Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut? (a clear answer & how-to guide)

In recent times, tung oil has become increasingly well-liked as a coating for wooden materials. This historic Chinese oil has long been utilized for centuries to preserve and showcase the magnificence of wood. A frequent question that woodworkers and DIY fanatics ask is “Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut?” In this piece, we will provide an answer to this query and investigate the pros and cons of utilizing tung oil on walnut.

In short: Yes, you can without any doubt use tung oil on walnut. By penetrating the wood’s pores, this oil smoothens its surface and lends a lucent brown hue to the walnut for protecting it from moisture, ultraviolet radiations, and other environmental components.

If you’re eager to learn how to apply this tung oil to walnut, this article is perfect for you. Here we will provide a detailed guide on the application process, maintenance and care after the application, and other food-safe wood finish options.

Read further to uncover methods of augmenting the beauty of your walnut wood items!

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Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut - Tung oil
Tung oil

What is Tung Oil

For many centuries, Tung oil, extracted from the seeds of the Tung tree native to China and other Southeast Asian countries, has been prized for its protective and enhancing qualities on wood surfaces.

Walnut wood in particular benefits from the unique blend of properties found in this natural plant-based oil.

Types of Tung Oil and Their Differences

The marketplace offers a variety of tung oils, each of which possesses its own distinct characteristics. Popular selections comprise of:

  1. Pure Tung Oil: This Tung oil is obtained through a cold-pressing process of the Tung tree’s seeds. Its non-toxic, eco-friendly characteristic draws attention from homeowners and furniture craftsmen alike, making it a go-to option.
  2. Tung Oil Varnish: This tung oil, formulated with solvents and varnishes, is a strong solution ideal for surfaces that require frequent use. It is superior in durability and will leave behind a radiant finish.
  3. Tung Oil Finish: This particular combination of tung oil and urethane/polyurethane offers enhanced protection and a glossy finish. It is ideal for those expecting their furniture to endure everyday use and tear.

It is imperative to select the appropriate tung oil variety that meets your individual requirements and desires, taking into account the advantages and drawbacks of each.

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What is the Shelf Life of Tung Oil

The shelf-life of tung oil is variable, depending on several components such as the storage environment and the quality of the product. Still, when stored away from direct light in a cool, dry location, tung oil can maintain its potency for up to two years.

Nevertheless, it should be observed that over time, tung oil can become thicker and more difficult to utilize; so to gain ideal outcomes, its advised to use it within 12 months of buying it. Keep this in mind and don’t store up a large stock.

I wrote a more in depth article on this topic. To gather more information before you start working with tung oil, it is highly recommended that you read my article Does Tung Oil Go Bad? (5 Proven Techniques to Store It)

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut?

Tung oil is ideal walnut finish; it gives an attractive dark brown lustre to the wood grain. Walnut has open, porous grain structure that requires multiple coats of tung oil to fill and achieve a smooth, even finish.

Walnut’s abundance of large pores make it a proficient absorber of tung oil, which can be extremely difficult to finish due to it not sitting on the surface until the pores are filled. However, this trait benefits walnut wood, as the penetrating tung oil improves its flexibility and keeps it from splitting or cracking.

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut_ White walnut & English walnut - picture by the wood database
White walnut & English walnutpicture by the wood database

By mixing tung oil with varnish before applying it onto walnut creates a smoother, more desirable finish. This cuts down the number of coats needed tremendously compared to using tung oil alone.

However, not all tung oils are compatible with varnish and results depend on the manufacturer. For best results, try thinning your tung oil with mineral spirit before application to get the most out of the oiling finish.

Upon exposure to oxygen, tung oil quickly hardens and forms a protective barrier over walnut wood, shielding it from various environmental factors such as moisture, insect damage, UV radiation and more. In addition, the coating of tung oil provides a lustrous gloss while also intensifying the wood’s natural color.
Related article: English Walnut Vs Black Walnut Wood – a Clear Comparison

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut to Darken It

No, tung oil darkens the natural hue of walnut wood not at all. However, you can use its darker variant to bring out the full extent of its color. If used correctly, pure tung oil can further accentuate the gorgeous grain patterns of walnut wood and will not discolor or become dull with age.

