I need advice on finishing-with Tung oil

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Forum topic by tturner posted 11-05-2012 07:49 PM 5407 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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61 posts in 1275 days

11-05-2012 07:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jatoba brazilian cherry dresser shellac tung powermatic festool question modern finishing

I have found Tung oil and i love it! Ive watched David Marks use it on nearly everything and now i know why! Enough said about that. If you know it, you know what I mean. My question is this-is it safe to spray shellac over the tung oil? How long should i wait? My current project is a Brazilian Cherry/Jatoba dresser. From the tests ive done, 2 coats of tung oil does magic. I bought blonde shellac and denatured alcohol yesterday from Woodcraft and im ready to experiment today!

Thanks for all your generous info and comments. Dont be afraid to say ‘dont use shellac!’ But please give me a suggestion for something over the tung.

Todd Turner

-- I'm him

9 replies so far

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 1533 days

#1 posted 11-05-2012 08:09 PM

If you are using REAL Tung Oil (as in pure tung oil, not the crap they sell that they CALL tung oil finish that actually has little or no tung oil in it…) then I wouldn’t shellac over it. At least not for quite a long time.

Shellac is an evaporative finish. The tung oil is a reactive finish. You’d have to wait until the tung oil is completely done with gassing off and is catalyzed which can take weeks to months depending on conditions and application. Tung oil can be the finish. It just needs to be refreshed occasionally. I love tung oil. If you want more shine on tung oil, try putting on a few coats (letting it dry between) and then applying it with 0000 steel wool or 400 to 600 wet/dry paper. It will kind of slurry up on ya so you’d wipe off any excess slurry. Then when it’s almost dry, buff it with a power buffer, like what you’d use on a car. Just a dry buffing pad. Don’t put any wax or anything on it. You end up with a tight, nearly burnished surface with deep oil penetration.

I use pure tung oil on flutes that I build. Some I like to have a matte finish (most of them), but once in a while I buff one up. It looks pretty amazing.

View gepatino's profile


203 posts in 1371 days

#2 posted 11-05-2012 09:05 PM

I’m far from being an expert but I’ve use just pure tung oil in two toys as a finish, and it was enough to protect the wood and give a mate finish. I’ve just applied two or three coats, letting it dry for a couple of days and light sanding before each coat.

On a recent project (restoring an old wooden plane), I’ve use one light coat of tung oil and then wax. I’m quite impressed with the result, it looks like an old piece of furniture, the ones your gandparents had. I’m pretty sure the wax will go off some time, but I don’t care since it’s a tool and I plan to use it as such.

One more thing I love about tung oil: the smell. I just love the smell of wood and tung oil.


View lumberjoe's profile


2888 posts in 1495 days

#3 posted 11-05-2012 09:06 PM

Tung oil finish isn’t actually complete crap, but it’s not “tung oil”. It’s an oil/varnish blend with similar properties to danish oil. I use danish oil a lot and apply finish over it because it offers very little protection on it’s own. I generally give the piece AT LEAST 10 days, maybe more depending on temperature and humidity before I apply a finish.

-- Unplugged Woodworkers -

View tturner's profile


61 posts in 1275 days

#4 posted 11-11-2012 02:43 PM

Im using pure, 100% tung oil. There seems to be as many opinions for finishing as there are techniques, applications, concoctions, and options! I also looked at Waterlox and Arm r seal too. But do they do what tung oil does? Can i spray waterlox over tung? Charles Niel is correct to say, ‘start finishing before the project is started.’ im going to try a sample of shellac over the tung today and see what happens. I understand shellac isnt the hardest but pretty good. Another facet is the application for the project. Im currently making a hall dresser out of Brazillian Cherry. You guys are great!!

-- I'm him

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 1608 days

#5 posted 11-11-2012 03:28 PM

You haven’t said what you’re trying to achieve. For a no-gloss look, the tung oil is enough. If you want a finish with more depth and sheen, an oil based urethane or alkyd resin varnish will be the most compatible. If the tung is well cured, a waterborne would work. I wouldn’t use shellac.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 1723 days

#6 posted 11-11-2012 03:42 PM

tturner, you might want to web search 100% pure tung oil, there was a page someone recommended for a tung oil source, milk paint or something similar. The guys physical address was close to me and I called about a walk in sale, his web page contained a lot of information. I believe he said that the waterlox was a good choice to apply over the 100% tung oil but it was a while ago, but I do remember that there is a drying schedule. Perhaps Waterlox might be another good resource to call or email for proper information.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 1533 days

#7 posted 11-11-2012 05:01 PM

You can indeed put waterlox over pure tung oil. Instructions are on Waterlox’s web site. You can also call the folks at Waterlox and they’ll explain exactly what you need to do. Very good customer service and support from Waterlox.

The “milk paint or something” source for pure tung oil is probably THIS one

Another off-the-beaten-path finish I’ve found to be really nice is Osmo Poly-X Hard Wax Oil. It’s made to be a floor finish, but it makes a real nice, real repairable furniture finish as well.

View MonteCristo's profile


2098 posts in 1436 days

#8 posted 11-11-2012 05:53 PM

Might be worth noting that a lot of what is called “tung oil” often is not pure tung oil – especially the stuff that get’s called “tung oil finish”.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View lumberjoe's profile


2888 posts in 1495 days

#9 posted 11-11-2012 09:54 PM

If you are going to finish with shellac, apply some to bare wood and see how it looks. It pops grain quite nicely. if you like it, you can save your self 10 to 14 days of drying time after applying tung oil.

-- Unplugged Woodworkers -

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