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Washing Linseed Oil


MikeC
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What Joe is sharing here is about the easiest and most efficient way to wash oil. What we're trying to get rid of is water solubles, the mucilage. So you put 50/50 oil and water in a jug, shake it up real good. You're very unlikely to make a perfect emulsion unless the oil is already cold - that's a good thing, because you want them to separate after a time. The nasty stuff stays in the water, and the oil rises to the top. You freeze it to make a clear line between the waste water and the oil. You continue doing this until the water is as clean as it was when you put it in, meaning there's nothing left in the oil for the water, our solvent, to extract. Dead simple, great results. 

But this is just the beginning of processing oil for varnish. Joe has already given away all the secrets over the years, here and elsewhere. There's nobody in this business more generous with useful information. 

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6 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

But this is just the beginning of processing oil for varnish. Joe has already given away all the secrets over the years, here and elsewhere. There's nobody in this business more generous with useful information. 

just the beginning of processing?  What else do I need to do to it?   My goal is to make it alcohol soluble and I know how to do that.  

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How can you know if you've screwed up and emulsified it?  I let it sit overnight and the oil and water has separated but the oil still looks yellow and cloudy.   I'll let it sit another day or so and see if it clears.  

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1 hour ago, MikeC said:

How can you know if you've screwed up and emulsified it?  I let it sit overnight and the oil and water has separated but the oil still looks yellow and cloudy.   I'll let it sit another day or so and see if it clears.  

If you read the PDFs posted at the beginning of this thread, most of your questions will be answered. The water is always turbid during washing--clearing is a separate process, done when washing is complete. There is little chance chance you emulsified the mixture this early in the process. Later, if you do get an emulsion, re-freezing and then thawing will separate it. I discuss that here, and Spurgeon also discusses it.

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2 hours ago, HoGo said:

Is the washing really needed for oil that will be cooked into varnish? Won't the mucilage and water in the oil just burn/cook away while boiling?

The water will of course escape if the heat is high enough long enough. But something that I can assure you of from personal experience is that oil which has been properly washed and oil which has had the mucilage charred into it behave very differently, and the former is much preferred.

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4 hours ago, HoGo said:

Is the washing really needed for oil that will be cooked into varnish? Won't the mucilage and water in the oil just burn/cook away while boiling?

It is a question of control.  Using raw, unwashed,  unbroken linseed oil will make a varnish.   The cooks I have tried this way yielded a varnish with drying issues and a film that always appeared a bit "muddy".

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Salt is added to the wash water to reduce the 'rag' (frothy area where oil and water is mixed) and make separation easier. It's a commonly used method in the chemical industry. If the oil is dried properly with something like silica gel there will be no residual salt in the oil.

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13 hours ago, MikeC said:

How can you know if you've screwed up and emulsified it?  I let it sit overnight and the oil and water has separated but the oil still looks yellow and cloudy.   I'll let it sit another day or so and see if it clears.  

How much  musilage is in that oil? This is the Allback oil right? I'm curious because it has set in glass bottles for years.  So I'm wondering if that had any effect...Can you post a picture or two?

The cloudiness is normal and will remain that way until you clear the oil. I pour the oil in a shallow pan and bring the heat up SLOWLY to just under the boiling point 212F. You will start to see small water droplets bubble up and pop when reaching the surface. Be watchful and ready to remove the pan. If it gets too hot it will explode hot oil like a volcano. It happened to me once so now I know what to watch for. Just go slow and you will have crystal clear oil again.

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After a little google search on breaking an emulsion I found something that said add salt so I'm thinking salt water will reduce the possibility of emulsion.  As for my batch, it's in the freezer now.   Once the water freezes I'll pour off the oil and try another wash.  E, I don't know how much musilage is in it if any but thought I should try washing it.  I only used one of those four bottles for this.    After sitting two days the oil layer on top is still opaque yellow so for sure water is still in it.  

I may have used too much water?  

