While my experience with turpentine versus linseed oil is quite limited, I did take a crash course in this experience in college. Scene design in college is a tricky, underfunded game and when a fickle director required some last minute changes had to be made to the color of one large backdrop (last minute, meaning opening night) the dire straits of the situation meant all-hands-on-deck. I went back to the DIY website doityourself.com for the definitions to these two products.
Turpentine vs. Linseed Oil: Turpentine: While neither of these are particularly nice to get a whiff of, perhaps turpentine is the worse smelling of the two. “Turpentine is a thin, usually brownish-yellow and resinous liquid that’s created from steam distilling the resin from certain types of pine trees.” Trees; that’s natural, right? Well…turpentine is a word “used to describe a type of resin, referred to as the oleoresin,” which is used to produce turpentine. A by-product of the paper and lumber industries, this “essential oil” is what makes up the turpentine. Turpentine is used in some cough medicines but turpentine also can be deadly to younger kids; turpentine is the world’s largest essential oil product and its primary use as a paint thinner has been so for some time.
Turpentine vs. Linseed Oil: Linseed Oil: As a more natural alternative, many people turn to linseed oil for their paint thinner needs. “Linseed oil is a yellowish liquid that’s made from the seeds of flax.” Many people know that linseed oil is edible; what many people don’t know is that linseed oil is actually healthy for you. Linseed oil contains “high levels of healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids,” as well as other acids which are good for your heart. Great for your immune, reproductive, and circulatory systems, linseed oil, in its natural form, can be a great health shot for you. As paint thinner linseed oil is also very effective.
Turpentine vs. Linseed Oil: My Experience: As I said we had to strip a 12 foot flat and we had to do it fast. While debating the linseed oil vs. turpentine question in class was interesting, we actually did a combination mixture; 1/3 linseed oil, 1/3 turpentine, and 1/3 water. My professor explained that this mixture would be the best for what we were doing which was changing the color while keeping the integrity of the wood. She also conveyed to us that the re-painting that we had to do subsequent to the stripping would be made easier from this combination.