After you’ve taken delivery of your soon-to-be-appreciated wooden worktop, you’ll naturally want to keep it looking as perfect as possible. Wood is a versatile and stunning looking material and is easy to care for, once you know how to oil it and establish a maintenance pattern.
From delivery be sure to keep your work surface in a room that is up to normal living temperature, rather than in a shed or garage. If you’re lucky the manufacturer will have provided an oil can, or you may need to stop at the hardware store. There are several types of oil and they have slightly different properties, but all will work for this purpose.
- Danish Oil: A blend of oils such as Tung and Flaxseed. Danish oil gives a good level of protection and is quite easy to apply. A very popular brand is Rustin’s Danish oil.
- Tung Oil: From a tree found in China, Africa and South America. Tung oil gives great protection but takes longer to dry than other oils and can be a bit more difficult to apply. Common brands to look for here are Bestwood Tung oil and Liberon Tung oil.
- Linseed oil: From steamed and crushed linseed. While it provides adequate protection, you will need to wait a long time between coats as it can take several days to dry. Rustin’s also make a good linseed oil.
- Teak oil: A mixture of natural oils from vegetable products. This quick drying oil provides good protection but has nothing to do with teak!
You need to start the oiling process before installing the work surface. You will be sanding the entire work surface on both sides and paying special attention to the end grain sections at each end and any cutouts (for sinks and hobs etc.).
Step 1 – Use a lint-free cloth instead of a brush, an old t-shirt is perfect.
Step 2 – Put some oil on the fabric, oil the exposed edges first. If you don’t do these first, drip marks may appear later. Oil the sides of the cutter at this point as well.
Step 3 – Pour a small amount of oil directly on the surface of the wood. Working with the grain (in the same direction as the grain, rather than around it), you are aiming for a thin, even and consistent coat over the entire surface. You should find this quite easy to achieve if you start with small amounts and avoid leaving large pools of oil on the surface for long periods of time. Oil around cut-outs and the end grain sections.
Step 4 – Wait for 10 minutes. Using the same cloth, but this time without excess oil, go over the surface again. The fabric should come off easily on the surface. If you feel it is not, apply a little more oil to that section. It is quite normal for different parts of the worktop to absorb oil at different rates. Oil the cuts and the end grain sections again.
You will notice that you are joining the edges of the edge grain twice as much as the main surfaces. This is because the end grain sections absorb more oil than the top and bottom surfaces.
Using the above steps, oil the bottom surface twice and the top surface four or five times. After the first coats of oil (which can be dry in as little as 30 minutes depending on a range of factors), the second and subsequent coats will take longer. Don’t be tempted to apply the next coat before the last one has dried; the oil hardens as it dries and adding the next coat of oil too quickly means it takes longer to harden.
After installation the top surface may need one or two more coats. From this point on, you may not need to oil it again for three to six months. You’ll know it’s time to re-oil when the water stops “beading” on the surface.
The initial care and attention to show the work top will be worth it, you will receive a lifetime of service from this amazing natural material in return.
Jon Buck was managing director at Bordercraft since 1996. Bordercraft are a family business and have been producing fine hardwood furniture from their workshops in the Welsh borders since 1972. UNITED KINGDOM