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I finished a cherry magazine rack I made with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine. The first two applications dried normally. The third application is soft and sticky although it has been drying for four months. What can I do to correct the problem?

I don't have quite enough info to give you a quick answer.

I ask you to remember that turpentine is a solvent and as such it will melt or soften a finish. Linseed oil is more a protective type finish used on wood that would normally be exposed to the elements, like a door, outside millwork or a gun stock. So what is supposed to happen, is that the turpentine cuts through softened old finishes, while the linseed oil feeds the wood so that it won't dry out.

Since I don't know exactly how you did your finish I can only suggest that you used the same formulation on all coats--so you have progressively softened the finish and trapped it under the layers of oil. You probably didn't notice it so much on the 2nd coat because it was "thin". It'll dry out eventually, but I don't think you want to wait that long.

Personally I wouldn't use this type finish on a magazine rack unless it was on the porch or in the out house. That said, using a full strength solvent like turpentine may get you back to square one. Try it and let the wood dry out for a couple of weeks.

Then, if you still want to use this type of finish:
  • Use boiled linseed oil, not regular linseed oil.
  • Start with a 3:1 mixture of turpentine to boiled linseed oil. After a few days apply a 2:1 mixture and then finally a 1:1 mixture.
  • or Do two coats. The first using a 3:1 mixture and for the second coat,use the reverse ratio: 1:3.
The Linseed oil will evaporate after a few years. That's why I prefer "poly".

Now, there is a little trick that used on rifle stocks that you may be interested in. It consists of a mixture of 1/3rd Linseed Oil, 1/3rd Turpentine, and 1/3rd Beeswax. Heat the mixture in an indirect (and safe method -- no open flames) until the beeswax melts and you've got a liquid. Stir up the concoction, and then remove from the heat and let it congeal. Now you have a paste wax that will give you a hand rubbed finish. Once coat is probably all you need. Experiment on another piece of similar stock to see if you like it first however.

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