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Tung Oil Help

2480 Views 18 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Blackie_
I have a customer that wants me to make his item with a tung oil finish. I've been messing around with it a little bit and I'm wondering if you can give me any suggestions.. What should I expect out of the finish? So far I'm kind of underwhelmed. I buffed it in like the label said, and it looks nice but then 12 hours later it looks kind of dull. Is that expected? Should it be glossier? Should I build the finish? How long should I wait?
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It tends to be a bit dull. Do several coats then wax and buff is pretty standard.
Okay. Any particular wax that works better?
I have used both Johnson's Paste Wax and The MinWax "Finishing" wax with good results.
MinWax is available in both light and dark for use on different woods.
Just my experience.
I have always used polymerized tung oil and I have only used it on cherry and walnut. I apply it by hand and sort of rub it in. I let it sit for a few min. and rub all of the wet areas again to move them to the areas that have soaked it up. I let it set a few more min. and wipe it down with a dry cloth. I do the same thing the next day until no more is soaked up. I let it dry 2-3 days, buff it out with a buffer and apply Mayland's Wax. I use this wax because it is what I have.
This has produced a nice glow to the wood. At least to me.
Jerry, that finish technique sounds perfect for a dresser top I'm working on, does the polymerized vs. standard tung oil offer any addition protection from scratches and dents in the wood? Does it dry well even as the humidity goes up? I only ask because I have experience with BLO and while it's cheap and gives a good look, I hate pretty much everything else about it.
I have not heard of polymerized tung oil. What brand?
This is the only company know selling polymerized Tung oil and very expensive. There may be other brands out there.

Many folks buying what they think is Tung oil simply buying oil varnish or wiping varnish product. If looking for sheen use a wiping varnish product.

Pure Tung oil will give you a satin finish, need between four & eight coats to achieve any kind of protection. Drying and recoat times more than polymerized Tung oil. Pure Tung oil will develop a patina over time as more coats applied.
Would tell the client need to re-apply at least annually unless talking about carved work even that would not hurt.
I don't like polymerized because I don't like that plastic look. I use pure Tung and use my own wax which is a mixture of bees wax and carnuba. I use the bees wax to soften the carnuba for application. It's a hard wax and gives good protection, for a wax.
Good to see you back, Lis. You've been gone a while
I used Formby's Tung oil and was very pleased with it. They tell you to put on at least 3 coats and that is the truth. Only until you have that third coat on does it look any thing like finished. I went 4 or 5 coats and it is a very even finish and does not look like a shiny plastic finish but nice and natural with a sheen. I don't know how durable it is compared to Poly, but it looks nice when done!!

I had a guy on Sawmill write that Formby's does not have ANY Tung oil in it so I called the tech dept at Formby's and talked to a chemist. He said they start with tung oil and then it changes in their formulation with the magic they work on the finish, I guess.

Good luck Lis!
I am a fan of Waterlox - it will build, but like others mention, I did waterlox then wax.
I was also using Formby's. I will try 3-5 coats of it.
For myself, I found that pure tung oil takes "forever" to cure so I mix a small bottle with a 50/50 mix of tung oil and Danish oil. That mixture works for me however the piece has to be sanded really fine to take a nice shine. 800 to 1500 grit does it for me then buff with a good beeswax furniture polish.

Oh yeah, several coats of the mixture till it stops absorbing the oil. Buff till you feel a bit of heat in the wood.
Pure tung oil takes a very long time to dry. I have yet to have what I would call a plastic look to the finish. It can be adjusted with #0000 steel wool. The Sutherland Wells brand is expensive.
If I had a piece that would see use such as a table I would use Waterlox. This is another finish I love. I have only used tung oil on clocks some of which I top coated with dewaxed 1 lb. cut of shellac.
The tung oil is expensive as previously noted but a quart can lasts me a long time.
Polymerization occurs when the oil is heated. This causes the molecules to change in bonding and the drying time then becomes shorter.
To answer your question about polymerized tung oil. Polymerized tung oil is made by heating tung oil to about 500 degrees in an oxygen-free environment. This increases the viscosity and film-forming quality.

Also, as tung oil reacts to air to dry (it becomes a wax), so be sure to put the lid on tightly when storing. Small quantities left in an air-tight jar or can will turn to wax in time if there is much air in the jar. To avoid this, add marbles to the oil to take up the space of the air in the jar or can. The less air in the can or jar, the better.


Super amazing line of wood finishing products…. company been around for about 100 years too!

Here is MY method. Start with 100% Tung oil. I have Old Masters in my shop. Cut the first coat by
by 20-25% that is 4 parts oil to 1 part mineral spirits. Apply LIBERALY, make it 'wet'. Let that sit for 30 minutes, applying more to any 'dry looking areas within that 30 minutes. WIPE THE PROJECT DOWN WELL. Let the project sit for a day or more. It should be dry and not tacky. If it is tacky let it sit till it is not. LIGHTLY rub down with 0000 steel wool. WIPE THE PROJECT with a clean rag to remove the dust (there should be hardened dust in the wool) and any wool leaving. Apply full strength, a coat of oil, rub it in good. Let it sit 30 minutes again applying more to any dry looking areas (end grain). WIPE it down, let it sit again for a day or two is smooth and no tackiness. Steel wool.between coats.
oats and a WIPE down. .keep this up until the wood will no longer accept oil for the max protection. If the project will not be subject to much handling 2 or three coats will be sufficient. Let the project sit for at least two days, You may apply wax or not your choice, I usually do, but I like the smell and look of waxed wood.
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Lis, I use nothing but Formby's on every single one of my projects, it isn't hard really, there's no cutting with any parts % it's very simple, and if you follow my method you can't go wrong, Your finish is only as good as your last coat, I first wipe a single coat of tung oil with a foam brush so as to get the tung oil effect, I then let it dry to a cure, I then come back over it with a couple coats of satin poly wipe-on also using a foam brush allowing each in between coat to dry, applying the poly wipe-on doesn't take much just a very thin coat on each application and I guarantee your customer will be happy with the results, the poly isn't going to take away from the tung oil but will give the tung oil that finish sheen you are looking for, once everything is dried you can then add a coat of paste wax, I use minwax paste,

Note: if you're looking for a gloss finish then switch the satin with gloss or semi-gloss.

You can purchase the Minwax satin poly wipe-on already cut and made or you can make your own, myself I make my own cutting it 50/50 using pure Polyurethane and mineral spirits but if you use the above method I posted it's quick and simple.
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