also find it makes a better sealer/finish coat over sticky pine tar,reasonably quick drying too if left in the open.

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    Default Re: Boiled Linseed Oil

    David G,
    You make somewhat of a point, but if your point is to value experience which apparently you have, why not value it? I don't doubt that Flexnor knows a fair amount about finishing, but I would take anything he or anybody else says with a grain of salt. Or at least balance it against what I know to be true (from experience). And I would wonder when the last time Flexnor actually did anything other than tell people how or what to do.I don't have anything against him; I just don't like bowing down to an "authority" or "expert" or anybody with a big mouth. He did say that Fawcett's Boating Supplies in Annapolis had really good deals on badger style brushes and that's true, they did. That was a while ago.There is some good advice here and there is some questionable advice and mixed in with the two there is obviously a lot of conflicting opinion.

    There are a lot of people who like to put themselves out there as authorities and decree so called information. I've see some so called information by so called experts that was just horrible, misleading and just plain wrong. With all your experience you must have a lot to add. I'm at about 30 years (stinkin' years) myself.

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