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Oiling Wooden Worktops - A Guide on How to Oil a Wooden Worktop

How to properly care for and oil wooden worktops.

I would recommend that you oil wooden worktops immediately after delivery, certainly within 24 hours. Worktops are not like flooring, and must not be left to 'acclimatise'. Worktops should be kept in a warm and dry environment at all times. Storing them in a garage is a definite no no!

Wooden worktops need at least 6 coats of oil on both sides prior to installation. I recommend you do it like this;

Give the wooden worktops a final finish sanding (although they come to you sanded, they still need a final going over with a finer paper). Start with a 150 grit and sand down the whole surface and exposed edges. Then repeat with 180 grit. Always work sandpaper along the grain, otherwise scratches will show. This final preparation is important, as it will define how the worktop will look and feel later on. You can use electric sanders for this, or do it by hand.

Once you are happy with the sanding, you are ready to oil. Try and do this in a warm environment otherwise the oil will be slow to dry. Make sure the floor is covered as oil will drip from the underside, and wear old clothes once the oil is on clothing it will go hard and spoil them. It is important to oil the worktops on both sides at the same sitting to keep the worktop in balance.

Turn the wooden worktop so it is face down. Put a small amount of oil on to a rag, and oil all the exposed edges first. If you don't do this, then any drip marks will show later on. Once the edges have all been oiled, you are ready to do the first coat. Put plenty of oil on the underside of the worktop, and work it around. Don't put so much on that it pools or runs. Once you have covered the underside, turn the wooden worktop over immediately. Some oil may run off at this point hence the reason for the floor covering and old clothes. Run the cloth around all the edges again, this time with a little more oil. You are then ready to oil the top. You need to cover the whole top, but without excess don't have it pooling. Work it around for a few minutes, then retire for a cup of tea. Come back in 15 - 20 minutes, and with a fresh clean cloth, wipe off the excess. At this stage, it is important to allow oil to penetrate the wooden worktop, leaving a thin layer on top. Make sure you wipe the edges off as well to avoid drip marks.

You then need to leave the wooden worktops to dry. Depending on how warm the room is, this can take as little as 30 minutes (since the wood takes so much in), however don't be tempted to jump on it and oil it again until it has felt dry for at least a couple of hours. The reason is that oil doesn't just dry, it hardens as well. You can oil it again quickly if you really have to, but then it will take much much longer to harden. The next coat is similar to the last really, except you don't have to worry about doing the edges first this time.

During all of this, the end grain requires special attention as it absorbs much more oil than the surface. We recommend you oil the end grain twice as often (you will find in the beginning it gets absorbed like a sponge anyway) and if you can oil it every time you walk past, just not leaving any excess to drip.

Leave this to dry again except this time it will take a little longer. Again, once properly dry i.e. a couple of hours after it felt dry you will need to denib the top of the wooden worktops. All this means is that the worktop needs a gentle sanding by hand. Do not use a machine or you will remove the oil you have just put on. Use a 180 grit for this first sanding. What you are trying to do is just smooth the surface the two coats of oil you have already applied will have raised the grain very slightly, making it feel a little rough. This is entirely normal and to be expected. It is just the way the timber reacts with the oil. Do not bother doing this to underside, except for the areas where it overhangs the units, and again don't forget the edges.

Oil it again as before. One small point, is never leave the worktop face down when the face is at all wet. You can do it for a few moments if you have to, as long as you turn it back over as soon as possible and then wipe the oil again. If you leave it there, it will mark. Again it will take a bit longer to dry. After another couple of oilings, you will need to rub the work down again this time we recommend you use a 240 grit. As before, work the sandpaper along the grain. You are not aiming to take a lot off, just to make the wooden worktop smooth.

Once you have at least 6 coats on, the worktop will be ready for fitting. You can do this before you cut the wooden worktops to size if you want, although be aware that there may be a few small tool marks where the runner of the saw or router may rub (you can minimize this by putting on low tack masking tape). Also, any fresh cut areas will need re-oiling. If you are doing any work yourself, make sure you use very sharp tooling.

Once the wooden worktops have been fitted, they will then need another 6 coats on the top surface to make a really good finish. You can use the worktop, you just need to be very careful with it at this stage - no hot mugs, no wine rings, no water etc. We recommend a coat a day, and if it feels a little bit rough then a gentle hand sand with 240 or 300 grit. Once you have about 12 layers on and they have gone hard (add another 48 hours) you have a properly functioning worktop.