I'm intending on building a few shelves from scratch, including chopping down the wood, and then treating it. With my budget tightening up, what are some easy to access methods of harvesting oils from plants or other places? Fish oil won't do. I'd rather not have a fish smell coming from the furniture.

  • I can buy a quart of wood finishing oil for around $7 at my local home improvement store, I'd be very surprised if you can extract it yourself cheaper than that.
    – Johnny
    Jun 2 '16 at 3:16

Normally, oils are extracted from vegetable material using various combinations of temperature and pressure during a distillation process.

Oily materials can be squeezed directly. A Walnut can be rubbed vigorously on a walnut wood surface and the oil from the walnut will infuse into the wood.

Some materials must be put into a solution to dissolve the oils in the material and the solution is then distilled to separate the desireable oil from the more volatile solvent. Recovering the solvent for re-use is part of a continuous extraction process otherwise it is discarded ($). The solvent cannot be water as it won't dissolve the oils in the material.

  • Now this procures my interest. Would it be possible to make a solvent using regular petroleum jelly?
    – Andrew
    Jun 1 '16 at 20:31
  • Regular petroleum jelly is a solvent. It is in jelly form because the distillation process was stopped at the point where this consistency was desired. Using the jelly isn't the most efficient form for mixing. You would want something that is a liquid. You would choose your solvent, methanol, ethanol, propanol, or other type of alcohol based on what you want to dissolve and how you want to extract the oil. Some oils are more volatile than others and are easier to dissolve than separate due to how close they are in activity to the solvent. By the way, you'll be making explosives that go boom.
    – Stan
    Jun 1 '16 at 23:22
  • Yeah, as soon as I started looking at possible solvents, I realized that I'd probably need a pressure distillery.
    – Andrew
    Jun 2 '16 at 15:08

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