A couple of days ago I was reading the Lost Art Press blog where Chris Schwarz mentions the different types of finishes he uses and which of those finishes look good immediately versus those that look good over 20 years. He then lists examples like; milk paint, waxes, and oils of all sorts (linseed, tung, walnut, ex.) Then I thought to myself, “Well hell, Anita has been using hemp oil for years. I wonder how many people know about it?”
Hemp oil is a 100% natural, biodegradable finish pressed from hemp seeds. As you may know hemp and marijuana are sometimes confused with one another. Hemp contains no THC and you can’t get high from it’s fumes. Hemp oil is food safe, has no chemicals, no VOC’s and is completely breathable which is HUGE for me.
My shop sits in the basement of our house. Getting proper ventilation down there with little basement windows is nearly impossible. I can’t use any type of solvents or chemicals down there as it stinks up the whole house. I can’t even spray WD40 without my wife getting upset about the smell. It’s one of the reasons I use shellac on many of my projects and coat my antique tools with my own blend of mineral oil – orange oil – beeswax solution. I even have to use Minwax stains in the garage.
Hemp oil doesn’t stink up the house as it smells like crushed walnuts. My wife loves the stuff! She uses on nearly everything she paints. And if she doesn’t mind the smell, then it must be good! We’ve been buying it by the gallon at Homestead House Paint company in Canada. Because hemp is often associated with marijuana, it’s been tough to find a supplier for it in the states (but that may change as more states legalize marijuana and become more educated about hemp). Unfortunately, the majority of hemp oil that is available around here is sold as an essential oil for outrageous prices.
According to their website, they sell smaller quantities of the stuff, but I can only select to buy one gallon or five gallon buckets. If you want to try hemp oil without jumping in too deep, you can find a store that sells Miss Mustard Seed milk paint. Miss Mustard Seed is a lady who has a popular design and painting blog and she partnered with Homestead House to brand her own line of paint. It’s basically the exact same stuff.
I applied two coats of hemp oil on some scrap hardwood samples to show how they turn out on various species. In my opinion cherry looks the best as it really pops the grain. Poplar is shown just to show how the oil would look on secondary woods like the sides of drawers.
You apply hemp oil the same way as tung oil with a brush or cloth and allow it to dry wiping off the excess in about twenty minutes. Because the oil doesn’t have any solvents, it takes a bit longer for it to dry. In fact, I’ve seen some extra oil to wipe off after 24 hours when the oil has been allowed to absorb in the wood. It takes about thirty days to fully cure. Because hemp oil is food safe, you can even use it on cutting boards and wooden utensils.
Below are a few pieces Anita has painted or stained over the years with hemp oil as a top coat. As you can see, it gives off a matte finish with little sheen which looks nice on old furniture. If you have a basement shop and can’t take the fumes, give hemp oil a try.