Refinish Furniture

Tung oil furniture finish

Tung oil clear finish

Of all the clear furniture finishes tung oil is probably the easiest and most durable of the easy finishes for beginning furniture refinishers to use and is still among the favorites of seasoned refinishers.

The Chinese have been using tung oil finish for centuries with nothing but success.

Take a look below to find out more about applying a tung oil finish to your furniture, repairing any blemishes that occur on aging tung oil finishes and how to maintain a tung oil finish on your furniture.

Tung oil

Tung oil is one of the better natural furniture finishes and is pretty fool proof to use.

Tung oil is flexible, so can withstand the constant expansion and contraction of wood from temperature and humidity without cracking or checking. Tung oil will soak into the pores of the wood to seal it from moisture and it will leave a good coating on the surface of the wood furniture to give a pleasant sheen appearance. Subsequent coats of tung oil will build a good protective surface coat. Tung oil isn't as hard as lacquer, but is much easier to repair if it gets a blemish and although it isn't as hard as lacquer it is hard enough to be completely protective.

Surface preparation

Surface preparation is about 90% of a good finish. Take a look at our page on surface preparation to help you get a good surface for applying the finish.

Tung oil comes in two different forms.

Tung oil is available as 100% Pure Tung Oil, which is somewhere around the thickness of honey and can be a little mroe difficult for beginners to use than the other form, which is 100% tung oil that has been thinned with solvents and is usually called Tung Oil Finish or some other descriptive word after Tung Oil.
minwax tung oil
Minwax Tung Oil Finish
tung oil
Rockler 100% Pure Tung Oil
furniture cleaner
Furniture Cleaner
steel wool
0000 Steel Wool
After the solvents evaporate you end up with 100% tung oil the same as the thicker stuff. Thinned tung oil will tend to penetrate wood quicker than the thicker pure tung oil will.

Tung oil is non-toxic in it's natural state.

Tung oil is often thinned with petroleum or other solvents of that type, which will make it toxic until the solvents evaporate, then it becomes a non-toxic finish again. Tung oil is also thinned with citrus solvents.

Citrus solvents are squeezed from orange peels for food grade solvents and the balance that can't be squeezed out of the orange peel is distilled out for a lower grade solvent. Both grades of citrus solvent are non-toxic.

Be sure to read the label on a tung oil finish container to see what solvents are used to thin it and read any toxicity information.

You shouldn't handle any tung oil finish that has toxic solvents with your bare hands.

Chinawood Oil is another common name for tung oil.

Stain before using tung oil

It's always a good idea to stain your furniture after you strip an old finish off, because the appearance can be sort of blotchy without stain to even out the color. You can find more information about staining on our page about staining wood.

On to the tung oil finish

After the surface is properly prepared and stained it's time for the tung oil finish. The tung oil will seal the stain in as well as sealing moisture out. Apply the tung oil liberally with a brush, a cloth or pour some on the surface and spread it around with your hands if you're using a non-toxic variety. Let the tung oil sit long enough to be absorbed as much as possible by the wood. Five to ten minutes should give adequate time for absorption.

If an area begins to look dull add a little more tung oil. The dull appearance means that the available oil has all been absorbed and the wood can suck up some more.

Don't let the excess oil dry on the surface, because it can be kind of tricky to remove. If the excess tung oil does get dry enough to get a little gooey apply some more tung oil to soften it and then wipe all the excess off. Try to wipe the excess before it gets to the point of being gooey.

More coats of tung oil

As you add more coats of tung oil to the surface less of the oil will be absorbed, because the wood is sealed by the previous coats of tung oil, but the surface coating will keep building for more protection and a better appearance.Let each coat dry for at least 24 hours before adding the next coat.

Rub your hand over the dried surface and if it doesn't feel completely smooth give it a quick rub with 0000 Steel Wool and clean with a tack cloth. Always rub in the direction of the grain.

Apply three or four coats of tung oil to vertical surfaces or to furniture that doesn't get much use. Horizontal surfaces, such as table tops should have six to ten applications for best protection. That may seem like a lot of work, but read on for the really good part about saving work when you use tung oil.

Repair a blemish on a tung oil finish

If you get a little scratch or mar on a tung oil finish you can repair it by rubbing the whole continuous surface with 0000 steel wool and applying a fresh coat or two of tung oil.

Don't use spray polish on a tung oil finish

It's best to stay away from spray polish with a tung oil finish, because the spray polish generally will contain silicone, which can cause problems with repairs of the finish and with maintaining the tung oil finish.

Maintain a tung oil finish

About every four to six months rub your tung oil finish with 0000 steel wool, clean with a tack cloth and apply another coat or two of tung oil and your furniture will look like it's new all the time.

For daily maintenance wipe your furniture with a water dampened cloth and buff immediatly with a soft dry cloth.

If your tung oil finish gets dirty it can be cleaned with a good Furniture Cleaner, then rub with 0000 steel wool, clean with a tack cloth and apply one or two coats of fresh tung oil.

Never refinish again with a tung oil finish

When you maintain your tung oil finish properly you should never have to refinish again and your furniture should always look like it's fresh off the showroom floor.



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