An oil/varnish blend is made by mixing a small quantity of varnish (including polyurethane) with a larger quantity of oil, often linseed or tung oil. It is then thinned to a desired consistency by the addition of mineral spirits. The result is essentially a very thin oil varnish. Oil/varnish blends, often referred to as “Danish oil” are popular because they are easy to apply and offer a bit more protection than a straight oil finish. However, they aren’t the best choice for high-use furniture such as kitchen tables because they do not form a hard protective film. They are most appropriate for beds, end tables, mirrors, picture frames, and other items that are not subject to rough treatment. Watco Danish oil, teak oil, Nordic oil, Scandinavian oil, antique oil, salad bowl finish, and an assortment of other finishes sold as oil finishes fall into this category.
- Easy to apply, like a straight oil finish, but more protective than straight oil.
- Easy to roll your own oil and varnish blend using readily available ingredients.
- Easy to refresh the finish after it loses its sheen (and this will happen).
- Easy to repair.
- Not as protective as varnish, lacquer, or shellac finishes.
- Difficult to ascertain exact oil and varnish composition of specific products.
- Misleading product names (example: “Salad Bowl Finish”) can further confuse.
- Finish “bleeding” more likely to occur compared to straight oil and wiping varnish.
Behlen Danish Oil
Behlen Salad Bowl Finish
Behlen Teak Oil
Behr Scandinavian Tung Oil Finish
Deft Danish Oil
General Finishes Nordic Oil
General Finishes Seal-A-Cell
Minwax Antique Oil Finish
Minwax Tung Oil Finish
Sam Maloof Poly/Oil Finish
Watco Teak Oil
Watco Danish Oil
Note 1: Oil/varnish blends are often combined with stain to provide a one-can finish.
Note 2: Some finishes sold as Danish Oil (such as General Finishes Danish Oil) contain only oil and no varnish.
An oil/varnish blend is an excellent finish for achieving a hand-rubbed look. If you’re looking for a glass-smooth finish, look elsewhere – especially if using open-pored woods like oak. To apply, flood the surface of the wood with finish, let it soak for 5 minutes or so, and then wipe off excess with a rag. Allow to dry overnight before applying next coat. Three to four coats will usually provide adequate protection (versus 5-6 coats for tung oil).
Some woodworkers like to add additional varnish to an oil-varnish blend. The resulting finish will dry faster and provide a harder, more protective coating.