Tung oil finish

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Blog entry by BigD1 posted 11-30-2015 01:34 AM 1250 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Could use some insight on the best way to apply Tung Oil. I’ve read cut the first coat 50-50 with paint thinner.
Let stand for 24 hours between coats. Apply 3 coats and call it good. Does this meet the experts opinion. Please reply back. Thank you for your time and knowledge.

-- Donald Baty

4 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3394 posts in 5234 days

#1 posted 11-30-2015 02:14 AM

BigD – probably post this in the forum section and you might get some more looks and some replies. Wish I could help – but I’ve not used Tung Oil in so long I’d probably send you down a rabbit hole.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 3418 days

#2 posted 11-30-2015 02:55 AM

I’ve always needed more than three on the end grain. I haven’t had a ton of luck using tung oil by itself, but to each his own. Yes you’ll want to dilute it to about 50%. More like two days between coats. I prefer to add a varnish to help with the curing time.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View BobAnderton's profile


314 posts in 4128 days

#3 posted 11-30-2015 03:15 AM

So are you talking pure tung oil, or “tung oil finish”? Tung oil finish as a marketed product is a mixture of solvent, varnish, and oil, some of which may actually be tung oil. Tung oil finish I’d say you can wipe on as it comes without further diluting. Pure tung oil is not all that common, though it is available.

-- Bob Anderton - Austin, TX - Nova 3000 lathe, Alaskan Mark III mill, Husqavarna Saw

View JSOvens's profile


78 posts in 2994 days

#4 posted 11-30-2015 09:16 PM

I can’t call myself an expert, since I’ve only used tung oil for two projects (just got into it recently, here's a link to one of the projects), but I can tell you what seems to have worked for me so far:

Finish prep: sand to 320x.

First coat:

25% pure, unpolymerized tung oil, 75% mineral spirits. Wipe on to project generously, let soak for about 45 minutes, wipe off oil. I would then revisit the project every 30-60 minutes to wipe off any oil that seeped onto the surface (it’s usually pretty minimal after the first 2-3 hours).

Let cure for about one week (I live in Vancouver, Canada, and I’ve often found that it takes longer for finishes to cure enough to move on to a second coat in general – I usually have to wait two days even for plain oil-based poly).

Lightly sand with 320x – take care that you don’t oversand corners.

Second and third coats:

50/50 pure tung oil in mineral spirits. Apply according to method in first coat, remembering to wipe away seepage as it appears (every 30-60 minutes).

Let cure for about one week per coat. Sand with 400x after second coat cures.

I stopped after the third coat, as I was happy with the finish. I actually found that the thrid coat made a significant difference over the second. I found this procedure I think from a similar post on a different website. It recommended increasing the concentration of tung oil for each coat, until eventually you would end up applying 100% pure tung oil (maybe after the 5th coat), while also increasing the sandpaper grit used between each coat (600x, 800 or 1000x).

The mallet I posted a link for in the first paragraph is a bit of a misrepresentation, as I used three coats of 100% pure tung oil for each (i.e. no dilutions). While this gave just as good a finish in my opinion, it took a bit more effort to rub the oil in on the first coat. I’ve so far used this sort of methodology on Maple, Padauk and Wenge which gave what i would consider beautiful results – I love this finish, it just takes a lot of time and patience. Billy’s idea of adding varnish, or using polymerized tung oil may serve to alleviate this.

I will end with reiterating that I am far from being en expert – if anyone has any amendments (or completely different methods) to the method I described, I would also be very interested in hearing them.

-- Jeffrey S. Ovens, Canada

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