-- Last Updated: Nov-07-12 2:11 PM EST --
The CW on oil finishes is that any difference in surface penetration depends as much or more on the species to which they are applied as anything and that traditional varnish application achieves comparable depth of "penetration" on long grain. Really, we're talking about dimensions measured in microns here.
Scrape the tip of a sharp nail across a gunnel and tell me how deep the finish has penetrated and hardened in the wood. Safe bet it's about as deep as a sheet of newsprint is thick.
The differences between the various oil/solvent/varnish finishes are minor variations on formulas that joiners, carpenters, and shipbuilders have been using for generations. There are modern resins and refined solvents that may be tougher or cheaper and the proportions may vary a bit, but it's mostly marketing that attempts to differentiate most of these products.
I always thought "penetrating oil" was stuff you put on rusted nuts and bolts to loosen them.
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