Linseed Oil … A Cautionary Tale


Linseed oil can create a beautiful finish on fine furniture and metal work. It’s an easily renewable finish, a natural product in some of it’s forms. I use it to refresh my wood counters and the finish on some of my earlier oil finished pieces in my home. The counter you see above is now in the ‘once a year for the rest of your life ‘ phase of the finish process, is used hard daily and looks terrific with little care. That little pile of rags in the foreground though could completely wipe out my house or yours if you weren’t paying attention. Tragically, it happened to a friend/client a few weeks ago. They came by yesterday and now that they have seen that some of their furniture will be coming back, I think it’s ok to publish this cautionary tale. Wikipedia says: Linseed oil is extracted from ripe flax seeds by cold pressing. It has natural characteristics that make it an excellent product to produce a beautiful and durable finish on wood products. It does, however, have a potential downside as Wikipedia points out in the second sentence of the description …. ‘Linseed oil can polymerize and the reaction is exothermic, and rags soaked in it can ignite spontaneously.’ True enough. Only the prompt and professional response of the Dorset Fire Department and other mutual aid companies prevented the building from being a total loss. So, I now have, in the upstairs of my garage, a large selection of smoke damaged furniture and we are currently working through the cleaning and polishing of some of the pieces. It’s a sobering but rewarding process. DISPOSE OF YOUR RAGS PROPERLY !!!

The vanity cabinet after the fire

The vanity cabinet after the total disassembly, cleaning and sealing

The dining table we made in 2005, after the fire

The dining table cleaned

Some pretty important chairs, before and after…
More info and photos on my blog HERE

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