What Kind of Oil is Best for Oak Wood


Varnish brush strokes on a wooden floor

It would be hard to talk about hardwoods without the mention of oak. Both red and white oak trees have strong and durable lumber. White oak is said to be already water resistant to a certain degree. However, it is not water resistant completely and still requires you to apply a finish on it. To pair an oil finish with a wood like that is not easy as you want to make sure you both highlight its beauty and protect it from moisture. If you are confused about which oil finish to use, then look no further. In this article, we will help you find out what kind of oil is best for oak wood.

Danish and tung oil are the best-suited oil finishes for oak wood. Both of these create a hard durable film finish once they dry and bring out the beautiful colour of the wood, accentuating the grain structure. Danish oil has resins and varnish that add an extra layer of protection against moisture and other elements to protect oak from damage. While tung oil is a great environment-friendly finish that does not contain any VOCs so you can use it on a cutting board or kitchen table.

Oak is not just a good and abundant hardwood in the U.S. but it also has historical significance too. It was used on naval ships during the 1700s and one of the oldest floating frigates, the USS Constitution was made from oak as well. History lesson aside, this just shows how durable the wood from the oak tree is. It is naturally resistant to water, with white oak being more resistant to rot and water than red oak which is ideally used for indoor furniture. Both of these oak woods have a similar texture but the red kind is more porous.

Best Oils for Oak Wood

1. Danish Oil

One of the best oil finishes for oak wood has to be Danish oil. The application is tremendously easy, it has one of the two best oil finishes included in it, namely tung and linseed oil. Along with that, they also have solvents, resins, varnish, and drying agents. The varnish and resin add an extra layer of protection against water damage. However, you also get protection from scratches on the surface of the oak itself. This is because Danish oil dries to a hard film finish on the wood.

Along with the benefits of added protection compared to other oil finishes, Danish oil also accentuates the straight grain structure of oak wood. Oak has uneven pores and a straight grain pattern that looks naturally beautiful. With an added touch of Danish oil, it is highlighted, giving it a rich look.

Watco Rust-Oleum Danish Oil with Natural Shade has to be the go-to brand for woodworkers if they want the best Danish oil finish. The easy application of this brand makes it a really popular oil finish for oak wood projects.

Pros

  • Easy application.
  • Durable finish.
  • Keeps the natural shade of the wood intact.
  • Creates a water-resistant film around the surface of the wood.
  • Dries fast.

Cons

  • Not food safe.
  • Has a slight odour.

2. Tung Oil

Tung oil is hailed as the best natural oil finish available to woodworkers. People swear by its results as one of the best oil finishes for oak wood. Natural tung oil hardens to a film finish and prevents water from entering the pores of the wood. Even though oak wood is resistant to water damage, it is still not completely immune to it. Not to mention if the wood has dried out it will require some form of replenishment. Tung oil does just that and replenishes wood while also protecting it from rot and water.

Tung oil does not ruin the natural look of oak wood, instead, the oil enhances the color and highlights the straight grain pattern. Natural tung oil does not contain any dyes or shades, so it makes sure that it accentuates the natural rich shade of the oak. If you want to darken the shade of the wood, you can use dark tung oil that has stains in the mix to deepen and darken the colour of oak.

Hope’s 100% Natural Tung Oil has no additives or stains that will darken the color of oak. Not to mention tung oil dries fast compared to linseed oil as well.

Pros

  • Dries fast.
  • Protects wood from water.
  • Keeps the natural look of wood intact.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • Has a strong odour.
  • Slightly Expensive.

Best Oil for Oak Furniture

Oak is a great wood to make furniture out of because of its durability. Furniture is often under heavy duress, being used almost every day. It requires the kind of finish which not only helps with the durability but also visuals. This is because furniture is almost always in the eyes of people. If you really want to impress people with your oak furniture then we would suggest Danish oil for the purpose. There are several reasons why Danish oil is best for oak furniture.

One such reason is that Danish oil contains varnish and resins which dry to a hard film finish. This protects furniture from scratch marks and water damage because furniture like a table is usually subject to use for water and food. Not to mention that guests also sit at the table often along with your family members. To make sure they can see the beautiful natural shade of oak and the grain pattern, using a natural shade of Danish oil will be the best option.

Tips for Oiling Oak Wood

  • Oak is just like any other wood, so it is imperative that you sand it down before oiling it. Another reason for sanding oak is that it has large pores that are usually visible and can be felt to the touch. So to make the surface of your oak smooth, you should sand it down from 80-grits all the way up to 220-grits if possible.
  • When sanding you can use a random orbit sander for the most part. However, when you are sanding at 220-grits, make sure to use a sanding block and sand by hand in the direction of the grain. This will give you a smoother look and better results.
  • When you apply a coat of oil, give it 30 minutes to an hour after which you should wipe off any excess that remains on top of the surface of the oak. This is because the excess oil will not dry and make the wood sticky instead.
  • After your oak wood has become saturated with oil it will start to sweat. You need to make sure to wipe it off as these droplets of excess oil will not dry properly and ruin the feel of the oak.
  • You can always apply another finish over your oil finish if you want. People often use beeswax or wax polish to give their wooden furniture a satin sheen. You can also apply something like a synthetic finish, for example a wipe on polyurethane or varnish sealer.

Benefits of Oiling Oak Wood

Oak is a very strong wood, it will remain strong if you give it proper care and nourishment. One such example of the durability of oak is the USS Constitution which is still afloat even after participation in battle. This is because it has been maintained and taken care of by people to this day. So if you keep your oak wood furniture maintained it will repay you by staying strong. One way to maintain your oak is by oiling it after every 6 months or a year.

This is actually important because an oil finish or any other finish for that matter fades with time. Not to mention there is sun degradation to account for moisture or humidity in the air. This not only damages the wood but also discolours it over time. So to keep a fresh look on your oak you need to oil it frequently. Oil is a great natural finish that not only gives your oak a beautiful look but also prevents it from drying out. Oils penetrate deep into the pores of the wood and give it renewed life.

Lastly, oil finishes can be natural without any VOCs that keep your environment safe. You can use oil finishes on your oak furniture without having to worry about any toxic chemicals being around your family. After curing, oils become hard and keep wood protected from scratches and such as well.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Is olive oil good for oak?

No, olive oil is a non-drying oil that will stay sticky if you apply it to any wood. Instead, use something like linseed oil or tung oil that are drying oils and dry to a hard finish that will protect oak from moisture damage.

How often should you oil oak?

Oak requires oiling after about every 6 months to a year depending on the kind of conditions it has been sitting in. If it is an oak table then you might want to oil it in six months as we are sure it has been subject to use more than any other furniture. You can oil your bed after a year as the parts of the bed that you will be using are covered with a mattress and covers.

Should I wax or oil my oak table?

You can do both, wax and oil, on your oak table if you want. Wax does not penetrate the wood and sits on top of it. So it does not provide strong protection to the furniture. However, if you want a shining oak table, then you can apply a few coats of oil to it first. This will penetrate deep into the wood and give it added protection, after which you can apply wax on top of it and rub it out to a nice shiny or glossy finish.

Final Thoughts

Oak is a great wood to work with which is reasonably priced and also very durable. Oiling oak is going to help it last for a long time and give it the added protection it needs. Oiling oak will give you water protection on top of rejuvenating and highlighting its colour and grain pattern. Just choose any oil mentioned in our article to help you finish your oak wood, you can always seal your furniture with a suitable sealer over the oil finish without any problems.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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