Finishing with tung oil

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by pgc posted 04-16-2013 08:52 PM 2227 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View pgc's profile


9 posts in 3466 days

04-16-2013 08:52 PM

I have a number of pieces of Poplar and Basswood that I would like to finish with Tung Oil. The pieces are a bit thin, 1/8 to 3/16 and have been sanded quiet heavily. I have applied 2 coats of the Tung Oil and the wood is really soaking it up. I have been waiting 24 hours between coats and wondering if I can apply the coats sooner.

Is there a better way to finish with Tung Oil instead of having to apply so many coats? I would like to reach a nice sheen or maybe a gloss when done.


-- Phil

5 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5747 posts in 3002 days

#1 posted 04-16-2013 09:38 PM

If that is a purchased product labeled “tung oil” you are in luck. If that is in fact real tung oil that may be a little harder to do. Depending on exactly which product you have (assuming this is not real tung oil) it could be an oil/varnish mix, or simply a wiping varnish. If it’s just wiping varnish, an easy way to move more quickly would be to buy your own varnish, and add your own mineral spirits, but not as much as the store bought stuff. Some of them are as much as 70% MS, so if you mixed it with 40% MS…you get a lot more build per coat. This would also apply to an oil/varnish mix, but with the linseed oil in it, it may not be as smart to try and build it quickly. The linseed oil slows the curing process down and you might wind up with some gummy effects. Regardless, you can read more about it in Flexner's article here. Good luck with your effort!

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Gerald Thompson's profile

Gerald Thompson

1222 posts in 2743 days

#2 posted 04-16-2013 10:09 PM

My wife uses “Sutherland Wells, LTD” interior Polymerized Low Luster Tung Oil. They also have mineral spirits and and driers at in the mix. The directions say to apply a coat by bristle brush or cloth and let stand to penetrate for 5-10 min. Then wipe of using circular motion . Allow 24 hrs to cure. Test the by running your fingers against the grain. If no grab repeat. It says by a 3 dimintional cross linking of their product that subsequent coats are bonded to each other.
I do know that the cherry items my wife have finished with this product look great. If piece was going to see ware it think I would use a durable top coat.
Our Shaker clock cases look great.

-- Jerry

View guitchess's profile


85 posts in 4217 days

#3 posted 04-16-2013 10:13 PM

Read an article on this just the other day. I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet though. It recommended that after using a traditional oil(tung/linseed), coat it with shelac, even though it is not dry, then topcoat with whatever. I’m going to try it asap.

As far as a tung oil only finish, I have never waited the full 24 hours. Depending on the temp, humidity, kind of wood, etc. Go by feel. If it feels like it can soak more up, put it on, regardless of time. You will have to wait longer and longer between coats as they will penetrate less and take longer to get absorptive.

View Charlie's profile


1101 posts in 2795 days

#4 posted 04-16-2013 11:09 PM

I use tung oil a lot on the flutes I build. (REAL tung oil. PURE tung oil. Not some concoction containing solvents and driers) This is a finish that requires some patience. If you want to thin it and still maintain a non-toxic procedure, use a good pure citrus solvent. When you first apply it… it looks wet! (Because it is). You can add more oil whenever the sheen is gone. At first this can happen quickly and there’s no reason to wait 24 hours if it only takes 4 hours for the sheen to disappear. (or less). As the oil penetrates, it will take longer and longer for the sheen to disappear. At some point you simply stop applying oil and let it dry. THAT can take quite a while if you want it REALLY dry. Like…. weeks! But it will FEEL dry much sooner. At that point I apply beeswax and rub it in with gusto so that the heat of friction works the beeswax. It looks kinda dirty when you do this with a flute, but…. it works great.

View AffineCreations's profile


28 posts in 2767 days

#5 posted 04-25-2013 02:47 PM

As far as tung oil goes, I’m going to recommend being patient versus building up multiple coats quickly. Drying for tung oil means giving it a chance to fully polymerize. Let each coat fully dry for a few days and then rub out with steel wool. Along with being necessary before the next coat, it lets you see how much sheen you have and whether an addition coat is needed. Keep in mind a final coat of furniture or Renaissance wax with increase the sheen a bit more.

@guitches, can you link to the article you read about Shellac on top of tung oil before the oil is dry? It has been my experience when I am impatient and don’t give the tung oil a full week to dry and polymerize, I only get trouble down the line. Tung oil’s polymerization involves it expanding slightly. This can be your guide to knowing when it has dried all the way. The surface feels rough. It is why a rub out with steel wool ends up giving a nice sheen as the plasticized oil is leveled off. When I haven’t waited and topcoated with Shellac too soon, over the span of months, the tung oil continues to polymerize and expand and in the process ruins the lovely polished surface I got with the Shellac.

-- - Nicholas, Silver Spring, MD

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics