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How to Apply Tung Oil to get a Perfect Finish



V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com


Applying tung oil

Tung oil is an excellent choice for finishing wood to maintain its natural look while improving its durability.

But what is the right way to apply tung oil on wooden workpieces? And what are the things to consider to get the best finish?

You can apply Tung oil by gently rubbing it along the wood grains using a brush or a lint-free cloth, allowing the oil to penetrate the wood and then wiping off any excess. It is easy to apply and provides a durable, deep, rich finish highlighting the wood’s natural grain. 

This article delivers a step-by-step guide on how to apply tung oil to the wood and provides insights on improving the quality of the finish.

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Step-by-step Guide for Applying Tung Oil

Tung oil is a natural oil that produces a honey-colored finish and is easy to apply.

You can use tung oil on oak, pine, or any other type of hardwood or softwood, to improve its durability and moisture resistance.

However, it is important to follow the right process to ensure proper absorption of the oil to get the best results.

Step 1: Prepare the Wood Surface 

Sanding Pine workpiece to achieve a smooth finish
Sanding Pine workpiece to achieve a smooth finish
Supplies Needed
1Sandpaper (Coarse and fine)
2Shop vac or vacuum cleaner
3Clean cloth
Things needed for preparing the wood before applying tung oil

Before applying Tung oil to your wood surface, it is essential to prepare the surface by sanding it. 

Start using coarse grit sandpaper to remove any rough or uneven areas on the wood. Once the rough spots have been removed, switch to fine-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface. 

The best way to sand wood is by sanding along the grains of the wood. Use the shop vac or a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust and debris from the surface of the wood.

After finishing the sanding process, use a clean cloth to wipe the surface clean and inspect the surface finish of the workpiece.

Step 2: Apply Tung Oil to the Prepared Surface

Applying a uniform coat of tung oil on pine
Applying a uniform coat of tung oil on the workpiece
Supplies NeededPrice
1Tung Oil Amazon
2Mineral Spirit Amazon
3Latex Gloves Amazon
4Lint-free cloth or brush Amazon
Supplies needed to apply tung oil

Tung oil is non-toxic, but it is recommended to wear latex gloves to avoid any risk of possible skin irritation or allergic reactions. 

Generally, it is advised to use a 1:1 mixture of solvent (mineral spirit) and tung oil for the first coat. This is because the thin oil will penetrate deeper into the wood, improving its absorption and giving us a perfect first coat.

The best way to apply Tung oil is to use a clean, lint-free cloth or a brush to work the oil into the wood.

Most woodworkers prefer using a lint-free cloth over a brush as it spreads the oil uniformly, ensuring that a very thin coat of oil is applied.

The cloth should be folded into a pad, ensuring there are no open edges or hanging threads to prevent any damage or contamination of the surface of the wood.

Begin by applying Tung oil to the most difficult-to-reach areas to prevent them from coming into contact later. 

To apply tung oil, pour a small amount of oil on the surface of the wood and then use long, even strokes to spread the oil evenly over the surface. Rub the oil in the direction of the wood grain. 

Working the oil into all crevices and corners is important to ensure the wood is completely coated since the goal of the first coat is to saturate the wood thoroughly.

Nevertheless, avoid over-applying the oil as it can result in an uneven finish with patches of dark and light finish.

After the application, the surface should appear very wet but without any pools of oil. If there are any standing pools of oil, spread them out or wipe them with a clean cloth.

The time taken to absorb the oil depends on the condition of the wood. A kiln-dried wood or older reclaimed wood will readily absorb the oil compared to a fresh piece of wood.

Step 3: Apply More Coats

Applying more coats of tung oil on the workpiece
Applying more coats of tung oil on the workpiece

If you want a deeper finish and better wood protection, it is advised to apply multiple coats of Tung oil.

After applying the first coat, wait for at least 24 hours before applying the next coat.

Some experts even recommend waiting for a day or two between the coats to get the best results.

However, for time-sensitive projects, you can wait 4-6 hours to allow the coat to dry, followed by light sanding to open the pores of the wood, ensuring deeper penetration of oil.

For each subsequent coat, reduce the dilution of the tung oil by adding more tung oil to the thinned solution.

Continue to apply additional coats, sanding lightly and allowing the oil to dry and cure between each coat. The last coat should be 100% tung oil without any dilution.

A minimum of 5-6 coats is recommended, but depending on the condition of the wood or the desired final finish, you can apply more coats.

Step 4: Allow the Tung Oil to Dry and Cure 

Allow the tung oil to cure
Allow the tung oil to cure

After applying Tung oil, it is crucial to allow it to dry and cure fully before using the workpiece. 

The drying time will vary depending on the humidity and temperature of the surrounding but will typically take 24-48 hours.

However, it will take about 14 days or more to cure fully. Ensure to prevent the surface from dust and moisture until it is cured completely.