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6 minutes ago, MikeC said:

After a little google search on breaking an emulsion I found something that said add salt so I'm thinking salt water will reduce the possibility of emulsion.  As for my batch, it's in the freezer now.   Once the water freezes I'll pour off the oil and try another wash.  E, I don't know how much musilage is in it if any but thought I should try washing it.  I only used one of those four bottles for this.    After sitting two days the oil layer on top is still opaque yellow so for sure water is still in it.  

I may have used too much water?  

Hey Mike,

Have you read the Tad Spurgeon articles yet? Should clear up any concerns during the washing process.

As others have said above, don't worry about the cloudiness. If you have any water separating out at all, emulsion is not your issue. Once the water that separates is clear and clean, you'll need to heat the oil to break. Then it'll be nice, clean, and clear. 

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Just now, MikeC said:

I did read those but maybe I should read them again :D  

I just wanted to try plain water thinking the salt and sand my not really be necessary.  

His articles outline at least half a dozen methods, all of which work so ya kinda just pick one. But more importantly, they clear up misconceptions and make it all plain. 

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3 hours ago, MikeC said:

Here's a pic

 

Oil wash.jpg

Thanks, Interestingly, I see a little musilage layer below the oil but not much. I like using the "pool sand" because most of the impurities get trapped in the sand and sink to the bottom. I've never tried washing the oil using just water so I'm curious to see how the reactions differ from using the hot water, salt and sand method.

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Guess I'll have to wash the rest of the Allback oil that I have left to see just how much musilage is left after sitting for years in the glass jugs. Best of luck with it.

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What exactly is musilage anyway?   

I don't know if it's true but I read somewhere on the internet that you can test the oil to see if there is musiage in it by chilling it in a refrigerator.  If it gets cloudy then there is some musilage still in it.  If it's pure then it should remain clear when chilled.  

Everything you read on the internet is true right?  

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On 9/23/2022 at 12:02 AM, charliemaine said:

I like using the "pool sand" because most of the impurities get trapped in the sand and sink to the bottom. I've never tried washing the oil using just water so I'm curious to see how the reactions differ from using the hot water, salt and sand method.

Guess I'll have to wash the rest of the Allback oil that I have left to see just how much musilage is left after sitting for years in the glass jugs. Best of luck with it.

Hi Charliemaine,

I've used the aged Swedish oil (Ottosson) and fresh oil from Washington state. I didn't notice much difference in terms of how much mucilage they gave up, which somewhat supports my belief that the claims  about aging/filtering/purification are mostly BS. The oils do behave somewhat differently…with Ottosson, the vinegar pre-wash that Spurgeon describes helps a lot, while for fresh oil, it's almost too aggressive.

Regarding the whole water/salt/sand question, I've done a lot of tests on glass panels of the different options. In all of the tests, salt seemed to make a big difference in drying speed, whether or not it was combined with sand. I haven't observed a difference in drying between salt vs salt/sand, but as you point out, sand makes the washing process more efficient and cuts down on oil loss.

Having only tried two oils, I can't say whether the effect of salt applies universally, but it works for me.

Have you tried Spurgeon's method no.2, with an immersion blender? According to him, if you combine it with a pre-wash, you can omit the sand entirely (if I'm reading that right), which would be nice.  And it would make washing larger quantities easier. Plus, my wife is on board with buying an immersion blender--the first and probably only time that she's been happy about me buying varnish-related gear. :D

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Hi Steve 

I haven’t tried using a blender or vinegar.    I use pickling salt and pool sand only and then use heat to clear the oil. 
My oil of choice was Allback raw Swedish linseed bought from Viking Sales. 
I do have bottle of Ottoson boiled linseed that I haven’t tested yet. From what I remember reading their boiled linseed is only boiled without any driers or additives. I also have a gallon of Varnish Makers oil from Wood Finishing Ent. 
I have enough commercial made varnish that I haven’t had the need to make any varnish. Out of curiosity I do think that I’ll wash the remaining Allback oil that I have just to see what effects of sitting in a sunny room in 1 gallon glass jugs for several years has had, if any. 
I’ve had great success with using the hot water salt and sand method to wash the oil. I haven’t tried any other methods of washing but I’m sure there are many ways to get a good clean oil for varnish making. 

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