Is Tung Oil Food Safe

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut

Pure tung oil, produced from pressing the seeds of the tung tree and without any toxic elements, is deemed safe for contact with food. However, keep in mind that the walnut wood you will apply it on is toxic, as you can read in this in-depth article.

Though it forms a protective layer on kitchen utensils or chopping boards to repel moisture and keep them damage-free, direct contact between food and the surface is recommended against. Mineral oil, or beeswax finishes are preferable alternatives that ensure any item used for preparing meals or store food remain free of contaminants.

It is essential to only use pure tung oil or a food-safe finish like mineral oil or beeswax when dealing with items that may come into contact with food, as Tung Oil Varnish contains solvents and other chemicals which can be dangerous if ingested, and Tung Oil Finishes often has other non-food-safe additives and resins.

I strongly advise against constructing any kitchen utensils from walnut wood, as juglone – which is present in the wood – could contaminate your food, even if you apply a food-safe finish. As I outlined in my article, “Can You Use Walnut Wood for a Cutting Boards? The Unspoken Truth“, this is something to watch out for.

How Tung Oil Enhances The Beauty Of Walnut Wood

Tung oil enhances the beauty of walnut wood in several ways. By starting off, the treatment seeps through the pores and natural crevices of the walnut, plugging in any openings and creating an even outer layer. As a result, the wood has a warm, natural, and polished look after applying the tung oil.

Subsequently, tung oil enhances the existing color and grain patterns of walnut wood. By deepening its rich brown colour, it accentuates the natural beauty of the wood, making it appear even more exquisite and cozy.

Thirdly, tung oil provides a protective barrier against environmental damage such as moisture, UV light, and bug infestations. This helps preserve the wood’s natural aesthetic for years to come, making it an ideal choice for outdoor furniture and items exposed to the elements.

The application of tung oil is simple, and produces a non-toxic and environmentally friendly finish that can be used in homes or any space with ease. This finish greatly enhances the captivating beauty of walnut wood.

Advantages Of Using Tung Oil On Walnut

  • Natural Appearance: The application of tung oil accentuates the gorgeous walnut, intensifying its dark brown shade while drawing attention to its distinctive grain pattern.
  • Protection: Applying the Tung oil creates a barrier on the wood to protect against harmful environmental conditions including moisture, UV rays and insect infestations.
  • Easy Application: Tung oil is simple to utilize, rendering it an ideal option for beginner woodworkers and DIYers.
  • Eco-Friendly: Tung oil, a non-toxic and natural substance, is safe to utilize indoors or when items come into contact with edibles.
  • Durable Finish: Upon reacting with oxygen in the atmosphere, Tung oil hardens to form a resilient protective coating that remains effective for many years.

Disadvantages Of Using Tung Oil On Walnut

  • Time-Consuming: Applying the Tung oil needs to be done in multiple layers, letting each one dry out completely before adding the next.
  • Slow Drying Time: Tung oil, with its slow drying period, can be irritating for those who desire a prompt answer.
  • Requires Maintenance: To sustain its guard over surfaces, Tung oil demands frequent upkeep, including reapplication and sanding.
  • Cost: Tung oil may cost more than other finishes, meaning it is not the best choice for budget-conscious individuals.
  • Requires Thinning: Using Tung oil may necessitate thinning it with mineral spirits or varnish, resulting in a higher expenditure and prolonging the task.

Which is Better: Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil?

It is imperative to take into consideration the specific job/task and envisaged result when selecting between tung oil vs linseed oil, with both compounds having their own unique strengths and drawbacks. Please do not use boiled linseed oil as this is not food-safe.

Pure Raw Linseed Oil
Pure Raw Linseed Oil

Tung oil is specially formulated to provide a strong, long-lasting coating that simultaneously preserves and accentuates the wood’s innate beauty. It is also an ideal choice for items routinely subjected to moisture or wetness.

For centuries, linseed has been the go-to finish for wood. This natural product, derived from flax seeds, produces a softer and less resilient finish than other options. Consequently, it is well-suited for wooden items not routinely exposed to moisture or rigorous use, like chopping blocks and cooking tools.

What is the Best Tung Oil to Use on Walnut

How To Apply Tung Oil On Walnut?

