Finishing Wood Furniture with Oil

Published On: October 15, 20190 Comments on Finishing Wood Furniture with OilTags: Last Updated: February 12, 20244.2 min read

When you have bought new wood furniture or when you have been using it for some time and note first signs of tear and wear, you want to consider refinishing or finishing your wood furniture with oil. This will not only enhance its look but also protect the material and increase its durability.

Finishing Wood Furniture with Oil

However, there are different types of oil available on the market which can be quite a bit confusing. This article will provide you with an overview of the different oils and explain the fundamental steps how to (re-)finish wooden surfaces.

Why You Should Finish Wood

You might be sitting on your favorite oak chair every day and you open and close your wooden doors and windows regularly. You might spill water, coffee and food on your oak table, and your outdoor furniture is exposed to the weather all the time. Even though wood is not only a beautiful but also a durable material, such heavy use will inevitably leave its marks.

Scratches and wear will deface the surface, liquids will soak into the wood and leave ugly stains and exposure to sun and rain makes wood turn gray and blunt. But this does not mean that you should avoid wood furniture at all! With the right finish, you will protect the wooden surface against wear and tear. It will add a protective coat that prevents liquid from soaking in, UV radiation from discoloring the wood, and some finishes even prevent scratches and marks.

For heavy-use objects, Polyurethane or lacquer maybe the right remedies – these finishes are very protective and a good choice for objects subject to intense usage. However, they also lead to an unnatural or even plastic-like appearance and feel. A wood finishing oil, on the other hand, provides sufficient protection for most surfaces while retaining and even enhancing the natural look of the wood. There are different types of oil suitable for various purposes from natural oils for indoor furniture to composite oils for exterior use. However, the fundamental way of applying oil is very similar for most of them although drying times might differ.

The following section explains the steps to finish wood furniture.

How Is Furniture Finished

These 5 steps will help you master the process of (re-)finishing wood with oil:

1) Choose the Right Oil

There is a variety of different types of oil available on the market. The most popular ones for finishing furniture are Danish oil, Tung oil and Teak oil though. In addition, there are mixtures of different oils where synthetic additives facilitate the application or drying time of oil. Boiled linseed oil is an example for this kind of oil. All these oils have their respective pros and cons and their appearance and sheen vary as well. For all the details, read this extensive article and infographic on the different types of wood finishing oil at TheDIYhammer. Make sure you get enough cans to finish the entire surface – follow the producer’s recommendations or use an online calculator to determine the amount of oil needed.

2) Remove Existing Finish and Sand the Surface

If the object had been treated before, make sure you remove the existing finish before you apply a new one. Usually, sanding it with coarse or low-grit sand paper should do the job. In some cases, you might need chemical support though, e.g. by using a paint stripper.

Use increasingly finer sandpaper until the surface is almost as smooth as you want it to be.

3) Apply the Oil

Apply the Oil following the instructions on the can. Use a brush or rag and apply the oil with the grain of the wood. When you have finished this step, remove the excesses.

Finishing Wood Furniture with Oil - before and after

4) Let the Oil Dry

Let the first coat of oil dry before you apply another coat. The drying time may take from 6 hours up to a week, depending on the oil you are using (refer to the back of the can). Usually, 2-4 coats are enough to provide sufficient protection.

5) Final Sanding

Once the last coat has dried, use a fine or super-fine sandpaper (e.g. > 220er grit) to finish the surface and make it as smooth as you want it to be. Some DIYers prefer to sand between the different coats of oil and use steel wool for a final polishing. However, both approaches seem to work similarly well in practice.


Wood is a beautiful and warm material for furniture, floors, doors and windows. However, it requires some care in the form of regular refinishing. While lacquer and Polyurethane often appear unnatural, oil even enhances the natural grain while providing a protection that is good enough for most cases. Even though applying oil requires some efforts, the final results are rewarding – oil finishes enhance the appearance and increase the durability of the wood. Therefore, they are well worth the time and material invested.

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