White oil?

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    A British craftsman who is describing French polishing is referring to “white oil” for lubricating the surface and rubber. Sometimes he calls it mineral oil.

    Does anyone know what this would be called in the US? I think the material sold as “mineral oil” in the US is a heavier, more viscous fluid than what he is using.

    Sven-Olof Jansson

    Following videos by Mr Tom Fidgen, I’ve used Camellia Oil: just a few drops on the surface when it gets too tacky. For larger areas it probably makes sense to put some oil on the rubber as well, I suppose, having never dared French polishing on anything beyond very small drawer fronts.

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    Larry Geib

    Be careful purchasing anything called ‘white oil” that’s a catch-all for any clear oil. In the gardening industry that is usually camphor oil sold as an insecticide and stinks to high heaven.

    Ordinary medical grade mineral oil works fine. You can buy it at any pharmacy where it is sold as a laxative. (In the UK it is called medical grade liquid parafin). A pint is $2-$3.
    Baby oil is the same thing but scented. If you don’t mind the smell, you can used that.
    All it does is prevent your pad from sticking while you rub. Then when the alcohol evaporates you wipe the oil that’s left behind off.

    And most “camellia oil” is just mineral oil (liquid paraffin in the UK) with enough camellia oil to give it a scent.
    Here, for example, is highland woodworking’s “camellia oil” note they say it is a blend of liquid paraffin and camellia oil.
    Lie Nielsen used to sell a similar product that they didn’t inform was mostly mineral oil. They now sel jojoba oil.

    You can get pure camellia oil online, but it is also sometimes cut with mineral oil by disreputable sellers.

    When you buy it, ask for an SDS or MSDS sheet that will tell you the ingredients. Vendors must provide an SDS sheet on request by law.


    Thanks for the info. Since my posting here, I was able to figure out that what he is using says Rydenor Finishing and “white oil” on the label, but I’ve not been able to find more details nor the equivalent of the MSDS. I know there are many oils that can be used for French polishing, but do continue to hope to identify what this is in the US market.

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