A Protective Coating Over Tung Oil
Issue: Issue 5.07
Posted Date: 11/18/2003
Michael Dresdner & Lee Grindinger
Q. I am making two kitchen tables: one out of red oak, the other out of hard maple. I want the natural wood look with low gloss, so I plan on rubbing in quite a few coats of tung oil finish. But to stand up to everyday wear, I wonder if should put something on after the tung oil, like clear polyurethane, or will the tung oil be sufficient? I don't mind a slightly aged look, but I don't want water damage from spills and glasses.
A. Michael Dresdner: "Yes, I would put a coat or two of oil-based polyurethane on for more durability, and it is fully compatible over the dried tung oil (or linseed oil, or any other drying oil for that matter.) In fact, you can apply it in much the same way as you did the oil -- scrub it on with fine Scotchbrite, then wipe it off. That will leave a thin coat that will maintain the look you want with no drips or brush marks. Add at least three coats, at one coat per day. If it starts to wear down the road a few years, add extra coats the same way."
A. Lee Grindinger: "You'll get there eventually if you keep applying the tung oil finish. Tung oil finish is varnish, highly thinned varnish, so your coats are very thin and you'll need very many. If you want a faster build use a regular varnish and brush or spray it on. There are still many varnish formulations that use tung oil. To keep the sheen low use satin or eggshell. Plan on rubbing the surface out with steel wool or rubbing compound to remove the nibs."