Full Chisel Blog

December 5, 2009

Lintseed Oil

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:54 am

The word ‘lintseed’ appears in the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster and gets the name from the fact that the process of making linen textiles, lint is produced.  Well I thought it was interesting.  Linseed oil as we call it today is one of the oldest finishes for furniture and other woodwork.

It is a drying oil that polymerizes on exposure to air, when properly applied to wood it will usually dry in 24 hours.  However if you put it on an expensive linen duster it can take a little longer.

I purchased this duster a couple of years ago and spent about $130.00 and had no intention of making it a slicker.  Then I got a great deal on a cotton/linen duster that looks the same but didn’t have pocket flaps.  So after much consideration I decided to make my linen duster into a linen slicker.

I weighed the duster before the process and it weighed 2 pounds.  I then put the duster in a bag and poured in a half a quart of linseed oil/ turpentine 50/50% with about a tablespoon of glycerin.  The glycerin keeps everything flexible.  I manipulated the bag until I got oil on all parts of the coat.  I took it out of the bag, re-rolled it put it back in the bag and stomped on it.  I kept this up for about an hour until all the fabric had got oil.  I weighed the slicker and it had gained a pound.

I then hung it up to dry in an airy place.  I was a bit worried that the coat might spontaneously combust and catch on fire.  If I had let it sit wadded up it certainly would have burned, but it was hanging properly and I kept an eye on things.  The first day the fumes were strong as it was the second, third…

Well it has been two weeks and I can still smell the mixture but the coat is almost dry.  It stiffened up but the glycerin keeps things flexible, so it didn’t harden up real hard.  I will give it a few more days before I wear it, but I am happy with the results.  The slicker is a bit darker than before the oil.

I also started using larger pieces of linen to apply oil to various projects.  When I am done I ‘dispose of oily rags properly’ by spreading it out flat to dry.  But instead of throwing it away I now have oil cloth, which I can use to wrap up food stuffs for reenactments, etc.

Making oil cloth has been around for centuries and used for painted floor coverings and even in lieu of window glass, oil cloth was placed in windows, kept out the cold but let in some light.  There are many other recipes for making cloth waterproof, but this is the easiest, just don’t oil anything you want to wear in the next month.

Now if I wanted something more heavy duty I would ‘tar’ up some ‘poplin’ and make tarred-poplin  or tarpaulin.



  1. Do you use raw or boiled linseed oil?

    Comment by Chuck — June 14, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  2. Chuck,

    For this I used commercially boiled linseed oil. I have since then started to ‘boil’ my own raw linseed oil without the nasty chemicals. I am doing research on 19th century woodworking finishes and have run into many old methods of ‘boiling’ the oil using other means.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — June 14, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

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