Varnish Oil - Fine Woodworking Tool Review
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Varnish Oil

Tried & True Wood Finishes - Varnish Oil

Tried & True Varnish Oil didn't fare well in several tests of wipe-on finishes.

$24.99 per quart (As of 8/1/2006)

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Editor's Review: Wipe-On Finish Test

by Chris A. Minick

review date: August 1, 2006

The author tested 15 wipe-on finishes, including a water-based finish and both tung-oil and linseed-oil-based finishes. Pure boiled linseed oil and Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane, a brushing finish, were added for comparison. All the finishes were tested on pieces of red-oak plywood cut from the same sheet. Tried & True Varnish Oil stood out as the worst performer. It was hard to apply, had no sheen, offered poor water resistance, and still hadn't dried after 30 days. It was also more expensive than most.

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Editor Test Results:

Drying Time More than 30 days
Sheen Flat
Water Resistance Poor

Manufacturer Specifications

Manufacturer Tried & True Wood Finishes
Manufacturer's Web Site
Manufacturer's Phone Number 607-387-9280

I wish Chris A. Minick, author of "Editor's Review: Wipe-On Finish Test" would revisit/update that article since, as so many others have found out including Chris Becksvoort, Tried & True Varnish Oil is a superior product that really cannot be considered in the same category as the other products tested. About the only requirement is following the directions on the can. I use a 2 to 1 mixture of Varnish Oil/Danish Oil on almost every piece of furniture I build and I love it's non-toxic nature. You can almost drink the stuff (but please don't).

I'm not sure what problem the author had with the finish, but it has always provided me with beautiful results.

With due respect to Mr. Minick, Tried and True is a good product that produces a nice finish yet does not make wood look like plastic. The key to Tried and True is to not apply a thick coating. If you apply the finish too thick, it will tack over and be difficult to rub off. I tend to rub this finish very vigorously, creating heat and driving the oil deep into the wood. Trying the heating technique suggested by Christian Becksvoort may produce similar results with less physical investment.If you are looking for a nice finish with a more "antique" look try the Tried and True Original Wood Finish. The Original finish is easier to use than the varnish, but doesn't build to a gloss easily (if at all). Tried and True original leaves a very rich, warm tone to the wood with no surface film. As with the Varnish, the Original finish is non-toxic and takes very little product to get good results.Performing a home-shop test of Tried and True Original vs. Waterlox Original yielded similar results between the two. While Waterlox does dry faster, both products produce about the same coloration and "pop". Given performance, plus the positive environmental health factor, I'd pick the Tried and True for every project that doesn't need a surface film type finish.

I wish readers and editors would read the article by Christian Becksvoort about this product. When used like he recommends there is no finish better IMHO for the durable hand rubbed look that we are all seeking. Oh yeah, its easily repairable too.

While this is not the easiest finish to use, it will produce nice results if you follow the instructions. I think the secret is to rub until you generate some heat, which thins the finish and allows it to penetrate more deeply. Other finishes are thinner, and penetrate more readily without such hard work.Don't forget, this is a zero VOC product, so that extra rubbing is doing the work of chemical / metal dryers found in other products. It's like riding a bike into town instead of taking the car... you'll get there either way but journey is quite different.

I think the editor and user 'pellden' haven't applied the product correctly, this is why they got poor results.The instruction says to wipe it on with a rag. VERY small amount is required. A little too much and it won't dry.If you just dive the rag to the can, and oil drips from it, you'll get too much of it. You should not be able to wringle oil out of the rag. If you can push the oil on the work surface it's already too much. A brush definitely gives WAY too much. When I used Tried and True first time, the rag was soaked, and the workpiece got too much oil. It wouldn't dry for long time.The secret is in taking very little of oil.Get a piece of rag, dip its corner into oil, and fold it so the dipped corner is inside. Pinch it with fingers, making oil to permeate through. This amount should be just right to wipe on.Sure this finish is very tricky, and the instruction should be more clear.

I used Tried and True Varnish Oil on a book case made from oak veneer plywood and solid oak trim. Prior to applying the finish, I sanded the surface using 100, 220, and 320 grit sandpaper. I then applied the finish using a brush. The manufacturer's instructions suggest that you apply a very thin coat but that's nearly impossible using a brush. The product is relatively thick and goes on thick with a brush. As recommended, I wiped the excess off with a cloth after one hour. The surface was sticky and cloth particles stuck to the finished surface. I tried to buff up the surface after 24 hours, per the manufacturer's recommendations but it was a tough job. The surface was still tacky and difficult to work with.In fairness to the manufacturer, all of the above occurred in my garage, when outside temperatures were near 90 F (27C or better) and high humidity.One week later, the surface was still tacky. Two weeks later, the surface is finally getting dry enough for me to consider putting books on it.Presumably because of the linseed oil, the product gives quite a yellow tint to the wood surface. The effect is pleasant but definitely not for someone who wants a natural look.All in all, I am unlikely to use this product again.

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