Is there something wrong with stand oil?

After reading some of my disparaging remarks about stand oil, a reader asked me if there was something wrong with stand oil. The short answer is no, there is nothing wrong with stand oil. The longer answer is, well, complicated.

An ancient and still common method to improve oil is to heat it. Heating oil polymerizes, thickens, and purifies the oil. Heated oils are generally termed bodied oil.

To make stand oil the linseed oil is heated to a very high temperature, around 280-300°C (536-572°F). This is a higher temperature than that used to produce other bodied oils. Additionally, oxygen is excluded from the process to prevent the oil from combusting. This step is unique to stand oil.

The first references to stand oil are from the Dutch in the 18th century. Some manufacturers left the heated oil stand for an extended period so the impurities in the oil could settle to the bottom of the containers and be easily removed. These oils were not produced under high temperatures.

The first references to modern stand oil occur in the 19th century and are associated with industrial-scale production.

Note, then, that the old masters, including the greatest craftsmen of all time the artists of the Dutch Golden Age, did not use or know about modern stand oil. On the other hand, that abysmal craftsman and showoff, Sargeant, used stand oil in abundance. His paintings prove it covered as they are with unsightly cracks and sunken areas.

I use stand oil infrequently if at all. My two bottles of the stuff are very old, as you can see. One of the providers–Studio Products–has been out of business for a long time. But when I want a smooth, well-blended passage, I might add a smidge of the stuff to the paint. I don’t like overly blended passages so this is a rare use case for me.

When I want extra body in my paint, I add sun-thickened oil to it. Sun-thickened oil, like stand oil, is thick but it handles very differently from stand oil. Try it.

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