What Is Tung Oil? : Benefits, How To Use

Tung Oil

Tung oil is one of the most popular wood finish and sealers in the woodworking world. Most importantly it is 100% natural and able to apply on almost any surface. When I first heard about this awesome finish, I was curious about what is and how it behaves. So, let’s find out everything you need to know about Tung oil.

Tung oil is a natural wood finishing oil obtained by expeller pressing the seeds from nuts of the tung tree. Tung oil originated from China. Tung oil hardens upon exposure to the air and provides a transparent, wet look finish. Tung oil is waterproof and protects wood furniture from cracking.

Ultimately, Tung oil can be considered one of the top-quality natural finishes for any woodworking project.

There’s a lot more to know about Tung oil and how it uses as a finish.

So, in this article, we’ll examine Tung oil uses, how to apply Tung oil, the waterproofing ability of Tung oil, and everything you need to know about Tung oil.

Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about Tung oil as well.

Let’s jump in!

What Is Tung Oil?

Tung oil is a natural finisher and sealer which is extracted from the seeds of the tung tree. China is the world’s leading Tung oil manufacturer, providing more than 80% of the world’s Tung oil supply.

Tung oil hardens quickly when exposed to the air. When Tung oil is exposed to air, It goes through a polymerization process and results in the transparent, wet-looking, glossy layer. This is what happens when you apply Tung oil over wood furniture. They make a transparent, wet-looking glossy protective layer and give a shiny beautiful appearance to the wood.

Tung oil mainly consists of fatty acids which are highly sensitive to atmospheric oxygen. When they get in contact with oxygen, oxidation happens by making cross-links between nearby molecular chains and hardening the resin.

Tung oil is water resistant and an excellent alternative for drying oils such as linseed and walnut oils. It is versatile, easy to use, and gives nice looking appearance by enhancing the color of any wooden surface.

In summary, here’re some main specifications of Tung oil,

  • Eco-friendly natural finish
  • Hardens upon exposure to air
  • Originated from China and South America
  • Enhance wood color
  • Transparent
  • Water-resistant
  • Food safe

What Does Tung Oil Do?

Tung oil makes a transparent, wet-looking, glossy, protective layer on furniture and other woodworks that enhance the color of the wood. Tung oil protects wood furniture from moisture and cracks.

Tung oil is waterproof and by applying it to woodworks, you can make the wood waterproof with enhanced protection from environmental elements. Because of having good protection from moisture, Tung oil applied furniture can be used as both indoor and outdoor furniture.

Ting oil hardens quickly upon exposure to the air. Therefore, you won’t face issues like tacky surface, surface blotchiness, and other wood staining and finishing mistakes.

Tung oil protects wood from moisture, cracks, scratches, insect attacks, and many more. This is why it has become so much popular among woodworkers because of having lots of advantages over disadvantages.

Here’s what Tung oil does in brief,

  • Make protective coating
  • Protects wood from moisture
  • Prevent wood cracking
  • Prevent wood from rotting and decaying
  • Protect wood from insects and pests
  • Enhance wood color
  • Dries quickly on wood
  • Able to apply on any wood

So, let’s find out, is Tung oil good as a wood finisher.

Is Tung Oil a Good Finish?

Tung oil is an excellent finish for any type of wood. Tung oil works well with both softwood and hardwood furniture. It is eco-friendly, flexible, food safe, and durable finish with waterproofing ability which is helpful to protect woods from environmental impacts.

Tung oil protects wood from moisture, alcohol, and chemicals and lasts for so long. Tung oil finish has higher durability than wax-based and mineral oil finishes.

The Tung oil finish doesn’t darken, rancid, or mold like other finishes. It dries faster than any other oil finish which makes the wood finishing process easier with less time-consuming.

Usually, we have to wait for so long until finishing coats get dried completely before applying another coat on top of it. But with Tung oil, you don’t have to wait so long because it dries faster. Therefore, using Tung oil as a finisher is efficient and more economically friendly.

Tung oil enhances the appearance of the wood with an aesthetic beautiful finish. It adds depth to the wood grain by adding a modern unique look to your loving furniture and woodworks.

Because of being a good finish, Tung oil can be used for both interior and exterior woodworks and furniture. It makes a protective coating on top of the wood which helps to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Tung oil is easy to use. It offers an excellent hand-rubbed finish for any wood. you just have to wipe on the surface and allow it to cure under room temperature. Because of being so user-friendly, Tung oil is excellent for beginners to practice wood finishing techniques.

Unlike other finishes, Tung oil penetrates deep into the wood and be a part of the wood. Once it is cured it makes a flexible, non-oily coating without displaying any blotches or streaks.

Tung oil is non-toxic after it is cured. Therefore, it can use to finish kitchen utensils, bowls, and children’s toys with no issues.

Tung oil is an excellent finish for weathered wood, unfinished new wood, stripped wood, bricks, concrete, and cast irons. It is the ultimate finisher for any material.

