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Linseed oil fire hazard.

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by johnmetts, Mar 1, 2020.

  1. johnmetts

    johnmetts Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    You may already know this, but it is a good reminder.

    Recently a friend of mine and I were oiling a wood project with linseed oil - applying it with cloth rags. In between coats we balled the rags up and put them in a large bowl. A short time later we were about to put on the next coat of oil and were surprised to find in the short span of time the rags had heated up and were very hot. Had we left them overnight I am sure the would have caught fire.

    We all know not to leave oily rags around, but if you are using them and leave them between coats - keep them spread out and not bunched up. They were hot enough to burn skin on the inside in just a short time.

    Stay calm and keep paddling.

  2. Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

  3. mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I'm in a way glad to hear this. I've always had a skeptical streak when it came to this matter and have a number of times left oily rags in buckets (sometimes for years) hoping something would happen, to no avail. Hence, glad someone else had better luck that I:)
  4. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    This is a very real hazard and ignoring it risks everything in your shop, garage, house or any other place you are using the stuff. Immediately after using scraps of cloth to apply oils or oil products like wipe-on varnishes, I take the rags out of the building and spread them out on the lawn or driveway, where they will generally stay for a few days if needed until "dry" before being tossed out. I don't re-use them for multiple coats. Rags are cheap and I want a clean one for the next coat.
    Dan Lindberg likes this.
  5. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    A way back, I came home from co-leading a paddle carving course. Roger Foster (Carlisle Canoe Co.) had driven us both to the site of the course. So, when he brought me home at the end of the day, we hurriedly unloaded my tools etc, including leaving a pile of linseed oil-wetted towels on the hardwood floor in the centre of the dining room. As we finished up unloading, I noticed a burning smell. The towels, in only a few minutes, had generated enough heat to be just ready to burst into flame (spontaneous combustion -a chemical reaction). They were too hot to pick up with my bare hand. Of course, I quickly found a dry towel and threw them all out the front door onto the lawn, before soaking them with the hose.

    Another cautionary tale: I had read somewhere that table saws could "spontaneously turn on", thus the safety precaution of always unplugging a not-being-used electric tool. I was skeptical, as it didn't seem logical. Then it happened to me. My table saw turned on by itself, while I was standing beside it. Of course, that put the "fear of God" into me. I looked further into how this could happen, to learn that sawdust inside the switch, with just the right moisture content, had completed the circuit, turning on the saw.
    I am now more careful at unplugging un-used power tools.
  6. Norm Hein

    Norm Hein Canoe Codger

    A number of years ago I lost my shop/garage to Linseed oily rags. It was Christmas time and I was finishing a gift for my son. We were away that night and my neighbor called me and told me it was on fire. When we got home it was nothing more than a pill of ashes and chard useless metal. Fortunately there was no wind at all that night so my house was unaffected other than a bit of curdled up shingle edges. Unfortunately we lost all of my wife's grandfathers tools, my tools and my sons gift. Sad day. I now have a fire proof pail that I put everything in the second I am done with it. Hard lesson.
  7. OP

    johnmetts Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Gosh, Norm. What a tragedy.
  8. Norm Hein

    Norm Hein Canoe Codger

    John it was somewhat tragic but something good came out of it. As I was buying tools to replace mine lost in the fire I purchased only non-powered hand tools, and that’s all I used for the next 8 years. It was the best thing I could have ever done to really hone my skills. I didn’t really learn much more about woodworking but more on how wood works.

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