Tung Oil Info

Applying a finish to a wooden chair
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-100

One of the really great finishes available today (and under rated in my opinion), is tung oil. Most of the tung oil products on the retail market today are not pure tung oil. They have tung oil as a major component but have other additives, primarily varnish. Pure tung oil is available from refinishing supply houses, but don't expect the product you buy across the retail counter to be pure. And please don't be fooled by the phrase "contains pure tung oil." If this line is on the can, you can bet money it contains something else in addition to the "pure" tung oil.

Many Advantages

brushing a finish onto wood

The positives of tung oil include ease of application, ease of repair (when necessary) and overall durability. Minor scratches can usually be repaired simply by applying another coat of the finish, whether it's next month or next year. The major drawback is its lack of grain filling ability. Unless you're working on a very smooth and grain free wood such as maple, you're not going to get a smooth finish with tung oil. If, however, you like the "feel" of the wood and don't mind having the texture of grain showing, tung oil may be just what you're looking for.


Tung oils are usually applied in a wipe-on wipe-off method with a short drying time in between. After the wipe off and the coat has dried completely, 0000 steel wool is used to remove surface irregularities, and the process is repeated. Depending on the look you're trying to achieve, you'll apply anywhere from three to six coats in this manner.


Tung oil is more durable than lacquer and is impervious to water stains. As mentioned before, minor scratches are easily repaired. It's readily available and an ideal finish for butcher block tops in kitchens, as well as wooden salad bowls and other wooden food preparation surfaces. Furniture in areas of high use (or abuse) could also benefit from a tung oil finish.