By Bob Flexner
Finishing is a mystery to most woodworkers, but it’s not because finishes are difficult to apply. All that’s involved in applying a finish is transferring a liquid to wood using one of three really easy-to-use tools: a rag, a brush or a spray gun.
Finishing is a mystery largely because of the confusion created by manufacturers in their labeling, and there’s no better example of this than the mislabeling of various “oil” finishes.
Before the growth of the consumer market in the 1960s and 1970s there was little confusion about finishes. There were fewer products available and most were bought and used by professionals who were fairly knowledgeable about them. Manufacturers helped by listing ingredients, something few do today.
Boiled linseed oil was available, of course, and was used by many amateurs who sometimes added varnish to it to make the oil a little more durable.