Danish Oil and Worktops

The windowsills are finished, and thanks to the work Andrew did on them many people on our Facebook Page think they are part of the original stone work. Just shows what a bit of looking through stone piles to find a close match to the mullions will do, even if your fingers come away cracked and bruised from a stone yard. As we wait for our kitchen fitter to come back off holiday, we have started on protecting the worktop around the sink. We no longer have to tip toe around using the tap and screaming at each other for a tea towel to wipe up the splashes because water on untreated wood leaves stains! Yes, stains! Water marks! Things you have to sand out! It leads to accusations! Arguments! And, who did what to whom in 1999! This aside, we have started on treating the oak worktop around the sink. Now, some people say that two coats of Danish Oil is good enough for any worktop - don't listen to them - you have to remember that you want the oil to get deep into the grain and that those two coat wannabes will have worktops stained and pockmarked, and water damaged, by anything that has come into contact with them. Sorry, it's true. We know, at our old house, Drovers, we too embraced the two coat rule and after only a month noticed that our worktop seemed to have lots and lots of water stains on them. We ended up having to sand them back and start again. You want a worktop finish that when water lands on it, it beads, finds no purchase and when wiped off leaves no mark. So embrace five coats and five coats as a minimum! So, how do you go mad with Danish Oil? How do you do oil a worktop?

Danish Oil and Worktops

First, the wood to be treated will need a light sand with a fine grade piece of sand paper. Don't go rough or you'll leave gouges in the wood. Go with the grain and not across it or else the wood will start to resemble a crossword puzzle, two up, two down, fifty across. You're just smoothing out any nicks or splinters in the wood. Remember that a worktop has been cut to the size of your kitchen, so there may be saw mark on the edges of the top or nicks were a workman has caught his teacup against it. We're not saying this is what happened to ours, it's just an example that accidents happen but sanding can improve this. Delivery men are also notorious for not giving a stuff that you spent hundreds of pounds on a piece of wood, they just see wood that is heavy. After sanding, you have to make sure that any areas that need filling are done, you can mix the filler with the wood dust from sanding and this means the colour will match. The great thing about oil too is that you do not have to wait for the filler to dry if the holes are tiny - we filled two nail holes - and you can't even see them now. You must make sure that any surfaces to be oiled are scrupulously clean. Go over the wood with a duster, a soft brush and the soft brush attachment on a hoover. Get rid of that dust. If you are oiling around an inset sink - as we are - cover the sink over with a dust sheet, though you can get dried oil off porcelain and steel, it is a faff and eats into your time unlike a good dust sheet which will catch any splashes; though you really shouldn't be splashing oil around. Never overload a brush.

How to oil a worktop

The first coat will sink into the wood quickly. Remember again to brush with the grain of the wood. Get a new, clean brush for this and do not overload the brush with oil. You are building up thin layers of oil to protect the wood and it needs time to soak in. Though the oil soaks in quickly, do not think that you can add another layer immediately. You need to leave at least six hours between the first and second coat and then ten hours between remaining coats. After each coat, wait for fifteen minutes and with a lint free cloth remove any excess of oil, a light polishing action takes this off, you are not rubbing away the work you have done but removing any remaining oil that has not soaked in. Do not think you can leave this for a more 'polished' look, it merely turns gloopy as the air interacts with it and dries like a bad skin complaint. We know from experience, so don't do this, in the case of oiling, less is more.

A coat of Danish Oil does wonders for worktops in the kitchen

The whole project should take around fifty hours, or three days, that includes sanding and oiling. The good thing about worktops cut in situ is that you have left over pieces, and you can cut these to size to use around the kitchen and oil at the same time. Below we have a small piece of discarded worktop for the teapot. Now, these cut offs don't need as many coats as they are not going to receive the same amount of traffic - what we mean by this is how much do you use a worktop? More than you think - so this small teapot holder, to protect the Welsh Dresser, only has three coats of Danish Oil. 

How to use leftover worktop

Remember that the oil will darken your wood, not as much as some oils or even varnishes, but it will darken the wood as it soaks in. Each layer brings a richer, darker patina to the wood. You can see the original colour of the wood here, a rustic oak.

A tale of two kitchens

Now compare that with the finished wood.

Do five coats at least on worktops

The finished worktop has five coats but any shelving inside the cupboards will only have three, again you won't be cutting chicken pieces up on your shelving and won't need to worry about any real spillage there. So, five coats and fifty hours later we have a worktop when water is spilled on it the water beads, and when wiped off there is no sign it has been there. This will last for several years before needing an additional coat. That's the great thing about wood it gets better with age as long as you protect it.


  1. Guys, this was great to read! The introduction especially made me chuckle (1999, haha).

    Thank you for your very honest advice, backed by experience! I've always loved wooden worktops, but had no clue to the amount of prep they need! So thank you for educating me on that :)

    - Kevin