Thursday, June 14, 2012

Oiled Charcoal Wood Finish

Bed with oiled charcoal finish

PAR - Davies has a new bed designed and built by our master craftsman Bob.  The bed itself is beautiful with an “antique” look.  Bob treated the wood with linseed oil and charcoal; and promised the wood would last “longer than we would.”

Bob used this 100-year-old recipe for "Everlasting Fence Posts" he found online at

"Take boiled linseed oil and stir in it pulverized charcoal to the consistency of paint. Put a coat of this over the timber, and there is not a man that will live to see it rotten." (From "Lee's Priceless Recipes" 1895)

A little “Googling” led me to an old furniture preservation technique called “oiled charcoal”-- not to be confused with “oiled charcoal” pastel sticks used by artists.

Per my reading, Linseed is the preferred oil; but olive oil may also be used. 

There are two types of Linseed oil:  raw and boiled.  The boiled Linseed oil is not actually boiled, but has certain solvents added which speed up drying.  Theoretically, the solvents evaporate when drying.  The raw linseed oil takes longer to dry but has the benefit of helping the wood retain its natural moisture, thus retarding cracking and shrinking.

A nice recipe for oiled charcoal wood finish is found on Ehow
  1. Place several lumps of charcoal into a heavy duty plastic bag. Crush the charcoal with a mallet into a semi-fine dust.
  2. Pour the charcoal dust into a measuring cup. Measure 1 cup and pour into a bucket.
  3. Pour linseed oil into a measuring cup. Measure 2 cups of linseed oil and pour into a bucket.
  4. Mix the charcoal and linseed oil with a stir stick. Apply the mixture to wood with a paint brush. It will be like spreading oil with sand suspended in it.
  5. Wait a day and apply another coat to the wood. Wait 24 or more hours for the second coat to dry before exposing it to the elements. 
The best thing about linseed oil and charcoal is that it doesn’t contain the arsenic used in many of the treated woods currently available.  The next best thing: it’s truly beautiful.

----Sharon Lusk

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