Applying the Tung oil to Walnut wood is quite easy, as the grain structure of Walnut is open with larger pores. Keep in mind though, you may need to apply a few layers of Tung oil to build up a protective film – and this could take some time for the oil to completely dry and cure.

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut (2)

There are several ways you can apply this Oil onto Walnut: using a brush or stain applicator (the simplest way) or spraying it after mixing it with mineral spirits. Note that mineral spirits aren’t safe to use if the item will potentially come into contact with food.

Materials for Applying Tung Oil

How to Apply the Tung Oil on Walnut Step-by-step Instructions

Step #1: Prepare The Surface

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut - Prepare The Surface
Prepare The Surface

Before beginning the tung oil application process, it is important to choose an open and properly ventilated area or have a dust collection pipe system installed. Sanding the wood with the 120 grit sandpaper will create sawdust which not only can be irritating to eyes and skin, but also may trigger allergies in some individuals.

Using a a damp rag, thoroughly clean the walnut surface of any dust, debris, dirt, and grease. Then apply tri-sodium phosphate to eradicate any stubborn dust and dirt particles that couldn’t be wiped off.

It is imperative to check and sand off any exciting finishes on the walnut surface prior to applying the tung oil for effective absorption. Cleaning the area is pivotal for a seamless, even finish with no drips or streaks. Subsequently, use 120-grit then 150-grit sandpaper to level and augment the smoothness of the wood. To know all about sandpaper, check out my article A Clear Sandpaper Grit Chart & Guide | All Info In 1 Place

Gently sand the walnut wood along the grain to open up the pores, allowing tung oil to be absorbed more easily. Apply even pressure while sanding to eliminate any irregularities and ensure an even surface that will accept the tung oil uniformly.

Step #2: Thin The Tung Oil (In Case of Spraying)

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut - Thin The Tung Oil (In Case Of Spraying)
Thin The Tung Oil (In Case Of Spraying)

Thinning tung oil before applying it to walnut is recommended to get a super smooth finish and for a fast drying process. Because usually, tung oil alone takes lots of time to dry. by mixing it with an alcohol chemical like a mineral spirit, the oil will dry faster due to the quick evaporation.

I strongly recommend thinning the first layer of tung oil with mineral spirit for greater adhesion. Doing so will also ensure a successful adherence of the second coat to the previous layer. After that, no more dilution is needed and you can simply apply this oil directly.

To apply a thin, consistent first coat over the entire walnut surface, you need to know how much tung oil to use. As previously mentioned in this article, mineral spirits are not meant to come in contact with food, so skip this step if the wood is intended for contact with edibles. To thin tung oil with mineral spirits, follow these steps:

  1. Take the required tung oil amount for your project into a jar
  2. Add an equal amount of mineral spirit as the tung oil into the glass jar
  3. Mix them slowly without forming bubbles

The mixture of tung oil is now prepared to be utilized and spread onto the walnut frame, which I’ll demonstrate in the proceeding step.

Step#3: Apply The First Coat Of Tung Oil

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut - Apply The First Coat Of Tung Oil
Apply The First Coat Of Tung Oil

I advise trying out the tung oil on a sample piece of walnut wood before using it on main woodwork or furniture, so that you can observe the transformation in color that happens at the conclusion of the project.

Dampen the bristle brush or damp rag with the thinned tung oil blend and work it into the walnut surface. For a better absorption without streaking, brush in the direction of the grain of the wood. Put on a thin coat of tung oil to guarantee a smooth, unparalleled finish.

Allow the tung oil to settle on the walnut for half an hour, then buff off any extra, avoiding pools or patches that could mar the final product. Thanks to its open-grain structure, walnut wood can readily absorb tung oil as soon as it is applied, saturating the fibers of the wood. Deeply absorbing the oil reinforces the durability of the wood preventing it from cracking. To know more about wood cracking, check my article How to Dry Wood Without Cracking – 3 Clever Tricks

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Step#4: Let The First Coat Dry and Sand Lightly

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut - Let The First Coat Dry and Sand Lightly
Let The First Coat Dry and Sand Lightly

Once the initial layer of tung oil has been applied on the walnut, let it air dry and set for 24 hours. Depending on humidity levels, time to let it dry can range from one to three days if you’re in a humid climate and your coat consists of a thick layer. It is essential to wait until the first coat fully dries before applying a second layer, otherwise a tacky finish will never cure.

