Wood treatment advice, please.

Hi folks. I just got a new desk top from Ikea (one of these) and I’m wondering how to protect it.

It says that it’s treated with oil of some sort, but I kinda think it needs something more. I’ve noticed that after a week or so of use there is a rough spot developing when my hand/wrist rest to use my mouse. I don’t know what exactly is causing it (mouse friction or skin oil), but I kinda want it to stop.

I went to Home Depot and there are a bewildering array of different products for protecting wood, but I’m a noob and I don’t know what to get. :smack:

So, what I want is something that isn’t hard to apply and will protect my desk top from things like abrasion and oils and coffee rings.


Usually, oiled wood is protected using mineral oil. (We use it on our wooden cutting boards and wooden utensils like spoons and salad tongs.) It’s pretty cheap. Just pour a little bit onto the wood and rub it in with a paper towel or rag. If the oil seems to schluck right into the wood and get absorbed, then add a little more oil, and rub again.

A mousepad might help, too.

The mineral oil won’t necessarily protect from coffee rings. But a coaster will! :slight_smile:

Oil alone is generally pretty bad for protecting wood from wear and stains. For table tops, you probably want something like varnish or polyurethane. However, once the wood has been oiled, it’s not clear how well other finishes will adhere. You might try something like Watco’s Danish Oil or Formby’s Tung Oil finish – those are oil finishes with varnish hardeners. Easy to apply and they’ll provide some protection (but not the bullet proof protection you’ll get from a thick coat of polyurethane or epoxy).

Did you read the part where it said you should’ve used BEHANDLA wood treatment oil prior to first use? They sell that at IKEA too.

I was thinking that a polyurethane or lacquer would be the way to go because they’d protect against some wear without being sticky. I don’t know if this is true, but I always associate varnish with being sticky for some reason. Is that false? I don’t know anything about epoxy.

I did see the notice about using the Ikea wood oil, but only when I got home and opened up the packaging. There’s no notice of that on the outside of the packaging or anywhere in the store and the person working that section didn’t say anything about it either. Also, I’m a noob so I didn’t think to ask. Unfortunately, Ikea is about 1.5 hours away and i’m not driving that far to get oil from them.

I frequently use tung oil on pieces I build. Several coats will give a nice durable finish that can be touched up easily.

Thanks, Paintcharge. I saw that in the store, but I didn’t know what it was. What’s the effect it would have on a birch desk top?

Nah, I seriously doubt you need their special oil.

I think that if wood has been oiled, and then you want to coat it with polyurethane, then you’d need to sand away the oiled wood. Once you wipe away all the sawdust, then you can put on the polyurethane. Otherwise, it won’t adhere properly.

Oil is not very tough, but it’s forgiving. You just rub in another coat. Polyurethane is much tougher, but a bit less forgiving. Once you chip it, you pretty much have to sand it all off and re-coat. Also, a polyurethane finish is shinier than an oil finish. Neither one is sticky, though.

Cite: we have one coffee table coated in polyurethane, and another one that’s oiled. (Both were handmade by The Other Shoe, but that’s irrelevant here - I just like to brag. :cool:) The oiled table is our workhorse everyday coffee table, and where we eat most of our meals. Brief small spills, wiped away quickly, make no noticeable impact. If we accumulate a bunch of those white water rings* then he spends some time re-finishing the table. Actually, I think he uses a can of paste wax instead of oil, but the results are similar.
*You mentioned coffee rings. I think coffee, as a dark liquid, stains - that’s different from the white mark water makes. Heavier sanding might be involved in removing a dark stain like that.

Thanks, Purple. I’ve seen that some of the Minwax polyurethanes can be applied over other oil-sounding products, so maybe that’s not such an issue. I don’t think I’d mind some water rings (though I almost always use a coaster anyway). They’d just be part of the charm of the desk. The part I want to avoid is the roughening of the wood. I’m not talking about it splintering or anything, it’s just rougher in that spot than on the rest of the desk top. Would oiling even that out if I did it every once in a while? Or should I just slap on some polyurethane and be done with it?

I saw a spray-on polyurethane by Krylon. Would that be appropriate or just more trouble than it’s worth? I would think there’d be over spray everywhere with that stuff.

Spray-on polyurethane works great, especially if your target is not flat’n’smooth (CD racks, ornate carving, etc.) and you know how to spray-paint properly: hold can far away, sweep evenly, keep moving. (It’s a bit harder than I’m making it sound: I suck at spray-painting and often get thick droplet marks on the edges.)

Overspray: yes. Do it outside, on a day with no wind, on a tarp or some newspapers.

Note that if you want to polyurethane, you can’t do it just on the part where you’re rubbing with your mouse or wrist. The edges of where you apply will eventually start peeling up. You gotta do the whole surface if that’s the route you choose.

I think I know what kind of “roughening” you’re talking about. It’s kind of like a whole bunch of teensy tiny little scratches and scuffs in that one place. Oiling that spot frequently ought to help. Dunno what it would do to your mouse, though.

I’ve worked with wood for years, and this is the stuff you need: Watco Danish Oil

It penetrates like an oil, then hardens like a varnish. It’s easy to repair too.

Watco is great stuff but take the spontaneous combustion warnings seriously.

Years ago, I was applying Watco with a coworker on some gorgeous custom mahogany windows for a restaurant. We were outside in the alley brushing the Watco on and wiping it down with paper towels which we were discarding into a five-gallon bucket. At some point we suddenly noticed smoke and flames coming out of the bucket. Thankfully, there was a hose nearby and we got the fire under control quickly. I have read about someone burning down their newly-built house the night before moving in when they put a coat of oil on the floors and the rags combusted after they left (the story was in Fine Homebuilding 20 or 30 years ago but I couldn’t find a link).

Putting paper towels or rags used with penetrating oil into a plastic bag and adding enough water to soak them will do the trick.