Lemon oil -- old school?

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 06-11-2015 11:31 AM 744 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 813 days

06-11-2015 11:31 AM

Topic tags/keywords: modern finishing

Back in the 70’s when I was just a wee lad, there was a fair amount of interest in Danish style “real wood” furniture. The stuff my parents had was all a combination of walnut and oak, much of it solid wood…some a mix of solid and veneer.

At that time it seemed to be all the rage to avoid any sort of poly/laquer finish, and just rub the wood about once a month with lemon oil or similar. Having a “natural” finish of this sort was considered “fancy” at the time. You could either have “cheap” furniture with a coating on it, or you could have “real” furniture that was just oiled.

This practice seems to have pretty much disappeared here in the US. I’m wondering if for those who are not too lazy to do the occasional maintenance (or those who have “people” to do it for them), is a non-poly, non-lacquer, “natural” finish still prized, or has this practice completely disappeared from the medium and high end furniture world?

(note, I’m not saying it was better, just that it was the sentiment of that time…)

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

5 replies so far

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1410 days

#1 posted 06-11-2015 11:55 AM

I wouldn’t consider once a month for the life of the piece occasional maintenance, but….... A lot of folks still want the “natural”, what I call close to the grain look. Many use BLO, tung oil, and other elixers to provide the look, and most of these require maybe annual recoatings. For the look I use OB poly thinned ~50%, like a thin wiping varnish. Let soak in for ~10 minutes, wipe it off. Different sheens and different finish film builds provide different looks and levels of protection.

As to what’s considered “fancy”, I can’t answer. That changes like pop culture. A lot of variation of opinion for what looks the best or most expensive.

View JoeinGa's profile


7374 posts in 1428 days

#2 posted 06-11-2015 03:14 PM

Hmm, When my father-in-law passed away we inherited his house. When cleaning out his little shed I found a gallon of lemon oil from the Western Auto store he owned back in the mid-70s. When I picked it up the handle came off in my hand (it was a gallon-sized tin can and the handle had rusted off.

I poured it into a plastic jug and have used it on my rake, shovel and hoe handles. It’s rather “thick” and smells like it’s pure oil. I wonder if you can even buy this stuff any more?

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

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Bill White

4407 posts in 3381 days

#3 posted 06-11-2015 03:24 PM

Lemon scented mineral oil. Great marketing gimmick.


View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 813 days

#4 posted 06-11-2015 03:28 PM

Lemon scented mineral oil. Great marketing gimmick.

- Bill White

OMG, is that really all it is? My Mom bought it hook line and sinker. ;)

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2755 days

#5 posted 06-11-2015 03:59 PM

I was in the retail furniture business in the first half of the 60’s and I sold primarily walnut with a natural finish and I sold a lot of lemon oil to customers to maintain their furniture. That’s right, the lemon was just for fragrance as far as I know. Oak and Walnut are especially nice with natural finishes and really are at their best that way in my opinion and stay looking fresh a long long time longer than with shiny finishes. A monthly oiling didn’t necessarily mean more work as furniture has to be dusted regularly anyway and it’s not much extra effort to pour a little lemon oil on a dust rag when doing so. An oil with a fragrance is much more pleasant to use so I don’t think there was any con job going on.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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