What are the differences b/t Danish Oil and Wipe on Poly?

lightlystarchedNovember 30, 2012

I have two chairs I need to finish. They are basically alder frames with removable cushions. I keep going back and forth on how to finish the alder. I don't want to stain the wood, just have the darkening that occurs with pretty much any finish. So, what are the practical differences between Watco Danish Oil (in Natural) and a wipe-on poly product in satin? Is one easier? More durable? Darker?

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Watco Danish Oil is actually made with Raw Linseed Oil,
Vegetable Oil, and a proprietary resin.

It has a good look, but not much protection against harsh cleaners.

It also has vapors that need to be used in good ventilation and the applicators(rags) washed before discarding. The oils in the product can self ignite a rag if left wadded up in an open container.

Water/oil based poly is actually a plastic finish. The oil based will tint the wood with an amber tint, while the water based imparts no color change.

The finish is more impervious to harsh cleaners, but will chip if hit hard enough.

The chips are difficult to repair in poly.

Wipe on with either product requires at least two coats to get a decent level of protection.

There is a third finish that can deliver the best of both those two. Regular non poly varnish, oil based. It protects much like poly, tints the wood like the Watco, and is fairly easy to repair dings/etc by simply spot sanding and spot applying varnish. It needs to be thinned to wipe on and does have an odor. It is necessary to buy this product at a real paint store, both to get a decent product and to get fresh stock. Many home improvement store varnish stock is out of date and can be of lesser quality.

Ace Hardware products are quite good, but also can be on the shelf past the use by date.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:21AM
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Thank you for taking the time to help me out. Does the varnish you mention take a long time to dry? I am in Phoenix (dusty) and I do not have a garage, so I'll be doing this project in my carport or on the back patio. I really need something that is easier for a novice to use, has a nice mellow looking finish, amber-tint is fine, and I never use chemicals to clean anything, so that's not a huge concern. At most, this chair would be wiped with a damp cloth.

Is the Watco really that awful? Am I going to hate it after a few years? Conversely, can poly ever give that hand-rubbed glow and bring out some color in the wood? I can't believe how this is paralyzing me. I've spent days getting the old horrible finish off and sanding smooth. The previous owner tried to stain one of the chairs and I guess she wanted it to look like redwood or something, but it was blotchy and awful. I am so scared to do something that will be equally horrific.

Also, the chair specs say that the wood could be alder or maple. I'm assuming it is alder because of the sheer size of the arms. It is a massive lounge chair and the arms actually are the size of 2x4s that are curved. Too expensive for maple, right? Its gotta be alder. I'll post a picture in a bit.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 9:45AM
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Here's a couple of pics of the chairs. I got these off of Craigslist for $20 each. What doesn't show though, is time and money I spent removing the previous owner's attempt at staining and refinishing:

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 10:34AM
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Paint dries, wood finishes cure. Small distinction, but important.

The Watco actually could take longer than poly of varnish to fully cure. It might actually seem to 'dry' sooner, but the hardness of the cured finish is what protects and finishes like Danish Oil(no matter the brand) take a long time to cure.

In your case, I'd recommend a water based varnish, since it has a faster time to skin(dry on the surface so dust/etc. is not a problem).

Sherwin Williams and General finishes make good varnishes.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 11:45AM
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I'm getting on late, but would agree that a varnish would be a better choice.

Here are some articles that might help:

Oil based varnishes

Oil varnish blends (aka Danish Oils)

Straight oils

Chairs such as this have a lot of "intersections" that make brushing a finish difficult. You can consider making any varnish into a Wiping varnish
You might have to forgive the author, he does not suffer fools lightly.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 1:30PM
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