Tung Oil on Cedar

Tung oil works great on cedar. It makes a protective, natural-looking layer that enhances the natural beauty of cedar wood. Pure Tung oil gives a light yellow color to cedar while dark Tung oil darkens the cedarwood.

Tung oil is easy to apply to cedar wood. It absorbs evenly throughout the wood without causing any issues.

Tung Oil on Pine

Tung oil works great on Pine. It adds a unique shining natural look to your pinewood furniture without hiding its beautiful wood grain.

Applying Tung oil on pine is easy because it hardens quickly. You can get a wet fresh look for pine furniture, panels, window frames, floors, and cabinets by finishing them with Tung oil.

How To Apply Tung Oil?

Applying Tung oil to wood is so much easier than any other oil finish. It hardens pretty quickly and absorbs evenly to the wood fibers without making a mess.

There’re main two methods of applying Tung oil on any wood. they are,

  • Apply Tung oil using a bristle brush
  • Spray Tung oil using a spray gun

Applying Tung oil using a bristle brush is easier because you can control the thickness of the coatings and are able to notice and fix the missing spot before it gets hardened.

Here’re the supplies you will need to apply Tung oil on wood,

  • Tung oil can
  • Mineral spirit
  • Bristle brush or sponge brush
  • Lint-free rags
  • Sandpapers (120 grit, 150 grit, and 400 grit)
  • Latex gloves
  • Tack cloths
  • Glass jar with plastic stick or stirrer
  • Abrasive finishing pads

Here’re the 7 simple steps you need to follow to apply Tung oil finish on wood,

1. Surface Preparation

Clean and sand the wood surface and make it smooth, dust and dirt free.

2. Thin Tung Oil

Mix equal amounts of Tung oil and mineral spirits in a glass jar and make the thinned Tung oil solution.

3. Apply Tung Oil

Apply thinned Tung oil solution on the wood surface evenly along the wood grain.

4. Let it dry for 6 hours

Before applying another coat of Tung oil, let the previous coat dry completely from both inside and outside of the wood.

5. Sand the surface lightly

Light sand surface with abrasive pads

6. Apply 5 – 8 coats following the same procedure

Make sure to dry and lightly sand between each coat.

7. Let the final coat dry for 6 hours and cure for 14 days

Letting Tung oil cure is essential to get it to a hard stabilized state.

Now you have a clear idea about applying Tung oil without making any mistakes. These are the simplest steps you can follow to apply Tung oil to any wood.

How Many Coats of Tung Oil Should You Use?

5 – 8 coats of Tung oil you should use to get a perfect finish. But this can differ according to the type of application and wood type you use.

Make sure to apply a minimum of 5 coats of Tung oil to get wet-looking, shiny finishing with a protective layer that helps to get protected wood from moisture and other elements.

You can apply more Tung oil coats to get a shiner look.

But applying excessive amounts of Tung oil can result in a blotchy surface and drying time is also can be significantly high. When the number of Tung oil coats are increasing the drying time also gets much slower.

Is Tung Oil Permanent?

Tung oil finish last for so long because of having excellent water resistance. With proper maintenance, the Tung oil finish can last for years.

If your Tung oil finish does not get impacted by environmental elements such as moisture, direct sunlight, and insect attacks it will easily last for a long time. But if your Tung oil finishes live in harsh weather conditions, you’ll probably have to reapply Tung oil finish at least once per year.

Better to reapply the Tung oil finish before the previous coating goes off completely to avoid wood getting in contact with the outside because if the wood gets started to rot, it might be a nightmare to restore and apply Tung oil again. Therefore, better to keep eye on tung finished furniture before the previous finish fades away.

How Long Does Tung Oil Last Outdoors?

Tung oil lasts no more than 2 years outdoors because of climate changes, temperature variations, moisture, insect attacks, UV light, and many other environmental elements.  Therefore, restore and reapply Tung oil on your outdoor furniture at least once per year.

In order to protect outdoor furniture from elements apply 5 – 8 coats of Tung oil without missing any spots.

Applying a durable coating over Tung oil helps to last Tung oil for more than 10 years. Because using Tung oil only cannot protect your outdoor furniture for years. Therefore, applying another durable coating over the Tung oil finish is recommended for the long run.

Make sure to keep Tung oil finish outdoors once it gets fully cured minimum after 14 days.

What Is Tung Oil Finish Used Over?

Tung oil finish is used for so many different woodworking and furniture applications. It makes a protective coating on any wood with an enhanced natural beautiful appearance.

Here’re some uses of Tung oil finish,

  • Wood furniture
  • Unfinished new wood
  • Weathered wood
  • Painted and stained wood
  • Boat decks
  • Concrete
  • Cabinets
  • Bamboo
  • Brick
  • Musical instruments
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Children’s toys
  • Countertops
  • Wood carving

Tung oil helps to protect wood furniture and other woodworks from moisture, UV light, bugs, and insects. It prevents wood from rotting and decaying.

