Possible to seal over oil finish?

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Forum topic by artwhim posted 06-20-2012 03:03 PM 2298 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2160 days

06-20-2012 03:03 PM

Hello everyone. As part of our house remodel I am giving our dated doorbell a facelift. It is the style with long brass chimes covered at the top by a wooden ‘box’ with a lot of scrollwork and turnings. The doorbell still functions well, so I have opted to give it a cosmetic change instead of replacing.

I purchased an artisan made cutting board that will be the front panel. It is a variety of woods that have been laminated together into a wonderful design. I will use either maple or mahogany scraps for the side panels to turn it into a box to cover the top of the chimes. Although my woodworking skills aren’t great, I think this is very doable.

My question is how can I finish the original cutting board to enhance the wood? The piece was oiled when I purchased it. My best guess is mineral oil since I don’t smell walnuts when I sniff, although perhaps the smell doesn’t linger? The board was made about one month ago. It still looked “wet” with oil when I purchased it, but has since absorbed the oil so it has a mat appearance.

I could sand the board but have no idea how far the oil finish has absorbed and would prefer to avoid this if possible. Would it be possible to apply tung oil? I’m sure I have some of that on hand. I also have paste wax, water-based poly (General Finishes) and oil-based poly on hand. I am not looking for a heavy, or shiny finish, just an enhancement of the wood grain.

Thank you so much for any suggestions!

9 replies so far

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3736 days

#1 posted 06-20-2012 03:20 PM

I would ask a real pro like a Charles Neil about it.

The oil on an end grain cutting board tends to go nearly all the way through. I have flooded the surface and you start to see the “wet spots” on the back side.
This would not be true of a face grain design (less issue anyway).
However I would work to remove as much oil as possible first sanding/plane off a bit.

Then i would try to get the oil out using either acetone or lacquer thinner then I would finish (immediately) with shellac.

I think that with the mineral oil – a waterbased poly would be a problem. But the shelac is the best sealer for oils/resins etc. And your piece is for looking at, nobody is setting plates/drinks/ etc on it, so the shelac will be plenty durable.

Good Luck

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View pintodeluxe's profile


5653 posts in 2807 days

#2 posted 06-20-2012 03:41 PM

To avoid adhesion problems, I would just coat it with Howards butcher block oil / wax. Mineral oil and waxes were not really meant to be coated with a film forming finish. If it was waxed, the finish will quickly fail.
You can’t go wrong with Howards, and it leaves a nice low luster similar to fine furniture.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2684 days

#3 posted 06-21-2012 02:13 AM

You should be able to apply either shellac or poly over the oil finish with no adhesion problems. I have put shellac ove mineral oil and wax mixture with NO additional prep. I was suprised but it worked fine.

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

View Loren's profile


10373 posts in 3642 days

#4 posted 06-21-2012 03:06 AM

If you want to have an oiled look without a visible film, just use
oil and keep oiling it. Tung may form a film, BLO and other light
oils pretty much won’t.

If you want the wet, oiled look with no film you’re talking about
a finish that needs regular maintenance.

I may be overstating. There’s an old technique called hot rubbing
where warm oil is rubbed into the wood. I believe you can get
the wood more saturated faster with this method… because otherwise
fully oiling something may take over a dozen coats spread over weeks.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2980 days

#5 posted 06-21-2012 03:12 AM

I also vote shellac. It seems to cover just about anything.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View artwhim's profile


4 posts in 2160 days

#6 posted 06-21-2012 04:59 AM

Thanks to everyone for the replies!

The piece will be mounted high on the wall, so I don’t think I will go with oil since it would require maintenance.

I’m not familiar with Howard’s, but will check into it for another cutting board. It too is an artisan made piece with turquoise inlays and I was wondering what to use to reseal it.

Shellac, is there a preferred brand? I don’t believe I’ve ever worked with it before.

I’ll try the shellac on the back side first to see how it reacts. If it were to fail, would the failure be noticeable in the first few days?

View usnret's profile


184 posts in 2502 days

#7 posted 06-21-2012 05:16 AM

Shellac will be the best way to go. I have put shellac over BLO that was applied and set for 30 minutes and had no problems with adhesion.

-- Chief Petty Officer USN(RET) 1991-2011

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3736 days

#8 posted 06-21-2012 02:10 PM

I like dewaxes shellac right from the home center “Bullseye Seal Coat” which is a 2 pound cut.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View artwhim's profile


4 posts in 2160 days

#9 posted 06-22-2012 02:33 PM

Thank you very much! I’ll get some of that.

Btw: Love all the work I’ve viewed on this forum. Such talent!

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