Hot oil dip tank

The new hot oil dip tank at our production mill on the Sandringham Estate, Norfolk, has recently passed a whole series of tests designed to push oiling technology to its limits. In fact the tank, the oil, the two ‘secret ingredients’ and of course the finish it puts on the timber have passed every test with flying colours; the results are phenomenal, and the tank is in full production.

We use an ultra pure linseed oil which is of a high enough grade fit for human consumption. It has an ultra low protein content, which means at hot temperatures it gets absorbed in to timber much faster and deeper than ordinary linseed oil, or any other oil for that matter. It has no VOCs, is lovely to work with and get your hands in. It’s reminiscent of all those days oiling cricket bats at home. It nurtures and protects the timber, but best of all it gives the most amazing finish. It really is beautiful, and has a natural patina and quality to it which is quite unbeatable. When you then finish oil it after installation, you can start from the lovely flat, matt finish and make it what you want all the way up to a full gloss finish. We have tested it with a variety of different finishing oils, including a special maintenance oil again from linseed which keeps everything totally natural, to a new oil / beeswax paste which smells so good it’s hard to stop yourself tasting it (not that nice actually!). It still works brilliantly with the Liberon finishing oil as well.

Nothing but the best

Traditionally, worktops have be oiled by applying a coat with a cloth, leaving it to absorb for an hour or two and then repeating for six to twelve coats. This process has been used because it is simple, but also because there have never really been any reliable alternatives. The downside to the process is that it is very time consuming which means that many worktop manufacturers send out worktops underoiled to their customers because they have not allowed enough time to keep their promised delivery date. This is a serious problem within the industry and when we see some worktop suppliers promising to dispatch preoiled, bespoke boards within 48 hours we fear for what their customers must be receiving.

We always added 48 hours to any production time for pre-oiled worktops for this very reason as it is impossible to oil a worktop to the required standard in any less time. Our whole business philosophy revolves around quality – we are not out to make a quick and easy buck; we don’t take time because we are slow, we take time because that time needs to be taken.

Because we are so focused on product quality, we are constantly looking at how to improve ourselves and it was this process that led us to look at creating a dip tank. As well as being slow, there are other drawbacks to finishing by hand: uneven distribution of the oil, poor penetration into the wood, a constant need for the custom to re-oil their worktops every two to three months if you have a sink cutout (and if your supplier is advising you that you need to do it less regularly than this then I would urge to reconsider their advice)

Oiling worktops in a dip tank avoids all of these drawbacks: the oil penetrates the wood by several millimetres, it is evenly distributed across the surface of the worktop, it only takes a few hours in the tank to achieve a full finish and, from an aesthetic point of view, it provides the best finish we have ever seen on a wooden worktop. And because the oil penetrates below the surface of the wood the maintenance of the worktops is far more convenient, with worktops only needing a minimal amount of oil applied once a year, and only in areas which see frequest wear and tear.

The difference it makes

The basic premise of the new dip tank was fairly simple; Create a tank in which we could heat up large volumes of linseed oil, and then dip any of our hardwood products from worktops to windows, gates to flooring. Although it sounds simple in principle, it was a huge technical challenge, but it has allowed us to achieve three things:

Improved quality. Produce a significantly higher quality finish, which not only looked amazing but would also set the worktop up for its working lifespan (which should be measured in decades). What could we do to make it so much better that it would be a compelling reason to buy from us.

Reduce lead times. The market place in worktops, like many things, is a moving feast, and one of the fastest changing aspects is lead times. These seem to be getting shorter and shorter, even for a fully bespoke item like an oiled worktop, cut to shape and size with multiple cut outs. It was getting difficult to meet client’s expectations because our way of doing properly was seen as a bit slow; the competition was quicker, but only because they slapped on a few coats in a very short space of time. Now we can produce a fully bespoke, beautifully oiled worktop in less than 48 hours, if required.

Oiling worktops in a dip tank avoids all of these drawbacks: the oil penetrates the wood by several millimetres, it is evenly distributed across the surface of the worktop, it only takes a few hours in the tank to achieve a full finish and, from an aesthetic point of view, it provides the best finish we have ever seen on a wooden worktop. And because the oil penetrates below the surface of the wood the maintenance of the worktops is far more convenient, with worktops only needing a minimal amount of oil applied once a year, and only in areas which see frequest wear and tear.

There’s been a huge amount of time and financial investment gone in to the dip tank, along with my reputation in the workshops, but the reason why we persevered with it is just another demonstration of how we are committed to delivering nothing but the best.

Stand out from the competition

The most difficult challenge we face marketing our product is the inevitable comparison to many budget 40mm wooden worktops on the market. We cannot stress enough the difference between our process – which uses the highest quality materials to make custom produced worktops – to our mass market competitors – who buy stock pre-manufactured boards made from low quality materials which they then quickly cut to size, slap on a few coats of low grade oil and then ship out without a single consideration of care or quality. These operations do not have the inclination nor business model to make the investment we had taken in developing and installing our dip tank; to give you an idea building the tank, developing the oil and installing the heating and circulation system have cost in the region of £40,000. We have spent six month testing the optimal temperature, volume of oil, flow rate and dipping times. We have also had to adapt our glue used in building a worktops so it is not only stronger and more durable (to withstand the temperature it is subjected to in the dip tank) but also so it is not aesthetically compromised.

We are the only wooden worktop manufacturer or supplier in the UK to use this process to oil our worktops. Despite the huge investment we have made in developing we have not increased our oiling prices to subsidise it, we have done so solely because it is a benefit to our customers and because it improves the quality of our finished product.

Please feel free to email Sales@Wooden-Kitchen-Worktops.co.uk with any questions.