Tung oil question

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Forum topic by Kathy posted 06-25-2010 01:57 PM 9059 views 1 time favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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210 posts in 2950 days

06-25-2010 01:57 PM

I am making a red oak quilt rack for my daughter and after seeing someones project with Tung oil, I decided to try that as a finish. It is sanded and stained with a Varathane stain.

I now have three coats of Tung oil on the rack but I am not happy with the finish. It doesn’t seem to have any gloss or shine to it at all. Am I doing something wrong or is that the appearance I can expect.

And am I now committed to this finish? Or can I put a varnish or poly on it?

Thanks all in advance for your answers.

-- curious woodworker

26 replies so far

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3172 days

#1 posted 06-25-2010 02:14 PM

I have seen peoples’ projects on this site where they said they had used one of the oils, and then poly or lacquer, although I have not tried it myself. I am sure you will get some more expert help shortly.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View Elaine's profile


113 posts in 3651 days

#2 posted 06-25-2010 02:36 PM

i’m thinking if you want a high gloss shine you’ll need to apply with oil based poly. When I have any questions on finishing I go here to Michael Dresdner's site

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2950 days

#3 posted 06-25-2010 03:29 PM

I don’t want a high gloss shine, but I sure would like some luster of some kind. It just looks really dull to me. Thanks all.

-- curious woodworker

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3033 days

#4 posted 06-25-2010 03:42 PM

It depends on the oil and it’s formulation. Three coats is too few in my opinion.

I used Formby’s tung oil in a satin finish on a large stained glass frame not too long ago. I am pretty sure there were also Semigloss and Gloss formulations on the shelf.

I applied probably 8 or 9 coats over a period of a few days. Light, even applications and let it harden in between. In California the humidity is low so it hardens pretty fast. Use some 000 or 0000 steel wool or a grey or white scotch brite pad in between some of the final coats using the T oil as a lubricant, wipe off the steel wool residue and apply a couple of light finish coats, again letting it harden in between.

It’s a built up finish, make sure you are leaving enough of a film behind to dry (polymerize). Don’t just wipe it on then wipe it off, it won’t build up enough.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4156 days

#5 posted 06-25-2010 04:06 PM

Formby’s product is not Tung Oil, it is ”Tung Oil Finish.” It’s actually a wiping varnish.

Real tung oil behaves and looks differently than the solvent diluted wiping varnishes.

-- 温故知新

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4246 days

#6 posted 06-25-2010 04:19 PM

Just using paste wax over the tung oil you’ve already applied on it should give you a nice luster.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View m88k's profile


83 posts in 2980 days

#7 posted 06-25-2010 04:20 PM

What brand are you using Kathy? Does it say Pure Tung Oil? If not, it’s probably some sort of varnish blend. Formby’s, Minwax, and several others are actually varnish. Old Masters and Behlen are the only two I know of selling the real thing.

You should be ok putting something else over tung oil, but you have to wait for the tung oil to cure. Pure tung oil is an extremely slow curing product, so you probably need to wait at least a week.

Also, you might include what type of Varathane stain; they make oil, water, and gel based stains just for starters.

-- ~Mark

View swirt's profile


2786 posts in 3000 days

#8 posted 06-25-2010 04:21 PM

Stick with it. I recently did an oak mantle and after 6 coats is has a nice sheen to it.

-- Galootish log blog,

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3677 days

#9 posted 06-25-2010 04:31 PM

tung oil is a penetrating oil that does not built a film – so there is nothing that will ‘shine’ or ‘gloss’. it will however protect the wood, and give it a warmer tone – but no shiny film. if you want that type of look you’ll have to use a varnish which hardens on the surface of the wood, or as charlie suggested – since you already have several coats put in there, just add paste wax and rub it off- you’ll get a real nice finish, and for a rack of that sort – more than enough since it won’t be subjected to heat, sovents, water, and the likes.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 3741 days

#10 posted 06-25-2010 04:48 PM

if you want some shine from your tung-oil finish after it has cured you need to use a buffing wheel with some buffing compound to bring out the shine. always works for my stuff.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3721 days

#11 posted 06-25-2010 05:01 PM

I only use oils as a finish because they are fool proof. I just cut it thin with mineral spirits and flood on. I wipe off what doesn’t get soaked in and thats it. The look I am going for on everything I have done thus far is simple the color of the wood when its wet. Like Purp said its penetrating and allows the wood to keep that “wet” color but still looks kind of unfinished. You should look into mixing poly and mineral spirits with your oil to get a “finish”. A LOT of jocks swear by 1/3’s of BLO, mineral spirits, and poly.

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3770 days

#12 posted 06-25-2010 05:14 PM

Others have mentioned it depends what you are using. I use Waterlox which is also a tung oil finish but contains more varnish/solids than most Minwax or Watco. I use this on two tables, one oak (dyed van dyke brown) the other Walnut, but you can see the level of sheen. This is after 4 coats, though the oak was also pore filled.

I choose the Waterlox because of ease of repair. if it is scuffed, I can just wipe it with mineral oil and steel wool and apply a fresh coat. I stay away from polyurinate like the plague because it is not repairable.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View swirt's profile


2786 posts in 3000 days

#13 posted 06-25-2010 05:16 PM

I think some a lot of the confusion comes from “Tung Oil” Most of the products labeled as Tung Oil are really a varnish with other stuff that helps build a film and speeds drying.

Example: The tung oil I used is really Zar Wipe on Tung Oil – satin. According to the MSDS (nothing on the can indicates what is actually in it which makes you want to assume..hey just tung oil :( ) it contains 19% Tung Oil, 6 % polyurethane, and 4% Boiled Linseed Oil

The same stuff in Semi-gloss contains 22% Tung Oil, and 8% Polyurethane and no BLO.

So Kathy before you get confused by a lot of the conflicting advice, it might help to back up and find out exactly what you are putting on. There are only a handful of products that are actually strictly Tung Oil.

-- Galootish log blog,

View CampD's profile


1675 posts in 3514 days

#14 posted 06-25-2010 05:17 PM

What spaids just said, I wipe on 3-4 coats of tung oil and if I want a sheen, I’ll mix with oil poly for the final coat

-- Doug...

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2950 days

#15 posted 06-25-2010 05:50 PM

Oh gosh!! So much info that will take a bit to absorb. I suspect, and I will go look later, that what I bought was Minwax Tung Oil Finish, which is probably not really Tung Oil. Will get back to you when I figure out what I have.

Can I print out this forum?

-- curious woodworker

showing 1 through 15 of 26 replies

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