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how to oil in danish

Title courtesy of MMMC who made me laugh when she said that yes, she would like to see a tutorial about how to oil in Danish! I just wish I knew a little Danish so I could make this post more interesting. Seriously though, I'd like to take you through how I use Danish oil to weave it's magic on the vintage pieces in our home and for the shop, such as the bar stools pictured above and below which I finished on the weekend. You will find Danish oil is an easy and a very forgiving form of polishing timber.

You will need the following:
- Various grades of sandpaper (see below)
- Can of Danish Oil, try Cabots Danish Oil
- Paintbrush, small to medium size
- Steel wool, 000 or 0000 grade
- A couple of clean rags
- Mineral Turps for clean up
You should be able to find all of these items can be found at your local hardware store.

Firstly you will need to sand back the timber piece you are planning on oiling to a smooth finish using various grades of sandpaper. As a rule I start with 120 grade, then 180, 240 and 320 grade sandpaper to finish. It is a lengthy process - it took me days to sand back these two barstools - but if you can stick with it, the result is worth it. You may use 400 grade sandpaper to finish if you like but I find 320 grade is fine as when you oil the wood you will polish it further. Make sure all the fine sawdust is wiped off the timber before you start to oil it.

When using Danish oil, especially when the weather is warm as it is up here in Queensland, I find it best to work on small sections at a time, say one leg of a chair for example. 

Brush on the Danish oil generously to your chosen section of timber, then take a wad of fine grade steel wool and rub the oil into the timber as if you were polishing it. You may find the steel wool quite dry in the first coat as the timber sucks up the oil so I sometimes dab a little oil onto the steel wool before polishing into the wood. Polish in the direction of the woodgrain for best results. 

Leave for a few minutes for the oil to absorb into the timber, and wipe off excess with a clean cloth before the oil gets tacky. The can says to leave it for 10 minutes, but in our climate I only leave it about 5 minutes max. If you have left it a little too long and it has become tacky, just brush on more oil and repeat the steps. 

Repeat for all sections of your timber piece, two to three coats. Use a new wad of steel wool as needed. The beauty of Danish oil is that you don't have to wait until one coat dries, you can do your second coat straight away. The cans says to wait 8 hours between coats, which you can if you like, however I have achieved excellent results without doing so. The result will be a silky smooth, satin oiled finish which looks very natural. Over time the oiled finish will harden more and more to further protect your furniture.

The above picture shows the oiled finish on the left with the original finish (a semi opaque baby poo brown stain) on the right. The Danish oil has transformed the natural look of the timber beautifully.

If you would prefer a glossier finish, in the final coat (or two) brush on the Danish oil carefully and leave to dry without polishing it in with the steel wool, and then just before it gets too tacky, lightly wipe of a small amount of excess oil, making sure the gloss level is consistent throughout. Watch for drips though, you will have to keep an eye on the piece of furniture until it is touch dry to guarantee a beautiful finish. If you are doing the final two coats in this manner, I would recommend waiting the full 8 hours between coats. I used this made-up method when polishing the timber on our Fler armchair as pictured below.

Clean up is with Mineral Turps which I hate using, but you are only using it on the one brush (and your very sticky hands - don't do any Danish oiling if you have pretty polished nails). The steel wool will harden due to the danish oil so the used pieces can be disposed of.

And you're done! I hope you are inspired to start polishing up some neglected furniture pieces for your home. If anyone has any other Danish oiling tips to share, feel free to leave them in a comment below, I'd love to learn more myself.

Images: Olive & Joy


  1. You make it sound so easy .. and yet, you also make it look so beautiful. I think I am falling in love with all your furniture .. (-:

  2. Julie, you are one talented lady! The stools and chair look fab! Wish I had your patience.

  3. This is fab, thanks Julie. Would you recommend only using Danish Oil for vintage/retro type furniture or any furniture? I think Danish Oil might just be perfect for a chair we picked up on e-bay however, it's not as nice as your FLER chair but the arms and legs could do with a nice polish..

  4. Maria - You could use Danish oil for timber furniture of any style - it doesn't have to be retro at all. Go for it!

  5. Oh! p.s I noticed your scroll and you will not believe that I think you have solved one of my dilemmas! I'm hoping you can help or perhaps post about it? We have an original 1950s (at a guess) Adelaide tram scroll (back when we had trams!) - lucky to be handed down to us from L's family. As we have the entire length which is quite long we don't want to cut it up as we'll only end up losing the integrity and originality of the piece. From what I can see in the first image of this post - you have your scroll on a roller so you can move the scroll up and down? Can you give me some ideas on what we could do or perhaps show me what you have done? I like what I see and this could work perfectly for us! I hope this makes sense...

    Thanks Julie, Maria x

  6. Maria - Oh cool! We used Grundtal kitchen rails from Ikea to hang ours, which is really long also about 10 metres I think. It is fixed, but easy to take back down (just unscrew the rail and leave the brackets on the wall). Then you can put on the ground and roll to whatever section you like. We've only changed ours twice but it's nice to know we can if we want to. When it is hung you can roll the rail slightly to lessen any slack that happens from time to time. It is super easy. And cheap!

  7. That is fantastic - thank you so much! That has made my day :)

  8. Julie,
    you're hilarious! And I can't read this post because it's in English!

    Ha! No, I joke.

    I'm coming back tonight when the house is asleep and seriously taking notes in a notebook, because I'm going to do everything you say to my pair of old dining chairs.

    You're brilliant!! I'm now going to read about your beautiful chair ...

  9. Would this finish be tough enough for a table or desk top?

    It looks great!

