Tung oil is a one of the best natural finishes for wood and is suitable for both beginners and experienced furniture refinishers. Tung oil is available in 100 percent tung oil and in a tung oil finish. The former is a thick, honey-like substance, while a tung oil finish is tung oil that has been thinned with petroleum products or citrus-based solvents. It is relatively easy to use and produces a durable, shiny, and easy to care for finish on both new and antique furniture pieces.
Preparing the Furniture
The key to any successful furniture refinishing project, including one using tung oil, is good preparation. Sand the piece smooth using progressively finer grades of sandpaper before proceeding. This will remove any flaws and create a fresh, smooth surface for the tung oil. In many cases, you may want to apply stain to the furniture before finishing it. Choose an oil-based stain if you are planning to seal and finish the piece with tung oil. Once you are ready to apply tung oil, wipe all surfaces with a microfiber cloth or tack cloth to remove dust and debris.
Applying Tung Oil
Pour tung oil onto the surface of your furniture. Use your hands with a nontoxic preparation, or use a brush or cloth, to spread the tung oil over the piece. Allow it to rest on the surface until the oil is absorbed, around 5 to 10 minutes, and wipe away the excess. If the surface begins to look dull, add more tung oil. Let the tung oil sit for 24 hours, then apply another coat. If desired or necessary, rub with 0000 steel wool between coats. Vertical surfaces should have three to four coats of tung oil and horizontal ones as many as 10 coats to create a strong and durable finish.
Caring for Your Tung Oil Finish
Avoid using spray furniture polishes on your tung oil finish. To dust your tung oil finish, wipe with a damp cloth and buff dry with a soft, clean microfiber cloth. You should rub the piece down with fine steel wool and apply an additional coat of tung oil approximately two to three times a year to maintain the finish. Use the same method to repair scratches or dings in the finish of your furniture. A well-maintained tung oil finish will stay beautiful for years, so while there may be a substantial time investment initially, you will not have to repeat this refinishing job.