Correa Wood Works
Craftsman furniture featuring full integral mortise and tenon joinery. 100% solar powered!

Kicking off a Tung Oil Marathon

I am on a mission to build a very durable and nearly waterproof tung oil finish. I am using 100% pure raw tung oil and will be applying a thin coat every three of four days for the next month. While searching around the web for examples of tung oil procedures, I could find very little which I found useful. I read a number of descriptions which seemed to contradict my first hand experiences, so I figured I would post the process here.

Before I can begin building the finish, I need to seal the pores of the wood. You can do this a number of ways but in keeping with the theme, I will be using tung oil.  Tung Oil is considered a thin finish by most. In order to get good penetration I will start the process off with six thinned coats of 50% tung oil and 50% turpentine over the course of about 12 hours. The goal is to super-saturate the wood as deep as possible. The only down side of a penetrating coat of raw tung oil is the amount of time it will take to cure.

Over the course of about 10 days the finish went from silky smooth to rough and textured. Once I was confident that the finish had dried sufficiently I began to level the table top with sterated 320p abrasive paper. The dried finish sanded away in a very fine white powder. If you experience gumming then the oil has not yet hardened. After working through the entire top and all of the spline and plug details I buffed the surface with 0000 synthetic wool and 000000 synthetic wool.

To begin building the finish I pour a liberal amount of oil onto the surface and work it into the wood with a neatly folded soft cotton cloth. After covering all of the surfaces I begin rubbing the finish with clean cloth to remove all of the excess oil. After 30 minutes I rub the surface again to pick up any oil that has worked its way back to the top. Here is the color that tung oil gives to big leaf maple after the seal coat and one full concentration coat. Only 6 more coats to go.

So to summarize,

1. Prep the wood surface (for me , 400p)

2. Apply 50/50 tung oil and turpentine very liberally and wipe into the surface. allow to set for 5 to 15 minutes and wipe off excess.

3. Repeat the application of thinned finish every two hours until the wood appears to not absorb any more oil. after 30 minutes wipe any excess oil from the wood. re-check after an our or two and wipe down the surface again.

4. After fully cured (two weeks for me) sand the surface smooth with 320p and buff with 0000 and 000000 synthetic wool.

5. Apply 100% tung oil to clean surface and rub into the wood. Wipe off any excess after a few minutes and again after an hour.

6. After oil has cured, buff with 000000 synthetic wool and repeat step 5 (6x).

Tung oil is an ancient wood finish that has been used by the Chinese and Japanese and other pacific nations for thousands of years. It is a combination of fatty acids derived from the seed of the tung tree (Vernicia fordii , Aleurites fordii). Many people refer to tung oil as a “non-toxic finish” however the oils contain high concentrations of glycosides and phytotoxins. While it is certainly less toxic than many of the synthetic finishes, It can be fatal if ingested in sufficient quantities. Today, tung oil is considered by many to be the finest oil finish around. We shall see what the big leaf table top has to say.

A few days back, Moose had his teeth cleaned and is now sporting some pearly whites.

What a lucky dog.

-Sam

3 Responses to “Kicking off a Tung Oil Marathon”

  1. What a lucky dog indeed! The Tung Oil finish looks beautiful on the big leaf maple.

  2. Hi Sam,

    I’ve been away for awhile (moving – yuk), and so am way behind on your blog and this was the first one I’ve read in a while – you’re hard work is still very apparent and appreciated and your photos of your “lucky” dog really put a smile on my face – thank you.

    • I share your feeling of yuk. It would take me a long time to relocate my shop to another location. I cant imagine re-running all of the 220v lines and dust collection. Hopefully your new location has a nice space for a shop.


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