Fresh squeezed baby

2 minute read

I bought a hand drill last year from a local vintage tool shop here in Northcote. I was also dabbling with carpetentry at the time, and was restoring an old school blackboard. Not “old-school”; a school blackboard that was old and broken down.

Welcome to the Vintage Tool Shop
Vintage Tool Shop is selling ANTIQUE & VINTAGE hand tools since 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.

Anyhoo, the point is that for keeping the hand drill and chisels in good working order, I was told I needed to get some mineral oil.

That’s where my trouble started. The Bunnings down on Victoria Street (about 5km from here) didn’t have any. Not in the machine shop, not anywhere. Mineral oil was hard to find online, and the only place I seemed able to get any was back at the Vintage Tool Shop.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

A good friend needed help putting some legs on a nice tabletop, an offcut from a larger table left by their Nonna. I bought some decent tools a few years ago which would make this process easier.

The tabletop is some kind of hardwood, or a veneer over lead, because it was surprisingly heavy. We broke a drill bit before putting the legs on, albeit a 2.5mm bit which was probably pushing it.

But the wood had lived for years in Nonna’s bedroom, then outside in the shed. It had dried out considerably, so we discussed how to get the wood back to normal.

My initial thought was vegetable oil.

Don’t use vegetable oil!

Later research said NOPE. The main complaint is it goes rancid and smells if you leave it too long. For short spells on working wood like cutting boards many suggest it’s fine. But for a tabletop, no go.

Some sites recommended other oils, linseed, tung, even almond as it has some kind of properties that won’t turn bad and smell.

Oils in finishing
Oil is one of the most important ingredients used in finishing products.

Mineral Oil seemed a good choice, as it’s inert and doesn’t change over time. But as it was so hard to find it last time, I initially dismissed it. Right up until I learned something interesting.

Baby oil is mineral oil

Really? I always thought it was made of babies you squeezed too hard?


Fresh squeezed baby

But it is apparently Vegetable or Mineral oil.

Baby Oil
Typical components of baby oils are the highly purified mineral oil products such as liquid paraffin (INCI name: paraffinum liquidum)

So that’s solved

It turns out it’s been right under my nose the whole time. Figuratively, I mean. So now I need to find a baby and squeeze…

But what about the table?

Good point. We need a fair bit of oil because the table is a good 1m square, and needs both sides treating.

My friend found IKEA sells a 500ml Linseed Tung oil mix for $14.

The cost of 500ml of baby oil at a local retailer comes out at between $2.40 and $6 depending on the name on the label.

On the other hand, one liter of linseed oil goes for about $12 at local hardware store, Bunnings, roughly the same as a name-brand baby oil.

The conclusion is Bunnings Linseed Oil, for the table, and most likely to go over other woodwork in the home. And who am I to argue?

But for my chisels and hand drill, the hair clippers, etc, I’ll be buying some cheaparse baby oil next time I do a supermarket order.