Tips to get a Perfect Finish with Tung Oil

Wetting a rubbing cloth with tung oil
Wetting a rubbing cloth with tung oil

Firstly, it’s essential to use a high-quality Tung oil that is 100% pure and unadulterated. Also, try to remove air bubbles, if any. This will ensure that you get the best finish for your woodwork. 

Furthermore, avoid over-applying the oil, which leads to an uneven finish. Instead, use long, even strokes for spreading the oil over the wood surface and work it into all crevices and corners.

Another tip is to always sand the wood surface before applying the oil. This will create a smooth surface that will help the Tung oil penetrate the wood evenly and provide a smooth finish. 

Applying multiple coats of Tung oil is recommended for a deeper finish and better wood protection. 

Moreover, allowing the oil to dry and cure for at least 24 hours between coats and using fine-grit sandpaper to sand the surface before applying the next coat is recommended.

When applying Tung oil, it’s also important to avoid using water-based products on the surface as it could cause the oil to lift off. 

Tung oil can take a few days to cure completely, depending on the humidity and temperature of the surroundings, so be patient and allow the oil to cure fully before using the surface. 

For outdoor use, consider using a Tung oil varnish mixture, which will protect against UV rays and moisture. 

Although pure tung oil produces a clear, honey-like finish, the additives used with the oil can affect the color of the finish.

Therefore, it is always advised to test the results on a sample piece of wood before applying to the actual workpiece.

Following these tips and tricks will help you achieve the best possible finish with Tung oil and ensure your project is protected and beautified for years to come.

Pros and Cons of Tung Oil Finish

Enhances the natural beauty of the wood grainCan take several days to dry and cure
Protects wood from water and other wear elementsMultiple coats may be needed for a deeper finish
Easy to apply and maintainCan be expensive
Non-toxic and food-safe finishSome people may not like the glossy finish that Tung oil provides
Penetrates deep into the wood for long-lasting protectionTung oil can be difficult to remove if you decide to change the finish in the future
Can be used on a variety of wood surfaces, including furniture, decks, and floorsThinning solvents used can be flammable
Pros and cons of applying tung oil finish to a workpiece

Although tung oil finish provides various advantages, it is equally important to be wary of the risks and disadvantages associated with the process.

Despite its beautiful natural finish and excellent resistance to water and other wear elements, the tung oil finish is not recommended for time-sensitive projects as it takes around 15 days to cure completely.

Danish oil finish is a preferable option for such applications, as it takes only around 6 hours to dry completely.

You can use danish oil on pine, oak, or any other type of wooden project to get a quick and pleasing finish.

Furthermore, the easy-to-apply and non-toxic nature of tung oil makes it an excellent choice for DIY and food-grade projects, but its glossy finish might not be desirable for every project.

Apart from that, tung oil penetrates deep into the wood fiber, enhancing durability and preventing peeling, while also making it difficult to remove the finish, in case the need arises in the future.

You can also mix tung oil with other oils and solvents like linseed oil (to improve durability) or varnish (to improve waterproofing), but these additives can affect the final color of the finish and make the oil flammable.

Therefore, it is important to thoroughly analyze your requirement before selecting the right finish for your project.

Final Thoughts

Tung oil is worth considering if you’re looking for a natural, durable, and easy-to-use finish for your next woodworking project.

It brings out the natural beauty of the wood grain while providing long-lasting protection against water and other elements. 

Moreover, it is non-toxic and safe for food-grade projects, making it a great choice for kitchen and dining areas. 

Finally, it’s important to reapply the oil as needed to maintain the protective barrier and clean the surface regularly to prevent the build-up of dirt and grime. 

However, refrain from using harsh chemicals or abrasives on the surface, as they can damage the finish. 

With proper care and maintenance, Tung oil can provide a beautiful and durable finish for various wood surfaces and will last for years.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I remove Tung oil from wood?

Removing Tung oil from wood can be challenging, as it penetrates deep into the wood fibers. First, apply mineral spirits or paint thinner using a rag or brush to soften the oil. After softening the oil, scrap or wipe it away with a rag or brush. Finally, clean the surface with soap and water and rinse with water.

Can I mix Tung oil with other finishes or stains?

Yes, you can mix Tung oil with other finishes or stains, but it’s important to be aware of the potential effects of the mixture. Tung oil is a penetrating oil that soaks deep into the wood fibers, so it is recommended to be mixed with other penetrating finishes, such as linseed oil or Danish oil. 

Can I apply Tung oil with a roller or paintbrush?

Yes, you can apply Tung oil with a roller or paintbrush, but it is recommended to use a natural bristle brush. You can use a roller to apply the oil quickly to large areas, but it is important to use a high-quality, lint-free roller to avoid leaving tiny pieces of fiber in the finish.

V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com