Tung Oil Wood Finish
Native to China, the Tung Tree´s (scientific name Aleurites fordii) seed kernels are pressed to make what is known as “Tung Oil”. Tung oil is also often referred to as “China wood Oil” and “Lumbang oil”. The origin of the name “tung” is from its Chinese meaning of “heart”, so named because the tung tree leaves are usually heart shaped.
Tung oil may have been in use as far back as Confusius´s times (circa 400 BC9, though the Chinese ship industry has been known to use tung oil in the protection and finishing of wooden ships in the 14th century.
Characteristics of Tung Oil
Tung Oil has a golden tint, and has a pungent smell. Tung oil is also sometimes polymerized to a hard gel- Tung Oil gel then becomes waterproof and extremely resistant to both, acids and alkalines.
As a result it is often used as an ingredient in varnishes, paints and other furniture finishes.
When it comes to wood finishing, tung oil is usually classified as a vegetable oil, however it must be noted only the purest tung oil can hold this classification. It is often compared and contrasted to linseed oil, however it, unlike linseed oil, will retain its colour with age (a golden tint) and not darken. It is also classified as a “wet finish” as it is liquid and penetrates wood grain. It is usually preferred to finish dense wood as its ability to penetrate them makes it a valuable protecting agent.
Benefits of Tung Oil
- As tung is renewable, and grows faster, it is preferred by environmentalists and is popular with preservationists.
- Like teak oil, tung oil is naturally resistant to insects and wood harming diseases, making it a good choice for outdoor furniture. (compare teak to tung oil here)
- It is pretty good at penetrating even the densest wood.
- As it penetrates, it protects wood from within as well as the surface, which makes it a better finish for wood furniture that need deep protection.
- Easy to repair damaged finishes
- Pure tung oil can be used for culinary wood protection, BUT make sure you look for “food safe” or “culinary safe” before you use – tung oil with additives is NOT food safe.
When Tung Oil is used on interior finishes, it provides a classic natural hand rubbed look that is further enhanced by the application of a paste wax, all-natural beeswax paste or liquid wax, which will increase wood depth and surface protection.
The Best Tung Oil Wood Finish
Although we think that Tung Oil is one of the best wood oil finishes today, many many of the finishing oils sold on the market as Tung Oil, aren’t really “pure tung oil”.
An ideal Tung Oil is an all-natural, non-toxic, food safe wood finish, containing NO VOC’s. Pure Tung Oil is a natural polymerizing wood finish with a nutty odor and should contain no thinners, driers or any additives. Tung Oil provides a durable protective barrier against water, stain resistant, food acid resistant, mar resistant and a flexible wood finish that will not mold.
Pure Tung Oil is a durable all natural wood finish, and perfect for interior wood surfaces such as wood floors, cabinets, paneling, wood furniture and children’s toys. Tung Oil is an excellent choice when an all-natural wood finish is needed for kitchen surfaces such as wood counter tops, chopping blocks, wood bowls, tables, etc.
Pure Tung Oil is also revered for it’s natural aesthetic and performance on exterior wood surfaces, such as garden furniture, wooden decks, doors, etc. For wood surfaces where preserving the natural beauty of the wood is paramount, Tung Oil will accentuate, preserve and protect, without obscuring the woods natural beauty. Pure Tung Oil builds quickly and when dry, produces a beautiful protective matt finish.
Unfortunately a lot of products sold as tung oil have a range of chemicals added to them, from varnish to thinners. You have to make sure you understand the difference between Pure Tung Oil and “Contains Pure Tung Oil”.
The former is the product you are looking for, the latter has additives and may be good for some finishing projects, but is a chemical formula and should not and cannot be used in the same way as pure tung oil. Always read manufacturer’s instructions when using either.
How To Apply Tung Oil For a Wood Finish:
The best method for applying Tung Oil is to use what wood finishers call “Wipe-On-Wipe-Off”
- Apply Tung Oil liberally with a lint free cloth, brush or hand to a clean, dry and dust free wood surface. For ease of application and better Tung Oil penetration (on non food handling or culinary items!), thin up to 50% with citrus solvent, mineral spirits or turpentine.If you are wanting to maintain an all natural environmentally friendly and food safe finish, we recommend using citrus solvent.
- Allow Tung Oil to penetrate for 30-40 minutes and wipe surface dry with a clean lint free cloth.
- DO NOT allow Tung Oil to dry on surface before wiping dry.
- We recommend 4-6 coats depending on surface use.
- Once you have applied the number of coats you wanted, allow the tung oil to dry for the final coat.
- Just before the final coat, use steel wool grade 0000 to get rid of imperfections on the surface.
- Maintain with a light coat of Tung Oil 1-2 times a year or as needed.
Quick Tips for Applying Tung Oil:
- Use a cotton fabric and soak cloth with oil and not the wood with oil.
- Rub along the wood grain
- Don’t soak excessively, a little at a time
- Layer on at least 3 coats of oil for better wood protection
- Used fabrics are highly combustible, so be cautious when you discard them.