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Tung Oil on Pine: We Tested How it Looks



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


Tung oil finish on pine

Tung oil is a popular finish for many wooden surfaces but is it a good finish for Pine?

Yes, tung oil is an excellent choice of finish for pine wood workpieces. It is easy to apply and produces a water-resistant finish that is resistant to peeling. Furthermore, tung oil yields a naturally warm finish with good resistance to heat.

This article provides a detailed guide on the benefits of using tung oil on pine and walks you through the process of applying tung oil finish to get the best results for your pine workpiece.

In the end, the article also discusses the best oil finish to apply on pine and compares tung oil against danish oil and wax finish on pine.

MellowPine is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Tung Oil on Pine: Is it a good Finish for Pine?

Difference between a raw pine wood and tung oil finished pine wood
Difference between a raw pine wood and tung oil finished pine wood

Tung oil, also called china oil, produces a honey-colored finish when applied on pine.

It enhances the natural look of pine wood while improving its durability and aesthetic appearance.

The oil is obtained from the dried nuts through pressing and refining, which means that it is a natural oil free from harmful chemicals.

It is considered a “drying oil,” which means that it hardens upon exposure to air and forms a protective barrier on the surface which prevents wood from moisture damage.

Although pure tung oil is not resistant to UV ray damage, it can be mixed with different additives to improve its resistance to UV ray damage.

Despite its several advantages, tung oil finish also has some disadvantages that you need to be wary of.

Pros and Cons of Using Tung oil on Pine

Provides a natural, attractive finishCan be difficult to apply an even coat
Water-resistantCan be expensive
Easy to touch up or reapplyCan take several days to dry fully
Non-toxic and non-pollutingNot as resistant to chemical exposure as other finishes
Does not chip or peelSolvents used for thinning can be flammable
Pros and Cons of Tung oil finish on Pine

Tung oil is popular for finishing pine wood due to its natural, attractive finish and water resistance. 

One of the advantages of using Tung oil on pine is that it enhances the beauty of the pine wood without affecting its natural look. 

Tung oil is also water resistant, making it a good option for applications where the wood may be exposed to moisture. 

Additionally, Tung oil is easy to touch up or reapply, which is useful for maintaining the finish over time.

On the other hand, one of the cons of using Tung oil on pine is that applying an even coat on pine might require a skilled hand.

This can yield a finish that is uneven and patchy in appearance. Additionally, Tung oil can be expensive compared to other types of finishes. 

It can take several days to dry fully, which makes it unsuitable for time-sensitive applications.

However, the non-toxic, non-polluting, and non-peeling nature of the Tung oil finish makes it the ideal choice for several applications where a durable coating with enhanced aesthetics is desirable.

Finishing Pine With Tung Oil – The Process

Tung oil finish on pine enhancing its natural grains
Tung oil finish on pine enhances its natural grains

Step 1: Prepare the Pine Surface

Before finishing the pine with tung oil, it is important to inspect the condition of the wooden surface and any required repairs to ensure a smooth and consistent finish.

Cleaning the wood

Before applying any finish to the pine surface, it’s important to ensure that it’s free from dirt, dust, and debris. 

Wipe down the surface using a damp cloth or use a wood cleaner. Moreover, ensure that the wood is completely dry before proceeding to the next step.

Sanding the wood

Sanding Pine workpiece to achieve a smooth finish
Sanding Pine workpiece to achieve a smooth finish

Sanding helps to remove any rough spots, smooth out the grain, and create a surface that will adhere better to the finish. 

Use fine-grit sandpaper (150-220 grit) and sand in the direction of the grain. Once the sanding is done, clean the surface with a tack cloth to remove dust.

Repairing any cracks or damage

If there are any cracks, knots, or other damaged areas on the pine surface, it is important to repair them before applying the finish. 

The best way to do this is by filling the cracks and knots with wood filler or putty and then sanding the surface after the filler has dried.

Step 2: Apply Tung Oil to Pine

Applying a uniform coat of tung oil on pine
Applying a uniform coat of tung oil on pine

Different types of tung oil are available in the market, but it is best to use pure or raw tung oil for pine. Mix it well and strain it to remove any impurities. 

It is also recommended to thin the oil with mineral spirits or paint thinner, in a ratio of 1 part oil to 1 part thinner. This will make it easier to apply and dry faster.

Apply the oil to the surface using a brush with natural bristles or a lint-free cloth. 

The application should be carried in thin, even coats and worked in the direction of the grain. It is important to avoid over-applying the oil, as this can lead to a sticky or uneven finish.

The number of coats of tung oil needed will depend on the desired level of protection and the condition of the wood. 

