Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tried & True

I've mentioned my love of Tried & True Danish Oil in an earlier post. Now I'd like to explain why I love it so much.

First, it's traditional.

It really IS boilded linseed oil. The boiling polymerizes the oil (at least partially) and decreases drying time. Apparently, this technique eventually became synonomous with "fast" drying lindseed oil. Today's shelves are full of "boiled" linseed oil, but they are really lindseed oil with metalic driers added to make them dry really fast. Which is great, if speed is all important. But I kinda of like my health, you know? And these metalic driers are bad. And so are the mineral spirits that are also in these "boiled lindseed oils".

Second, and I already started talking about this, Tried & True is safer. Way safer. Take a look at the front label:

Sounds good, right? But to truly appreciate the difference let's take a closer look at the back labels of Tried & True and that other famous Danish Oil.

First, the industry leader (highlighting is mine):

Hmm, not that I was ever planning on taking a swig, but I think it gets the point across.

Now, let's check out the Tried & True warning:

Just in case you can't read that, it says: "Ingestions of large quantities may cause nausea."

Yeah, I'd say that is just a tad safer.

So, Tried & True is traditional, I like the way it looks, feels and smells. It is clearly safer for me and for whomever receives my creations - I believe it is food safe in both wet and dry states. Tried & True does dry slower, but if you actually READ the instructions (most complaints I've seen make it obvious that they did NOT follow the instructions - you apply this stuff thin, not "flood and soak") it is not too bad. Besides, if I thought speed was what it was all about, I'd still be running wood through my old Delta table saw and Dewalt planer instead of using vintage Disston handsaws and Stanley planes.

If you care about your health, and the health of the environment, like traditional approaches to woodworking, and don't mind rubbing on a few additional thin coats and waiting a while for it to fully cure - then I highly recommend Tried & True Danish Oil (and their Original Wood Finish and Varnish Oil too).

You can check out their site here (no affiliation blah, blah, blah):


  1. Thanks Dan for the encouragement towards using natural products. I appreciate the need for non toxic and healthy ways of living. On the other hand I'm a bit on edge about using the 'Tried & True' in certain circumstances. I am building two units for a 'Green' customer. Using FSC rated bamboo plywood and a recycled paper countertop. How do you feel about using 'T&T' Danish oil for a bathroom Vanity? I was thinking possibly of using an alternative in the interiors of the cabinet.

  2. Joshua - Hmm. I'm not sure. I am guessing that you are concerned about moisture. As far as that goes, I can only say that I have a bench in an entryway that routinely gets water on it (snowy coats etc.) and the T&T finish is holding up great. It does yellow as it ages, although it seems to be heading for brown now. You also might want to experiment with it on bamboo...

    Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

  3. I'm very interested in a natural finish like the Tried and True Boiled Linseed oil you discuss. I have an old kitchen table made in Thailand, of basswood ( correct spelling?) which is a very soft and light-colored wood. I plan to have it sanded down and I'd like to re-finish it with this Tried and True Product. Do you think this would be a reasonable finish for a table that is used for breakfasts and lunches, and spends half the day with newspapers on it?
    Does it add any additional hue to the wood, as this basswood is an extremely light colored wood? I know nothing about finishing wood, and wonder if I could tackle this myself. I'm glad to find your blog. Thanks,

  4. Katerina - I'm glad you enjoy my blog! About the finish for your table:

    I think I can say, that in general, there are two schools of thought on finishes for table tops. The first idea is to make the finish as tough as possible - polyurethane, lacquer etc. The second is to make it as easy to repair as possible - oil, wax etc.

    I always favor the latter, but you need to keep a couple of things in mind. First, the table (or whatever) will not stay shiny and new looking. It will not look like it has been dipped in plastic. Instead, it will age with character and you will be able to see and feel the wood and the impact of your life on it. I should point out that when I say "age with character" others might say "ruined". Also, it will need more frequent interaction on your part - reapplication of the finish might be called for occasionally (but is so easy), and buffing.

    The one thing that you might not like about the Tried and True Danish Oil is that it does yellow with age. On your light table this might be an issue. Also, Tried and True Varnish Oil might be more of what you are looking for - it is a tougher finish. The Varnish Oil is very dark in the can, but not very dark on the wood - nothing like a stain.

    I think I would recommend getting some and testing it out on a piece of light colored wood, the same as the table if possible, and seeing what you think. Remember to follow the instructions and use THIN coats or curing time will take ages!

    I don't think you would have any trouble doing this yourself - the finish is very easy to use (although the sanding sounds like a dirty, yucky, job - be sure to wear a mask if you do that part).

    Good Luck!