Most importantly Tung oil can use over painted furniture and stained furniture. It is useful to protect the color of the wood and paint without fading them away due to direct sunlight. Tung oil finish avoid sunlight from darkening the wood color.

Applying Tung oil is useful to protect your woodworking projects and woodcarving projects to keep them years safely.

Is Tung Oil Finish Waterproof?

Yes, the Tung oil finish is waterproof. It protects wood from moisture and water droplets. Tung oil’s protective layer prevents moisture from getting into the wood which can cause wood rot.

Make sure to apply Tung oil without missing any spots because once the moisture went inside, Tung oil cannot protect the wood from rotting because wood rot starts from inside and you’ll probably have to restore the wood and apply a flex seal to stop the wood from rotting.

What Is the Best Tung Oil?

Here’re some of the best Tung oil products that can use for any wood,

  • Minwax Tung oil finish
  • Cabot’s Tung oil
  • Hope Tung oil
  • Real Milk paints dark Tung oil

Now you have a clear understanding about what is Tung oil and how it is important as a wood finish.

So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about Tung oil.

Will Tung Oil Darken Wood?

Pure Tung oil does not darken the wood. But dark Tung oil darkens wood. Pure Tung oil has a light yellow honey color tint that lightens and enhances the wood color. But dark Tung oil modified hydrocarbons with pigments that give a dark brown color to the wood.

If you want to get a darker deeper color, better to apply dark Tung oil. Applying darker Tung oil coats gives a darker shade to the wood. To get a lighter, wet-looking shiner color you need to apply pure Tung oil.

Or you can make Tung oil darker by mixing it with acetone or denatured alcohol. Those chemicals make Tung oil darker which makes your wood color darker.

Will pure Tung oil darken over time? No, it won’t because it has no dark pigments and has good resistance against UV light as well.

Does Tung Oil Turn Wood Yellow?

No, Tung oil doesn’t turn wood yellow. Pure Tung oil enhances wood color because of its amber honey color tint. But it won’t turn wood to yellow or change wood to any other color.

Once the Tung oil finish gets hardened, it has a transparent, wet look with no color at all. The wood grain and natural color are completely visible to the outside and there is no yellow tint in it.  

Better to wait for 14 days until the Tung oil finish gets cured to see its actual appearance.

Do You Sand Between Coats Of Tung Oil?

Sanding between Tung oil coats is recommended to get a smooth finish since it produces white dust when the previous Tung oil coat is completely dry and you’re good to apply another coat.

Make sure to sand with 400 grit or 600 grit fine sandpaper and do light sanding without damaging the previously applied tung coat. Rubbing with very fine sandpaper is helpful to get a nice and smooth surface and to get a shiner Tung oil finish.

Which is Better Tung Oil or Linseed Oil?

Tung oil is better than linseed oil because Tung oil creates a more water-resistant, hard, and durable finish than linseed oil. Linseed oil takes a long time than Tung oil for drying. But Tung oil expensive than linseed oil. Tung oil is a better finish for outdoors than linseed oil due to its high moisture resistance.

Which Is Better Tung Oil or Danish Oil?

Danish oil is better than Tung oil because Danish oil dries within 4 – 6 hours while Tung oil usually takes 24 hours to dry. Danish oil gives a much more beautiful appearance than Tung oil. But Tung oil is more eco-friendly than Danish oil which is a synthetic wood oil. Danish oil is more used as a finisher. Danish oil has more advantages than the tung oil finish.

Which Is Better Tung Oil or Teak Oil?

Teak oil is better than Tung oil because teak oil gives more protection from scratches and cracks than Tung oil. Teak oil protects hardwoods more than the Tung oil finish. Teak oil is scratch resistant. Teak oil gives a more sheen look while Tung oil gives a less sheen look.  Overall teal oil is better for outdoors due to its high tolerance against environmental elements than Tung oil.

Will Tung Oil Prevent Cracking?

Yes, Tung oil prevents wood from cracking and splitting since it avoids moisture from penetrating the wood fibers and makes them wet to make cracks and splits easily.

Tung oil has good elasticity and flexibility which is helpful to withstand wear and tear without cracking the surface.

Because of having good flexibility, when the wood is contracting and expanding due to humidity changes, the Tung oil coat will also move along with the wood without losing its stability. This makes Tung oil more versatile and resistant to cracking.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about Tung Oil Finish?

In this article we have deeply discussed, what is Tung oil, its uses, how to apply Tung oil, and how it is important as a wood finish with pros and cons.

Tung oil is a natural finish that extracts from the seeds of the tung tree. It originated in China. Tung oil has good water resistance that helps to protect wood furniture. Tung oil is easy to apply and 5 – 8 coats of Tung oil are recommended to get a wet-looking shiny protective surface.

Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions about Tung oil and why it’s better than other popular oil finishes. Hope you have gained good knowledge about the Tung oil finish. Makes sure to apply thing you have learned in this article and apply Tung oil correctly on your next wood finishing project. Keep practicing!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

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