While tung oil provides a beautiful and durable finish to wood surfaces, applying layer after layer to achieve the desired sheen can grow tedious. One way to accelerate the process is to make the oil dry faster. You can keep the penetrating and protective qualities of tung oil while cutting the drying time by a third. Dilute the oil with a specialty solvent. Although a great wood finish requires elbow grease and patience, this clever chemistry can help give your project professional results.
Things You'll Need
- Clean, Lint-Free Cloths
- Very Fine (4/0) Steel Wool (Optional)
- Plastic Or Wooden Mixing Stick
- Plastic Or Glass Mixing Container
- Pure Or Polymerized Tung Oil
- Mineral Spirits Or Naptha
Dilute the tung oil using a 1:1 ratio (equal parts) oil and solvent:
Pour equal amounts of oil and solvent into the mixing container.
Stir them together gently with the stick until well combined.
Wipe the wood surface clean of dust with a clean cloth.
Apply the diluted oil to the wood surface. Pour a small amount of the oil (about as large as a quarter) onto the surface. Wipe the oil evenly onto the wood with a clean cloth, using a circular motion. Add more oil to the surface, in small amounts, until you have evenly covered the entire surface.Wipe off excess oil, keeping only a thin coating on the wood at any time.
Wait for the first layer of oil to dry (about 15 to 20 minutes). Let the oil penetrate the surface of the wood. Gently "buff" the surface with another clean rag or the very fine steel wool, using the same circular motion to increase the shine of the finish.
Wait another 30 minutes to one hour to allow the finish to rest and to continue to penetrate the wood surface.
Repeat the process to improve your results. Apply a second coat of oil, following the same procedure as above: First, wipe the surface clean. Mix another small batch of diluted oil. Next, apply the oil to the surface. Wait about 20 minutes for the oil to penetrate. Finally, buff the surface again to lock in the sheen.
Allow the wood to rest overnight before using the surface. Keep leftover oil and solvent in their separate containers, well-sealed and safe. Dispose of all unused mixture, as well as rags, steel wool,and containers, according to local waste regulations.
Penetrating oils dry at slightly different rates depending on environmental conditions such as heat and humidity. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions.
Pure tung oil works best in solution with naptha, while polymerized tung oil works best with mineral spirits. You als can use the solvents to clean up spilled oil. Some imitation tung oils appear on the market. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions before attempting to dilute these. Mix as little of the oil-solvent solution as possible at any time, since it evaporates and dries quickly.
Wear gloves to protect your skin from the oil and solvent. Always work with solvents in a well-ventilated area. Do not use these oils or solvents near any open flames, or sparks, as they are extremely flammable.
- Oil Finishes: Their History and Use
- "Handyman In-Your-Pocket"; Richard A. Young and Thomas J. Glover; 2008.
First published in 2000, Lewis Levenberg writes for journals and blogs across the country. In addition to extensive experience with construction and renovation, he has worked with academic authors on their social media marketing and in retail. His education includes a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.