Best Way to Apply a Watco Danish Oil Finish With Topcat? Links to Good Tutorial?

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Forum topic by helluvawreck posted 05-13-2012 02:40 PM 21737 views 4 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3069 days

05-13-2012 02:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: watco danish oil lacquer spay on lacquer wipe on poly spray on poly lacquer finish poly finish finish for boxes finishing boxes

Most of you know that I’m not an advanced craftsman. I have been making some mitered corner craftsman boxes with with keys in the corners for a couple of months and I want to put a Watco Danish Oil Finish with a topcoat on them. I sand my boxes to 320. I apply the Danish Oil and after 15 minutes I wipe excess off and apply a second coat. Then after 72 hours I buff with 0000 steel wool and repeat the whole process above two more times.

I plan on allowing the boxes to sit for two to four weeks to make sure the oil has cured. I plan on using wipe on or spay on Poly or Lacquer. What is the best way to achieve a real nice top coat.?

If I’m going about the oil finish the wrong way what is the right way?

Links to a really good tutorial are fine or if you want to elaborate that is fine to. I hate to be a bother for asking this simple question. However, sometimes the info on a search is overwhelming and it’s hard to sort out the good from the bad.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

15 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5128 posts in 4163 days

#1 posted 05-13-2012 03:16 PM

Why not use a wiping varnish after the oil has cured? Goes on well with some lint free cloth (old “T” shirt). Couple of coats, cure well, then wax and rub out with 0000 steel wool, buff, done.
I use Modern Masters brand with good results.
Gives ya a nice polish (not gloss-YUCK!).


View stefang's profile


16140 posts in 3537 days

#2 posted 05-13-2012 03:42 PM

Hi Charles. Danish oil is a combination of oil, resins and mineral spirits. It is actually made to be the final finish. A well known and often used home brew Danish type oil is 1/3 boiled Lindseed oil, 1/3 polyurethane and 1/3 mineral spirits.

The idea behind Danish type oils is that the addition of the poly which contains the resins makes the finish a lot more protective than just oil alone, but, like oil, is still easy to repair or refresh, unlike poly which can’t be repaired and which needs to be removed before refinishing .

So I guess I am saying that a regular oil finish (less expensive than Danish) would be adequate to highlight the grain and then a poly topcoat will protect it. I usually use 2 coats of oil and 3 coats of poly. I sand gently with 240 grit wet/dry between the poly coats just to remove any drops, brush hairs and dust. After the last coat is dry I like to use auto rubbing compound on it to give it a really smooth, tactile finish. I usually use satin and sometimes matt poly. The rubbing compound doesn’t make it glossier, it’s just smoother. I have used this finish quite a lot and I am always satisfied with the result.

A good example of this finish can be seen here

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11067 posts in 3631 days

#3 posted 05-13-2012 03:55 PM

I’ve been using Watco for at least 30 years. Often, I just apply 3 coats (at least 72 hrs between) and wax. When a protective finish is necessary, I use a marine varnish. My favorite is McClosky’s Man-O-War. It can be mixed with linseed oil (50/50) for a wipe on finish. 3 coats should be sufficient. 2 would be good if applied full strength.
After the final coat of finish has cured. Like Bill, I use 0000 steel wool or the white mesh pads to smooth the finish and then, apply wax. Wax does nothing but make the piece nice to touch. Still, I like to use it. I use Johnson’s…works for me.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View bhog's profile


2238 posts in 2893 days

#4 posted 05-13-2012 04:00 PM

Charles do yourself a favor and start playing around with shellac.I usually wipe(rubber)it on but you can brush,dab,spray etc.It dries FAST and looks beautiful.Many different colors and levels of durability.Its an easy finish to learn to use.I never use lacquer so cannot comment too much, I know some love it,I dont like the smell personally.

-- I don't drive a Prius.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2892 days

#5 posted 05-14-2012 02:15 AM

Charles, After experimenting with a lot of finishes, I now use shellac on most of my boxes. It is quick, simple, and yields attractive results. I’ve been brushing a 50:50 mixture of shellac and denatured alcohol. I can easily do 3 coats in a day which is a bonus for an impatient guy like me.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Dusty56's profile


11822 posts in 3890 days

#6 posted 05-14-2012 02:48 AM

Have you tried Waterlox ? Brings the wood to life , builds nicely , easy to apply and has a great feel to it when dry.
Hasn’t failed me yet : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View fatandy2003's profile


262 posts in 2446 days

#7 posted 05-14-2012 01:16 PM

I used WATCO Danish Oil and Wood Wax on my most recent project. Process is found here:

Works like a charm if you follow directions exactly.