However, applying at least 5-8 thin coats of tung oil on pine is recommended, with at least 6 hours of drying time between each coat.

You can also buff the pine after each coat to wipe off excess oil and to facilitate easy absorption of the oil.

Tung oil takes several days to dry and cure completely. The surface should be undisturbed during this time and protected from dust and moisture. 

It is recommended to wait for at least a week before using the treated surface.

Step 3: Maintenance and Care

It is essential to clean and dust it regularly to maintain the treated pine’s natural beauty. You can use a damp cloth or a soft-bristle brush to remove dust and debris from the surface gently.

Over time, the tung oil finish may need touch-ups or recoating to maintain its protection and appearance.

To do that, lightly sand the surface and apply another thin coat of tung oil.

Furthermore, it is important to protect the treated pine from exposure to sunlight and moisture. 

Always place the treated pine in a shaded or covered area or apply a protective coating such as a wax or polyurethane sealer over the tung oil. 

Although the tung oil finish provides good resistance to water, it is advised to ensure that the pine surface is not exposed to excessive humidity, as this can cause the tung oil finish to deteriorate over time.

Things to Consider to Ensure Good Results

Using a lint-free cloth to apply tung oil on pine
Using a lint-free cloth to apply a uniform coat of tung oil on pine

Ensure Proper Safety

As with any oil, it’s essential to apply Tung oil in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions. 

Although tung oil is not flammable and can resist heat very well, the solvents used for thinning the oil can be highly combustible.

As a result, it is advised to use pure tung oil coating for workpieces that are prone to high heat, such as flooring along the fireplace.

Additionally, one must consider wearing gloves and safety glasses to protect the skin and eyes from contact as Tung oil has been found to cause allergic reactions in some cases.

Check the Compatibility of Oil and Wood

Pine is a softwood and is compatible with tung oil. 

The oil will penetrate the wood, enhancing the wood grain and giving a natural, warm, deep finish.

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

This is because Tung oil from different manufacturers can sometimes produce a slightly different finish.

Prepare the Workpiece

Before applying the tung oil, it is important to properly prepare the pine surface by cleaning it and removing any previous finishes. 

Sanding the surface will also help the oil to penetrate the wood better, resulting in a more durable finish.

Apart from that, finishing the pine with tung oil will not repair cracks and other damage.

Therefore, it is important to use wood filler or putty to repair cracks and damage before applying tung oil over the workpiece.

Use the Right Method of Application

Tung oil is easy to apply using a brush, spray gun, or a lint-free cloth. 

It is a penetrating oil that soaks into the wood rather than sitting on top like other finishes, and multiple coats are necessary for a consistent finish.

Generally, lint-free cloth is preferable to apply oil on wood as it rubs the oil thoroughly, thereby facilitating easy absorption of the oil.

On the other hand, using a spray gun ensures a uniform coat with a good surface finish, but does not facilitate quick and easy absorption of the oil.

Follow the Regular Maintenance Routine

Once the tung oil is applied, it is important to maintain it. One must reapply it periodically to maintain the finish and protect the wood.

Despite its good resistance to moisture, the tung oil finish can degrade over time and requires a regular maintenance routine to ensure the durability of the finish.

Best Finish for Pine- Tung Oil, Danish Oil, or Wax

Comparing Different finishes on Pine wood
Comparing Different finishes on Pine wood

The choice of the best-suited finish for pine primarily depends on your requirements.

While tung oil and danish oil are generally preferable over wax for finishing pine workpieces, there are various factors that you need to consider when making the choice.

ParameterTung OilDanish OilWax
ColorHoney colorClear or DarkNatural warm
SolubilityWith linseed oil and mineral oilWith varnishNot recommended to mix
Water resistanceExcellentGoodGood
Surface FinishSatin to GlossySating to Semi-glossySatin finish
Heat resistanceGood (pure tung oil)GoodMelts upon heating
Drying time24 hours4-6 hours1-2 hours
ApplicationIndoor and outdoorIndoor and outdoorIndoor
Tung oil vs danish oil vs wax finish for pine

Based on the Required Color

Pure tung oil finish generally has a honey color which is clear and maintains the natural feel of pine.

However, the solvents used in tung oil can darken the color of pine, which means that the final color of the wood may be different from the original color.

Similarly, depending on the type of danish oil applied on pine, it can produce a darker finish on pine wood, which can often be desirable based on your project requirement.

If you want to maintain the natural color and grain of pine wood, wax can be the ideal option.

Therefore, it’s important to test it on a small inconspicuous area first to see how the oil will affect the color of the wood.

Based on the Compatibility with Other Solvents

Mixing oils can provide the ability to produce a custom finish with all the desired properties.

