About this time last year I got fed up with well known major brands and DIY store home branded wood preservers basically not doing what is says on the tin.
So I began experimenting with good old fashioned Linseed Oil. I am certain that what I have done has been done before, but has now been pushed aside by the power of modern marketing which companies use these days and their products making it look so easy in the adverts.
Several of my pallet timber projects have been coated with cold pressed, raw Linseed Oil which is more often these days sold as a food additive for horses than it is as a wood preserver. OK, so I do realise that one or two of you will be still be using Linseed oil when oiling Cricket bats, other items of wooden sports equipment, and the wooden handles of garden tools, etc. but as a general use wood preservative Linseed oil seems to have fallen out of fashion and by the wayside.
About 18 months ago, I became an Apiarist (or Bee keeper) and Keith my Bee keeping mentor and I now have between us 19 national hives dotted around the city of Norwich including one, and soon to be two hives (No 20) in our garden. All of these hives have been made with reclaimed pallet timbers and recycled tongue and groove floor boards. Preserving the timbers with something Bee friendly was becoming a bit of an issue when we began reading the labels on various shop and store stocked products. That is when I hit upon the idea of using Linseed oil................ a readily available, natural oil pressed from the seeds of a plant (Flax) that Bees would already be familiar with.
Purchasing Linseed oil from DIY stores and local ironmongers was prohibitive at around £6.00 to £9.00 per 500ml bottle, but I remembered using it as an additive in Horse rations many years ago. A quick hunt around the Internet and I found 5 litre containers of Linseed oil for £24.00 plus free delivery (and I am certain I can buy it cheaper now I know where to look).
If you use a soft bristle paint brush I have found that 1 litre of cold pressed raw Linseed Oil will cover an area approximately 3-4 times greater than that of 1 litre of the best store bought wood preservative......... so you are already well into money saving mode! And as it is an air drying natural oil, you get a really good looking finish. However, you are going to need to give the wood at least 2 coats, and 3 is better...........but you are going to have to do that with even the very best of the off the shelf wood preservers!
So, various wooden projects of mine, including our 18 reclaimed timber national bee hives (one colony of bees; number 19 is currently housed in a hive that we only just finished making 2 weeks ago and we had to transfer the very agitated swarm we captured into it straight away before I had applied the Linseed oil) have each received 2 or 3 coats of Linseed oil before being put to use, and have gone through the winter relatively unscathed and without either serious deterioration, decay or rot setting in on any of the timbers, but I will be honest and tell you that some of them that bore the full brunt of the winter weather are beginning to look a bit tatty.
That is when I hit upon the idea of blending Beeswax into some Linseed oil to make a more robust (and really good looking) weatherproof timber finish.
It has taken me 2 weeks of experimenting in the kitchen to come to what I think is the perfect ratio of 40:1 or 1 litre of Linseed Oil to 25 g of Beeswax. I now have a "Gloopy" brush able, semi thick and still pourable solution that is drawn into the timber, but leaves a hard dry, semi gloss surface that if required will buff up to a shine with a cloth and some elbow grease.
I utilised the stove top coffee jar in a saucepan bain-marie method to melt the Beeswax into the Linseed oil, and then filtered it while everything was still hot. The filters I used are very cheap filters for filtering paints for spraying, but like everything in this world of ours; if you buy cheap you pay twice (and often more than twice). The filters I have cost 2p each and the solvents in the paints I use dissolved the glue line on the paper of the filter resulting in unfiltered paint being dumped into the spray pot, requiring the pot to be cleaned out and the paint filtered again.... for my painting purposes I have now gone back to the 14p each but very robust and reliable paint filters, leaving me with well over 200 of the 2p each cheap ones for my home-brewing and other escapades of mine that require filtration.
Here are a couple of photos to show the difference between the treated and untreated reclaimed pallet timbers.
On the left is untreated Hive number 19 (populated) and on the right is treated Hive Number 20 (currently vacant). Sometime during this week I'll swap the colony over from 19 to 20, and then I'll have the opportunity to treat number 19 with a coat of plain Linseed oil, and then a then a coat of blended Linseed & Beeswax....... hopefully before another swarm becomes available.