  10. Your furniture looks gorgeous as always. I feel like doing up a piece of furniture after reading this. xx

  11. Melissa - I haven't oiled a table top as yet so I'm not sure how the finish would react to hot and cold if used on a dining table?? But I guess if you were careful it would be fine. It won't have as much of a physical barrier to knocks etc as a thick varnish. However any imperfections can be easily spot-fixed whereas with a varnish you have to sand it right back and re-finish the entire top. And it will look beau-ti-ful. Hope this helps.

  12. Nice work... oils the way to go! Its so rewarding when you are bringing an old piece of furniture back to life. Have fun, Lisa

  13. Hi,
    I'm back taking notes. I'm sending my husband off with a shopping list to the Paddington Hardward store.

    Thanks, Julie.

  14. MMMC - That's great, let me know how you go with it!

  15. These look great!!! Hope you are doing well:) Your store looks amazing!

  16. Hey Julie!
    So lovely to hear from you, thanks for the comments!
    How great do these chairs look! In love!
    Sorry about the reposting, I was editing some old posts and accidently changed the date, but yeah I bought it oct 09. I bought it from citiwide here
    or on their ebay store here
    I can totally recommend them!

    I've bought all my camera gear on there and so cheaply! My Canon 500D is awesome but u might as well spend a bit more and get a Canon 5D (it's full frame awesomeness) with something like a 35mm f1.4 lens. 5D's are amazing! Happy slr hunting! My theory is any money spent on camera gear is money very well spent!

  17. Thank you! Very useful information :-)

  18. Hi there, After reading this post yesterday I went out and bought your supply list to re-do a beautiful teak table we bought at a thrift store. Curious about one thing, you say you start with the coarser grit sandpaper and work to a finer grit, can you explain that process more? Are you doing anything in between the different grits? I guess I'm unclear why you would go through so many sanding passes with different grits. Your chairs look lovely, btw!

  19. Hi Lane,
    It would depend on the condition of the table and whether it is solid teak or teak veneer as to how you would sand back your table. If it was teak veneer you would only be able to give it a light sand and it that case I would start with the 240 grade and finish very lightly with the 320. If you piece has deep scratches (and is solid teak) or uneven finish you would most definitely want to start with the 120 grade so that you can get it back to a natural timber finish.

    The coarser grade papers take off the finish easier however as they are harsher they also create texture, even fine scratches in the timber. You use the different grades to gradually bring it back to a lovely smooth finish. If you were to jump from 120 to 320 grade for example the result would not be as smooth.

    I can understand how daunting it must feel to do that much sanding on a table, it is quite time consuming! It is really about using your own judgement as to the condition of the table and how it feels under your hands in terms of smoothness. If the table is solid and it not too bad condition, you may be able to start at 180 grade.

    There is no need to do anything else but sand in between the different grades, however when you are finished it is really important to remove all of the fine dust. Perhaps use a dust brush carefully first then a clean cloth to wipe over to remove the remainder. Don't use anything wet or moist as this will only raise the grain of the timber again.

    I hope this helps Lane, best of luck!

  20. Thanks for the advice. We examined the table more carefully and it appears to have a veneer finish so I will have to be pretty careful with it. It's a table like this (ours is smaller)

  21. Hi Julie
    I've just coated a Baltic Pine table top with 2 coats of Cabots Danish Oil. I neglected to wipe off the excess however and am now wondering what my next step should be. Do you think i should sand it lightly and add one more coat this time wiping off the excess. Or am I too late and have to sand it all back and start again????

  22. Hi Michael,

    Yes, all you need to do is sand back the last coat lightly and recoat (wiping off excess this time).


  23. Hi Julie,
    For years I have been hesitant to use steel wool to apply danish oil. You step by step guide made it so easy and the results on my old church pew are fantastic! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise! Julia

  24. Hi julie,
    Where did you buy your armchair and stool.I was looking for something similar.

  25. Just what I was looking for! We have just rescued a gorgeous danish coffee table in desperate need of restoring to its former beauty.YOur blog and danish oil instructions are great. Thanks so much for sharing.

  26. Hello there, I just read this and I wanted to perhaps shed some more light on this topic, 320 is far too fine for a wood surface to receive oil 220 should be the max, you also have to check if the wood you're using eg: Walnut is an open fibre wood which will soak up oil or perhaps it is a closed grain wood which will not soak up as much such as Maple. The reason 320 is too fine is because if you're using a closed grain wood you can block the way for the oil and it can be harder to get it to soak in, after soaking the wood in oil and it will take no more rub down, then wait 30 minutes and see if any beads appear and wipe those down, left dry for 24 hrs and then you can rub down or denib with 000 wire wool, then apply the next coat and denob with 000 wire wool, the 3rd coat should be enough for a fantastic finish but this time use 0000 wire wool to denib. I hope this helps. P.S. some people will also use a stage early on where they soak the surface in water and let it dry, this is usually after the first coat of oil has dried, it brings up the fibres of the wood and allows for a smooth finish.

  27. Is this method suitable for timber armchairs which get a lot of skin contact and wear? Im about to restore a pair of fled sc55 armchairs and would like to use this.

  28. Hi,

    I'm interested in the white bar stool you have posted, please may i know what is the brand/model of that?

    Thank you and looking forward to your reply.

  29. I would not recommend using steel wool on bare timber - you will eventually end up with rust stains as the tiny steel fibres lodge in the grain. I just brush and then wipe off the first coat as indicated but using a rag to remove the excess, let it dry and then very lightly sand and do a 2nd coat the same way. For the third coat I use the steel qwool and them wipe off. If this level of gloss is not good enough, do a 4thcoat, again with steel wool and then wipe off with a rag


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