Seabattical Log #10- Linseed Oil and Linseed Oil Based Paint



Over the years, there were a number of converging influences that lead me down the trail of using linseed oil and linseed oil based paint.



Be sure that you read my product review in December 2015 Small Boats Monthly publication.

Years ago during my shell fishing days, I used boiled linseed oil on my clam rake handles to preserve them and prevent them from drying out. I liked that linseed oil was a natural product (made from pressed flax seeds) and especially because there was NO sanding between coats….just add additional coatings as needed. Imagine a world without sanding!

When it is time to preserve and waterproof the wood radio-controlled sailing model hulls that my students build, on goes an application of linseed oil. The oil serves as a water resistant foundation and wood preservative that can be painted or varnished over. The linseed oil applies without any fuss and you don’t have to worry about brush strokes, dust, or even holidays (unlike using varnish). After an overnight drying of around 8 hours, just buff the oiled surfaces with a clean rag.

Once again, boiled linseed oil proved to be the thing to use on my friend’s mahogany porch railings. The oil was brushed on to the rails and balusters. The weather beaten and sun dried railings soaked up the linseed oil like a sponge. The thought of the hours and effort required to sand and then carefully varnish the same area made my stomach turn inside out.

In my search for the ideal sailboat, there is usually a lot of bright work to maintain. Instead of conventional petroleum based spar varnish, using linseed oil in conjunction with linseed oil based paint or linseed oil based varnish offered some huge incentives. With no sanding between coatings, and easy application major labor savings could be applied. When the time comes for reapplication, brush on another thin coat. The linseed oil soaks into the wood and preserves it. The oil remains flexible and allows the wood to breathe and water to be released. Oil based paints and varnish created glossy surfaces but also dry hard, seal water into the wood, and consequentially can promote rot.


While doing my research for the Linseed Oil Paint review, I heard through the grapevine that Mystic Seaport used linseed oil and linseed oil based paint throughout the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan. The linseed oil was chosen for historically correct and practical reasons. All paints during the Morgan era were generated from plant oils with earth pigments.

Linseed oil and linseed oil products are organic, solvent free, and safe to use. Unlike the drying agents added to modern oil based paints, linseed oil paints emit virtually no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) so you’ll not find yourself high as a kite after painting. A can of linseed oil is 100% dry weight. In conventional paints, it can be that up to 20% of the paint contents emit into the air we are breathing! You’ll find compelling information in the frequently asked questions section of the solvent free paint website

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