You can mix tung oil with linseed oil to produce a comparatively more durable and tougher finish than pure tung oil.

This is because linseed oil contains higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids than tung oil, which makes it more resistant to drying and cracking. 

Although the tung oil finish is durable, it cannot be compared to the durability of varnish.

Danish oil generally consists of a mix of tung oil with linseed oil and varnish, thereby providing excellent durability.

Similarly, mineral oil can be added to tung oil to create a more water-resistant finish. 

Contrarily, wax does not mix with varnish, and therefore, does not provide the flexibility to modify its properties to suit your requirement.

Based on the Water Resistance Required

Tung oil is highly resistant to water and moisture, making it a good choice for outdoor or high-humidity areas. 

Danish oil also provides good resistance to water and moisture but is comparatively less resistant than tung oil.

Although wax produces a waterproof coating over the surface of the pine wood, it does not seep into the fiber of the wood, thereby making the wood prone to water damage if the top surface is scratched.

Based on the Durability Required

Tung oil is known for its hard and durable finish, making it a good choice for high-traffic or outdoor areas. 

Similarly, danish oil also provides excellent durability and can be used in high-traffic areas.

However, tung oil is preferable over danish oil for applications where good durability along with water resistance are desirable.

On the other hand, wax is less durable and is best suited for interior applications that are not subjected to constant sunlight and moisture.

Based on the Surface Finish Required

Tung oil can provide a low to medium gloss finish, based on the number of coats. A single coat will give a more satin finish, while multiple coats will give a more glossy finish. 

To create a more matte finish, you can also control the gloss level by mixing tung oil with other oils, such as linseed or mineral oil.

Danish oil is also a good option that produces a satin to semi-glossy finish, based on the number of coats applied.

Wax, on the other hand, produces a satin finish with a good shine but is not recommended if a glossy look is desirable.

Based on the Heat Resistance Required

Pure tung oil is heat-resistant and excellent for areas near fireplaces or stoves.

On the other hand, wax is not heat-resistant and may melt and discolor when exposed to heat, whereas danish oil shows moderate resistance to heat.

Based on the Drying Time

Tung oil takes around 24 hours to dry before applying the next coat, whereas danish oil takes only 4-6 hours to dry, making it ideal for time-sensitive projects.

Although wax finish takes only around 1-2 hours to dry, it is advised to leave it overnight before buffing it or performing further operations.

Based on the Number of Coats Required

Tung oil typically requires 2-4 coats for full protection, wax requires 2-3 coats, and Danish oil typically requires 2-3 coats.

However, this number can change based on the condition of the workpiece.

A workpiece made of very old pine will require comparatively more coats as it has the tendency to absorb more oil before reaching the point of saturation.

Apart from that, the number of coats also depends upon the type of finish required.

Generally, danish oil provides a smooth surface finish in the minimum number of coats. This is because it contains varnish that improves the luster of the coating.

Based on the Application

Tung oil is a good choice for indoor and outdoor use, such as a wooden deck or outdoor furniture, because of its high water resistance and durability.

Similarly, wax is a good choice for interior wooden furniture or moldings because it enhances the wood’s natural color and grain.

Whereas, danish oil is a good choice for kitchen cabinets or other high-traffic areas as it is durable and resistant to wear and tear.

Final Thoughts

Tung oil is a great choice for finishing pine wood due to its unique properties. It creates a hard, durable finish that can withstand high traffic and outdoor elements, making it ideal for outdoor furniture or decks. 

Based on the finish required, pure ting oil is recommended for maintaining the natural finish of pine, while dark tung oil can be used to get a darker shade on pine.

Also, pine being a softwood, may require more oil to protect and seal the wood fully, thereby increasing the number of coats required for proper finishing. 

It is also recommended to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to test the oil in an inconspicuous area before applying it to the workpiece.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I use tung oil over a polyurethane finish on pine wood?

No, applying tung oil over a polyurethane finish on pine wood is not recommended. Tung oil is a penetrating oil that will not adhere well to a surface that has already been sealed with polyurethane. It is best to remove the polyurethane finish first before applying tung oil.

Can tung oil be used to restore old, dried-out pine wood?

Yes, you can use tung oil to restore old, dried-out pine wood. The oil will penetrate the wood fibers, providing a barrier to protect the wood from further damage. However, it is important to note that it will not completely restore the wood to its original condition, and any cracks or splits will still be visible after the oil is applied.

How often should tung oil be reapplied to pine wood?

The frequency of reapplication depends on the specific project and the amount of wear. You should reapply Tung oil every 6-12 months to maintain the desired level of protection and appearance.

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