-- -- Andy, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it” - Thomas Paine

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3515 days

#8 posted 05-19-2012 11:50 PM

+1 for waterlox and also Deft Danish oil seems to bring more life to the grain than Watco, to me anyway.

I also use shellac a lot along with the transtint dyes to bring the grain to life.

Poly I use for topcoat when more water resistance and durablility might be called for.

View KenBee's profile


109 posts in 2838 days

#9 posted 05-23-2012 02:45 PM

I have read some very positive things about DeftOil (Deft Danish Oil) but cannot find it here in San Jose. Buying it online is cost prohibitive as I have learned. The DeftOil itself isn’t all that expensive but the shipping brings the cost for a quart to around $25.00 or more in most cases. I have never used anything other than Shellac for my finishes and am very well satisfied with the outcome. I would just like to try DeftOil to see if it is all it is hyped up to be, particularly on Walnut which I use a lot of for my projects.

Shellac is simple to apply and 3 coats can easily be applied in one day to fully finish a project. I sand to 320, apply a wipe-on coat, let dry 2-3 hours, use a white Scotch Brite Pad, apply another coat, repeat the process 2 more times and after the 3rd coat dries apply a coat of wax and lightly buff out with a lamb’s wool pad or paper towels.

-- If it won't fit get a BIGGER hammer.

View AJLastra's profile


87 posts in 2431 days

#10 posted 05-23-2012 03:15 PM


As has been mentioned , Watco is a finish all by itself and after it cures, can be rubbed out to your final gloss. It is a wiping VARNISH, with very little oil in it. If you are going to put a final “topcoat” over Watco, the “wait” times you describe are just fine. I would recommend, as others have here, shellac as a sealcoat, mixed from flakes and a 1 1/2 to 2 lb cut. you can use super blonde which will impart no color at all or use dewaxed orange if you want to give the boxes a bit of amber color which really looks nice under a topcoat. I am also an avid user of Waterlox. Apply multiple coats of Waterlox Original. Let it cure for a few weeks. Sand it with 400/600 grit to level it and remove dust nibs then get an even scratch pattern with 0000 steel wool. As mentioned, auto compounds work well in final rub out. I use Mequiar’s polishes. No.3 first, then 7. then if you want a really glossy look, their liquid polish. Waterlox works best brushed but there are some folks who have sprayed it. I;ve never tried spraying it. For what its worth, this is the preferred finish of master Frank Klauz and not long ago, fine Woodworking did a nice article about Waterlox Original being the only finish any of us will ever need and how to wipe it on in thin coats then rub it out.

View Dusty56's profile


11822 posts in 3890 days

#11 posted 05-24-2012 12:14 AM

I’ve always wiped on my Waterlox with excellent results : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4421 days

#12 posted 05-24-2012 12:30 AM

Charles, I guess you have figured out by now that there no single correct answer to your question. I have tried most of the methods described above, and I still can’t settle on a favorite. The key is for you to try different methods and see what works best for you.

I would offer this: If you plan to use a top coat over the Danish oil, I think you are wasting time doing three coats. The first application of the Watco will highlight the grain. Additional coats, IMO, are not going to provide any benefit if you are going to come back with shellac, lacquer, poly, or whatever.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Dusty56's profile


11822 posts in 3890 days

#13 posted 05-24-2012 12:55 AM

I agree with Charlie : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View DW833's profile


220 posts in 2085 days

#14 posted 09-29-2013 12:35 PM

Stefang mentioned that Danish oil is meant as a final finish. If that is the case, should there be a first/primer coat? Also, Charles mentioned a 2 week cure time. Is it required to wait that long before wiping poly on top of Danish Oil? I have a project with maple and white oak. Plan on using 2 coats of Danish oil and then 2 coats of wipe on poly.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4421 days

#15 posted 09-29-2013 01:12 PM

No, you would put the Danish oil directly on bare wood. As for drying time before applying poly, a lot depends on temp and humidity. If the area is relatively warm and dry, 2-3 days is sufficient in my experience.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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