I'm working on staining an old bookshelf, and I've worked on creating my own DIY wood stain and sealant (save money + no VOCs + Feels good). I created my own wood stain already by using steel wool and vinegar and I'm now working on the sealant/conditioner. I'm planning to go with this recipe (Canola oil and vinegar).

My problem is the pre-stain conditioner. I'm working with a wood that blotches (I found out the hard way). I've seen that you can thin out regular wood sealants with a variety of substances.

I have a few ideas and I wonder if someone more experienced could tell me the best way to get a good wood conditioner. Should I:

  • Gently apply a low amount of the oil/vinegar sealant than I would for the finishing seal?
  • Adjust the ratio of oil-to-vinegar to make it a more suitable conditioner? It's current 3:1 oil-to-vinegar, with oil being more of a conditioner and vinegar being for stain removal (Source)
  • Add water to the mixture to dilute it? Something else maybe?
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    Canola oil and vinegar - hmm, enjoy your rancid wood. Yuck. Since that will never harden, it will also stick to your books - somewhat impractical for a bookshelf. – Ecnerwal Aug 11 '16 at 18:58
  • @Ecnerwal Apparently they address the rancid concern here. Also, it seems like the goal is for the mix to be absorbed by the wood and for the excess to be wiped away. – 9Deuce Aug 11 '16 at 19:37
  • Use a curing oil rather than trying the salad dressing, if you want an oil layer. Personally, for sealer I would highly recommend dewaxed shellac; you can even get it premixed/stabilized these days – keshlam Aug 11 '16 at 20:59
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    Note - the page you are linking to is discussing an EXTERIOR use, and the update page did not appear to address rancidity at all (I searched). Outside, I suppose you might not notice it - but you are talking about an interior use. As a young person, I used salad oil (ie, canola and/or soy) on woodenware. I would STRONGLY advise using a drying oil (such as Walnut, or Boiled Linseed oil) since I can assure you from direct experience that the result of applying canola oil (with or without vinegar) will be a foul-smelling, sticky bookshelf. But if you need to learn the hard way, do that. – Ecnerwal Aug 11 '16 at 21:48
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    Please note that you specifically need BOILED Linseed oil (that which is not so labeled also never really dries, but is suitable for some exterior uses.) 5.5 seconds of research says that walmart seems to have it for under $7/quart (you won't use the whole quart unless it's a BIG bookcase) though I'd start with my local hardware store (paint section), since I prefer to keep them in business as long as possible, and they are much closer so I waste less time and gas going there and back. You can get smaller containers but you won't save much money by doing so. Walnut oil = food store. – Ecnerwal Aug 11 '16 at 23:28

I've experimented with oiling wood (for a few years, about ten years ago) and I've never seen oil make the wood rancid (I know wikipedia says it does), but if it's a concern use mineral oil (which won't become rancid). The real drawback is that any-old-oil only yields a temporarily wet look (for a few months). Using an oil based varnish will allow the wood to appear like it has been freshly oiled in a permanent way. I've experimented with several drying oils and shellacs. Incidentally, (true) shellac is a natural substance obtained from the lac bug. For furniture, shellac is kind of a nice sealant.

You can thin oil with paint thinner, but that totally defeats the no VOCs. Also, the wood will absorb the oil after a while and the wood will look dry again even if you cover it with (a water based) varnish. Using blown or boiled linseed or tung oil will make the oil form something closer to an epoxy like resin (in a crude/primitive kind of way).

Siccatives are used for drying oils (chemistry becoming more modern). When I was a kid I used to see japan drier everywhere... I think it's a relic now (look in an art store or get it online). Anyway, something like that is what I would use with (raw) canola (to help it "dry" and make the finish last longer). The funny thing about driers is that they keep it looking wet longer.

The final word: experiment with wood blanks.

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  • Definitely experiment on scraps before applying any finish you aren't extremely familiar with to your actual project. The wood and how it is prepared (eg how it is sanded and whether a sealer has been used) and the finish interact to produce the final appearance. Make your mistakes on a piece that won't ruin the project you spent many hours on. – keshlam Dec 18 '16 at 5:16

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