  5. Hey Dan,

    I share your enthusiasm for Tried and True even though i haven't used it.Zero VOCs, a cool label, and what seems to be old world methods are what intrigued me.
    I also like your pics of old planes. I am currently trying to strip my moms floor with a cheap block plane i found in the garage. i can't sand because it is face nailed and the nails cant be set as they are on concrete. Would it be wise to up from Stanley blade to Hock? I have to resharpen very often.i do sharpen with a belt sander upside down so maybe if i sharpened right the Stanley blade would do ok?
    Sorry to go off topic there. What i wanted to ask you about Tried and True is about your statement that it yellows. Someone at the refinshing wizard forum told me that linseed oil ambers.Do you use ambering and yellowing interchangably or are they diiferent toning? Yellowing would be what i'm looking for. My mom's floor is fir and very red so more ambering is to be avoided but i think yellowing would be nice. We are also thinking about 2 part bleaching to remove red and even grain. Good idea?
    At that forum they also said water topcoats are the only way to protect from the sun.The whole impetus for refinishing this floor was that my mom got rid of a rug and the exposed floor was quite darker and redder leaving lines of demarcation. Would any of the Tried and True finsihes retard this or do you agree that i need water poly? And if i had to use Tried's varnish to get this property of uv protection could i thin it with the danish oil to reduce sheen?
    And a few more questions.... just kidding. any help on any of above issues would be appreciated.

    thanks, Noah

  6. Noah - Sorry for the delay in responding - super busy with training just now. I'm going to try to nutshell some ideas here:

    1. I always prefer planing to sanding, but what are you doing about the nails? Be careful the belt sander isn't burning your iron - if it is turning blue, it's getting too hot. I've heard great things about Hock irons, but I've never used one. But it's the sharpening that really counts...

    2. The Tried and True Danish Oil is very yellow at first. After a while (3-4 years in my case) it starts turning brown/tan.

    3. I don't think the T&T would help with the color shifting.

    4.I've never tried bleaching, so I'm not sure about that either. If it was me, I'd be tempted to live with it for a while and see if the lighter wood didn't start to catch up to the darker wood. When I left our bamboo flooring stickered too long, the ends all darkened, but after being down on the floor, they all evened out after about a year.

    I hope that helps - of course by now you have already decided what to do...

  7. My husband and I just installed american black walnut butcher block counter tops and were intending to use thin coats of T&T danish oil to treat the counters, but that oil is not arriving for several days and we'd like to start using our sink if possible. We were going to put a thin rub of mineral oil on first and when the danish oil arrives, use that as instructed. Do you know if there are any contraindications to treating a butcher block with danish oil if there is already mineral oil on the counter? When we purchased the counters, they were treated with the John Boos "mystery oil" which I believe is a mixture of linseed and mineral oils....your thoughts would be appreciated.

  8. Noah - First, since I was a bit slow on responding to this comment, you might have already figured something out - sorry for the delay. Second, I have never had any trouble applying T&T Danish Oil over mineral oil. As you probably read above, T&T really is boiled linseed oil and is not the same as what you would find almost anywhere else, which is linseed oil plus a whole mess of highly toxic heavy metal driers. I'm not sure if these would work over mineral oil, because I've never tried it.

    Mineral oil is non-curing, so it stays liquid and slowly absorbs deeper into the wood. T&T is slow curing (go very thin!), so the only problem you might experience would be that if the mineral oil is still very close to the surface, it would mix with the T&T and really slow things down. I've had that happen with Pure Dark Tung Oil - it cured eventually, but it definitely took longer.

    Anyway, I hope that helps - enjoy your new counter tops - Dan

  9. I have a beautiful teak table that I just refinished. I thought I was doing a good thing by putting a few even coats of clear mineral oil on it but was later told by a woodworker that I needed something like Tried and True Original Wood Finish - it's the polymerized linseed oil and beeswax. I bought some. I see that you say it is indeed okay to put on top of the mineral oil but it'll just slow things down. If that's the case, how long would you recommend between coats? I live in San Francisco so it's pleasant but not hot. Or is there a way to safely remove the oil and start over? If so, what is the best way to do that without harming the finish? Thank you so much, I find your blog to be so helpful.

    1. The thing about mineral oil is that it does not cure - it just soaks in. If you put mineral oil on and then follow it closely by Tried & True it seems like they mix a bit and the TT takes a bit longer to cure. I think I usually wait about 24 hours or so between THIN coats of TT. Mineral oil is flood and soak application - TT is NOT. Keep it thin with a lot of rubbing.

      I wouldn't try to remove the mineral oil - you'd have to sand pretty deep to get it and it would be a mess. Plus, there is no reason to...

      One last thing - Teak is a naturally oily wood so I am not sure how that might change things for you.

      I'm glad you find the blog helpful, sorry for the delay in responding.

  10. Thanks interesting im am presently cooking my raw linseed oil in a crock pot the temp was about 230 to 250 is that good enough to polermerize it as tried and true is I hope this helps it dries quicker I hate the fake BLO with driers Im useing it on the well house and around the garden shed do not want poisons in it hope this works how long should I leave it on high in the crock pot to truely cook it so it dries faster

    1. I have no idea! It sounds like a fun experiment though. Maybe you should do some test samples at various times...

  11. Hi Dan. I would like to mix oil paint with t&t Danish oil. Have you done this? T&t FAQ just says add oil paint, but instructions on the net all include some sort of thinner as well.


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