Does Tung Oil Waterproof Wood?

We like using an oil finish on our woodworking projects at Obsessed Woodworking.

We’ve written about a number of oils used in finishing wood, including boiled linseed oil, Danish oil, and teak oil.  Today we want to drill down a little bit about tung oil.  We’ve mentioned it in past articles, but now want to discuss its water resistance quality.

Key Points:

  • Oil finishes offer a protective coating on wooden surfaces, whether on outdoor decking and fences, wooden furniture, musical instruments, boatbuilding, and boat decks.
  • Tung Oil is somewhat slow-drying and takes several weeks to cure, but when fully cured, is hard, durable, and resistant to water damage, although it does not waterproof wood surfaces.
  • It can be used on any type of wood, although soft woods will absorb more and need additional coats to achieve the desired finish.

What Is Tung Oil?

Tung oil is a drying oil that comes from the seed of the tung tree (Vernicia fordii), which grows in southern China and other nearby Asian countries. It is a natural, non-toxic, and food-safe finish that is used to protect and enhance the natural beauty of wood. The oil is known for its hardness, durability, and water resistance.

Minwax, pint 47500000 Tung Oil Finish
  • Easy to maintain, it is the ideal protective finish for woods that have been refinished because it…
  • Wood finished with minwax tung oil can be periodically refreshed by simply applying another coat
  • Recommended uses: furniture, antiques, woodwork, cabinets, doors, paneling, accessories

It is also a good choice for finishing outdoor furniture and other objects that will be exposed to the elements, as it will combat water damage.

To use the oil, simply apply it to the wood in thin coats, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. The number of coats needed will vary depending on the type of wood and the desired level of protection. Tung will typically take several weeks to fully cure.

Here are some of the benefits of using tung oil:

  • Hardness: It is one of the hardest natural finishes available. It will protect your wood from scratches, dents, and other damage.
  • Durability: It is also very durable. It will resist water, sun, and other weather elements.
  • Water resistance: It is a water-resistant finish. This means that it will protect your wood from water damage.
  • Food safe: It is food safe once it has cured. This means that you can use it to finish cutting boards, countertops, and other food-related items.

If you are looking for a natural, non-toxic, and durable finish for your wood, then this oil is a great option. It is mostly easy to use and will provide years of protection.

Why Is A Wood Oil Finish A Good Thing?

As we said in the beginning, we like to use an oil-protective finish on our woodworking projects.  It enhances the natural beauty of the wood and adds a warm and aesthetically pleasing appearance to the wood grain.  Oil finishes also provide a number of benefits to the wood:

  • Water resistance: Oil finishes are water-resistant, which means that they can help to protect wood from water damage. This is important for wood that is exposed to the elements, such as outdoor furniture and decks.
  • Durability: Oil finishes are durable, which means that they can help to protect wood from scratches, dents, and other damage. This is important for wood that is used in high-traffic areas, such as tables and chairs.
  • Natural beauty: Oil finishes can help to bring out the natural beauty of wood. They can also add a warm, rich color to the wood.
  • Easy to apply: Oil finishes are easy to apply. They can be applied with a brush, cloth, or roller.
  • Low-maintenance: Oil finishes are low-maintenance. Once they have been applied, they do not need to be reapplied as often as other types of finishes, such as varnish.

If you are looking for a finish that will protect your wood and enhance its natural beauty, then an oil finish is a good option.

Applying Tung Oil

Using and applying this oil to wood is a little different from using and applying any other wood oil, or most any other wood finish, for that matter.  

  1. Prepare the wood. The wood should be clean, dry, and free of any dirt, oil, or grease. If the wood is already finished, you will need to sand it down to remove the old finish.
  2. Thin the oil. The oil is a very thick oil, so it is often thinned with turpentine or mineral spirits. The amount of thinner you use will depend on the desired finish. For a satin finish, use a 1:1 mixture of tung oil and thinner. For a matte finish, use a 2:1 mixture of the oil and thinner.
  3. Apply the oil. Apply the oil to the wood with a brush, cloth, or roller. Apply the oil in thin coats, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. The number of coats you will need to apply will vary depending on the type of wood and the desired level of protection. For a good finish, you will need to apply at least 3 coats of oil.
  4. Wipe away excess oil. After the last coat of oil has dried, wipe away any excess oil with a clean cloth.
  5. Let the oil cure. The oil will need to cure for several days to a week before it is dry before it begins to cure; then, it will take 15 – 30 days to fully cure. During the first week of curing, check the wood and wipe any excess oil that might rise to the wood surface; thereafter, and as the oil continues to cure, it will harden and protect the wood.  While the oil is curing, keep the project out of direct sunlight.  Direct sunlight will affect the finish appearance and can cause the oil to polymerize.
  6. Reapply the tung oil every few years: To maintain the protection of the tung oil, you will need to reapply it every few years. This is especially important if the wood is exposed to the elements.

