Concise Introduction to Traditional
Linseed Oil Products
Many of us have heard about linseed oil and linseed oil products. We may have seen metal cans of the stuff at the hardware store or perhaps used linseed oil on a project or two. What we are talking about here is very different from conventional linseed oil and the modern paints and coatings that are so common. We are focusing on Scandinavian-inspired, historic linseed oil products and other traditional materials that are making a major comeback.
Why you may ask?
Because it is possible to make a natural, solvent-free product that holds up better and lasts longer than any modern, petrochemical based equivalent. It is so much safer to work with, live with, and manufacture.
Conditions for Rot:
This is not new technology but rather knowledge that is documented in historic painters/craftsmen manuals from many countries and cultures. Up until the 1950s, linseed oil paint had been the dominant paint used throughout Europe. By the 1980s it had almost completely disappeared from the market. Around this time, the rate of paint failure and wood rot on even fairly new facades had greatly increased, raising concerns about the compatibility of modern plastic paints and coatings. Linseed oil paint does not cause such issues, so this paired with health concerns about alkyd and solvent based materials, sparked a reinterest in the traditional materials.
With the reemergence of linseed oil paint manufacturing in Sweden, there are now more effective, longer-lasting, solvent-free alternatives available and an emerging market in the USA.
How does it work?
Instead of encasing wood with a water-based acrylic paint, essentially a plastic bag that traps moisture and causes rot, products like Linseed Oil Paint or Authentic Pine Tar nourish wood, allow moisture to move through it, and create an easy to maintain surface that will last.
This is a quick run through of such materials. Resources for more information will be located below.
Purified Raw and Boiled Linseed Oil
What is Purified Linseed Oil?
Now it is time to nerd out a bit. Linseed oil is made from flax oil, like that found at most health food stores. To make an exceptional linseed oil product like purified oil, paint, wax, etc. for use on wood, metal, and other surfaces, the oil should be purified or processed in a way to remove the protein or food-value and anti-oxidants from the oil and ensure the oil dries. There are a few ways to do this. The Viking Purified Raw Linseed Oil for example has had the protein removed, has been processed naturally with no additives, and heated/sterilized to create a beautiful clear, drying oil that can be used for many applications. Once the oil is processed, it can then become the base for many other products, such as paint, stain, wax, etc.
The more an oil is heated the larger the molecules. As you can see from the molecular graph below, linseed oil can penetrate into the substrate of the wood, creating excellent protection from moisture that can cause rot. It also does not trap moisture with a barrier like a plastic paint/stain does, allowing for moisture to move with the changes in season and temperature.
Viking Purified Raw Linseed Oil is a drying oil that can be used for many applications. For example, as a “primer” coat before painting with Linseed Oil Paint or to create a custom Linseed Oil Stain, as well as mixed with Authentic Pine Tar. The wide range of applications include: shingles, siding, decks, floors, fences, windows, furniture, wooden boats, etc. Developed to protect, preserve, and nourish wood surfaces, it is also a natural rust inhibitor and excellent on metal.
Allback Boiled Linseed Oil has similar applications as the Viking Raw. The Allback Raw Linseed Oil is not a drying oil and is great for storing brushes between projects.
Reach out to a supplier to ensure you are using the best oil for your project. Avoid conventional Linseed Oil as it has solvents and other additives that can attract bugs/mildew and go rancid over time.
Linseed Oil Paint and Stain
Three major Linseed Oil Paint manufacturers in Sweden are Ottossan (coming soon to the USA), Viking by Wibo, and Allback. All are solvent-free and use linseed oil as a binder with pigment. The biggest differentiating factor between these brands for those new to Linseed Oil Paint is that Ottosson and Viking include zinc (a natural fungicide) and Allback has zinc as an additive option. The color range is impressive and maintenance is easy. It does not peel or bubble-up like modern paints and coatings. Instead, simply clean or wipe down surface and reapply a thin maintenance coat of paint or just some Purified Linseed Oil as needed.
Get creative by mixing Linseed Oil Paint with Viking Purified Raw Linseed Oil to make a custom stain. A few stain colors are already available: Silver Gray, Dark Green, and Dark Brown.
Both interior and exterior options available. Can be used on wood and metal. Exterior applications should include zinc, especially for humid or damp climates in the USA.
Dry time for exterior applications is slower than a conventional plastic paint but this is also why it lasts so much longer. A small amount of patience will provide exponential results in the long run.
Linseed Oil Soap
Excellent wood surface cleaner for both exterior and interior projects. Can be used as a general soap for cleaning but designed to be used to clean hands and brushes after working with Linseed Oil Paint.
No need for solvents when painting with Linseed Oil Paint or for clean-up.
Linseed Oil Wax
A combination of Purified Linseed Oil and beeswax, creates a durable, moisture-beading surface. Primarily for wood protection but can also be used on metal and plastic. Easy application and maintenance.
Viking Purified Linseed Oil Wax is ideal for cutting boards, carved spoons, furniture, floors, etc. Allback makes a beautiful line of pigmented waxes designed for flooring and furniture projects.
No need to put too much on. Apply with cloth, let sit for 15-20 minutes and wipe away any excess.
Linseed Oil Putty
DANA makes an exceptional, easy to use Linseed Oil Putty for window restoration projects. It is very similar in consistency to modern putty or glazing compounds and great for larger scale projects where time is of the essence.
The Allback Linseed Oil Putty can be manipulated in consistency and used as an effective wood filler.
Apply Linseed Oil Paint to Linseed Oil Putty immediately! Skip waiting for putty to dry. Important to paint onto the glass with these products for long-lasting results.
Linseed Oil Varnish
Le Tonkinois manufactures exceptional Linseed Oil Varnish. Easy to use and ready right out of the can. Prep surface with Viking Purified Raw Linseed Oil to nourish dry wood or apply Le Tonkinois Bio Impression as a primer coat. Once varnish is applied, watch as it wears away over the years instead of cracking and peeling like a polyurethane. Simply clean with Linseed Oil Soap and reapply a few coats as needed in the years to come.
Interior and exterior: floors, furniture, marine applications, etc.
Avoid silicone products as this negatively impacts proper adhesion.
Authentic Pine Tar
A spectacular wood preservative with antiseptic properties. It keeps away insects such as wood bees. Solvent-free as it is recommended to apply 50/50 with Viking Purified Raw Linseed Oil for best results. Together these two products work to protect and nourish wood surfaces with impressive UV protection. Comes in light and dark, as well as pigmented: black and red.
Exterior (has a strong smell of campfire!). Barns and outbuildings, wide plank siding, decks, etc. For use on wood surfaces only.
Apply warm (not hot) for even faster absorption into the wood.
It is not recommended to mix systems. If you decide to go with linseed oil products, embrace that sphere of products and do not mix with acrylic or petrochemical products. Use like-with-like and you will get the best results.
For more information, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and explore the resources, links, and videos on our website and our EARTH+FLAX Studio YouTube Channel.