Some additional thoughts on using the oil for your projects:

  • Work in a well-ventilated area. Tung oil has a strong odor that can be bothersome to some people.
  • Wear gloves and eye protection when working with the oil.
  • Apply the oil in a thin coat. Thick coats of tung oil will take longer to dry and may not provide as good of a finish.
  • Allow each coat of oil to dry completely before applying the next coat. This will help to prevent the tung oil from drying unevenly.
  • Wipe away any excess oil after the last coat has dried. This will help to prevent the tung oil from yellowing over time.

This oil is a great way to protect and enhance the natural beauty of wood. It is a hard, durable, and water-resistant finish that is relatively easy to use. With a little care, tung oil can provide years of protection for your wood projects.

The Versatility of Tung Oil

Pure Tung Oil

Tung oil has many uses and applications in woodworking and beyond.  Among the many uses of tung oil are:

  • Wood finishing: This oil is a popular choice for finishing wood furniture, flooring, butcher blocks, cutting boards, and other objects. It can be used to create a smooth, glossy finish that is both water-resistant and durable, and because it is also food safe when fully cured, it is suitable for anything in the kitchen.
  • Boat building: It’s a common choice for finishing boats and other watercraft. It is a water-resistant finish that can help to protect the wood from the elements.
  • Musical instruments: It’s a popular choice for finishing musical instruments, such as violins and guitars. It can help to protect the wood and enhance the sound of the instrument.
  • Other uses: It can also be used for a variety of other purposes, such as:
    • Making rust-resistant coatings for metal objects
    • Making weatherproofing sealants for concrete and other building materials
    • Making lubricants for machinery

The oil is a versatile and durable finish that can be used for a variety of purposes. It is a good choice for projects that require a water-resistant, long-lasting finish.  While you might be familiar with and have used boiled linseed oil for these same types of projects, you also know that linseed oil is yellowish in color, as contrasted with clear tung oil.

Both do offer a good protective finish, but both also take a long time to dry and cure.

Can Tung Oil Be Used On Any Type of Wood?

We know that sometimes our choice of finish will be determined to some extent by the type of wood we are using in our projects.  With regard to tung oil, though, it can be used on almost any wood.

However, it is important to note that some woods will absorb the oil more than others. This means that some woods will require more coats to achieve the desired level of protection.

Here are some of the woods that work well with this oil:

  • Hardwoods: Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and mahogany, are naturally dense and absorbent. This makes them ideal for finishing with the oil.
  • Softwoods: Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, are not as dense as hardwoods. However, they can still be finished with tung oil. You may need to apply more coats wood to softwoods to achieve the desired level of protection.
  • Exotic woods: Exotic woods, such as ebony and rosewood, are often used for their unique grain patterns and colors. It can be used to enhance the natural beauty of these woods.

Here are some of the woods that may not work as well with tung oil:

  • MDF: MDF is a type of engineered wood that is made from wood fibers and resins. It is not as dense as natural wood, so it may not absorb oil as well.
  • Particleboard: Particleboard is another type of engineered wood that is made from wood particles and resins. It is not as dense as natural wood, so it may not absorb oil as well.
  • Veneer: Veneer is a thin layer of wood that is glued to a substrate, such as plywood or MDF. Veneer is not as dense as solid wood, so it may not absorb oil as well.

What Is Dark Tung Oil?

Pure tung oil is a natural oil that is obtained from the seeds of the tung tree. It is a clear, yellow-brown liquid that has a strong odor. It is a hard, durable, and water-resistant finish that is often used for outdoor projects. It can take several weeks to fully cure, but it will last for years with proper care.

Real Milk Paint, Dark Tung Oil for Wood Finishing, Cutting Boards, Outdoor…
  • 100% PURE – Dark Tung Oil for wood finishing. Dark Tung Oil provides a dark matte, and waterproof…
  • MULTIPLE USES – Use the wood oil for finishing countertops, bowls, butcher blocks, cutting boards,…
  • FOOD GRADE – Safe for food contact. A great penetrating oil for use on wooden kitchen items such as…

Dark tung oil is a type of oil that has been colored with a natural resin. This resin gives the oil a darker color and a richer finish. It is often used for indoor projects, as it can add a touch of elegance to the wood. It can also be used for outdoor projects, but it will not be as durable as pure oil.

Here is a table that compares the two oils:

FeaturePure Dark 
OriginTung treeTung tree
ColorClear, yellow-brownDark brown
OdorStrongStrong
Drying timeSeveral days to a week, a month to cureSeveral days to a week, a month to cure
DurabilityVery durableLess durable
Water resistanceWater-resistantWater-resistant
Food safeYesYes
PriceMore expensiveLess expensive

Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your specific needs. If you are looking for a hard, durable, and water-resistant finish that will last for years, then pure oil is a good option. If you are looking for a less expensive option and a darker finish, then dark oil is a good option.

Does Tung Oil Go Bad?

Yes, it can go bad if it is not stored properly. It’s a natural oil that is obtained from the seeds of the tung tree. It is a clear, yellow-brown liquid that has a strong odor. It’s a hard, durable, and water-resistant finish that is often used for outdoor projects. It can take several weeks to fully cure, but it will last for years with proper care.

Here are some tips for storing tung oil:

  • Store the oil in a cool, dark place. Tung oil can go rancid if it is exposed to heat, light, or oxygen.
  • Keep the oil in an airtight container. This will help to prevent the oil from oxidizing and going rancid.
  • Use the oil within two years of purchase. Tung oil will start to lose its effectiveness after two years.

If you are not sure whether or not tung oil is still good, you can test it by applying a small amount to a piece of wood. If the oil is still good, it will dry clear and glossy. If the oil is rancid, it will dry cloudy and dull.

Should You Thin Tung Oil?

HOPE'S 100% Pure Tung Oil, Waterproof Natural Wood Finish and Sealer, 16 Fl Oz, 1 Pack

Whether or not you should thin tung oil depends on a few factors, including the type of wood you are finishing, the desired finish, and your personal preference.

  • Type of wood: Tung oil is a natural oil that is very thick. It can be difficult to apply to some types of wood, such as softwoods, without thinning it. Thinning the oil will make it easier to apply and will help it to penetrate the wood more evenly.
  • Desired finish: Tung oil can be used to create a variety of finishes, from a satin finish to a glossy finish. The desired finish will determine how much you need to thin the oil. For a satin finish, you will need to thin the oil less than for a glossy finish.
  • Personal preference: Some people prefer to use tung oil without thinning it at all. They believe that the natural thickness of the oil gives the wood a unique look and feel. Others prefer to thin the oil to make it easier to apply and to get a more even finish.

If you are unsure whether or not you should thin the oil, it is always best to err on the side of caution and thin it. Thinning the oil will not harm the wood or the finish, and it will extend your supply and increase the square feet of use.

To thin tung oil, you can use a variety of solvents, including mineral spirits, turpentine, or citrus solvent. The amount of solvent you need to use will depend on the thickness of the oil and the desired finish. For a satin finish, you will need to thin the oil with a 1:1 ratio of oil to solvent.

For a glossy finish, you may need to thin the oil with a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of oil to solvent.

Once you have thinned the oil, you can apply it to the wood with a brush, cloth, or roller. Apply the oil in thin coats, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. The number of coats you will need to apply will vary depending on the type of wood and the desired finish. For a good finish, you will need to apply at least 3 coats of oil.

After the last coat of oil has dried, you can buff the wood to a high shine.

Video Demo

Here’s a short video that shows tung oil in action.  It presents much the same information we’ve provided above, but you can see it being applied, as well as see how it brings the wood to life.

It’s not a waterproof finish for maximum protection, but it is highly water resistant, and additional applications every couple of years will extend that protection.  It’s a good choice for exterior wood finishing and most any wooden objects, including indoor wooden furniture. 

Last update on 2024-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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