Achieving an impeccable finish with tung oil necessitates patience, as it takes longer to dry than other finishes like varnish. To ensure the best result, one must remain patient and make sure that each coat has dried completely before proceeding.

Once the initial layer of tung oil is finished drying, begin sanding the walnut surface with 220-grit. to 320 grit sandpaper. Be sure to do light sanding consistently along the grain of the wood in order to prevent scratching or indentation. Alternatively, you can use abrasive pads in between each coat of tung oil for a consistent, glossy finish without any separation on the surface.

Polishing between tung oil applications aids in forming a stronger bonding layer and yields a brilliant smooth finish with an eye-catching quality. Make sure the tung oil coat is fully dry before starting to sand it, because running sandpaper on wet coats will clog it up and damage the surface. Using steel wool as well may be beneficial in this step. After sanding is complete, be sure to clear off any sawdust, then move on to the next process.

Step#5: Apply More Tung Oil Coats

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut - Apply More Tung Oil Coats
Apply More Tung Oil Coats

Apply the second coat of tung oil to the walnut surface in the same way you applied the first coat, going along with the grains and making sure not to leave any brush marks. Observe how this layer is seamlessly blended with the previous one and creates a protective film-like single layer.

Remove any surplus wood oil and droplets after a half-hour to acquire an attractive finish. Then follow the same process for successive coats until you obtain the desired appearance on your walnut furniture.

Step#6: Let The Tung Oil Cure Properly

Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut - Let The Tung Oil Cure Properly
Let The Tung Oil Cure Properly

Apply 5 to 6 generous layers of tung oil on the walnut surface to achieve an impressive, even finish. Allow 24 hours of time to dry between each coat and leave the coats overnight for faster drying and a more successful outcome.

Applying the tung oil to the walnut requires patience since it can take up to 14-30 days for it to dry fully. This is one of its main drawbacks, compared to other finishes like varnish and lacquer, due to its slow drying time. The length of time required may depend on the amount applied, as well as the humidity of your environment.

I urge you to be patient when using walnut furniture and only apply this type of oil coats after they have been completely dried and cured; otherwise, the wood will turn out with a dull tacky surface. Remember that it takes roughly two weeks for the color of the wood to shift to its most attractive shade and form a protective layer via polymerization reactions. Consequently, if you have high expectations for your work, patience is essential.

Maintenance And Care After Applying the Tung Oil On Walnut

In order to ensure its luster and durability, it is essential to practice proper upkeep following the application of tung oil to walnut. To that end, keep the following advice in mind:

  1. Avoid exposure to moisture: Protect walnut wood treated with tung oil from moisture at all times, as too much exposure to it can ruin the coating. Immediately clean up any liquid that gets spilled on it and make sure to store items in a dry environment.
  2. Dust regularly: Maintain the shine of your walnut wood by periodically dusting it with a gentle, lint-free cloth to avoid damage to the finish.
  3. Reapply oil as needed: With the passage of time, tung oil can take on a lackluster and parched appearance. To restore the gloss, simply apply a light layer of tung oil. Sanding in between layers will bring forth a smooth finish. I’ll come back to this later on in this article.
  4. Avoid harsh chemicals: Stay away from harsh chemical agents, like bleach or ammonia, when treating walnut with tung oil. These substances may detrimentally affect the finish and produce unattractive stains.
  5. Store items carefully: Store items constructed of walnut wood and treated with tung oil in a dry location when not in use. To prevent signs of damage, do not cram items together on top of each other.

Adhering to these maintenance and care procedures will ensure your walnut wood treated with tung oil remains attractive and usable for a long time.

How Often Do You Have to Renew Tung Oil

It is advisable to renew tung oil regularly, depending on the amount of usage and the degree of moisture and sun exposure. Typically, a yearly application should suffice – however, it is wise to reapply according to need.

Due to extensive handling and exposure to excessive moisture, reapplication of walnut wood may need to be done more frequently. Conversely, if the wood is rarely used and kept in a dry atmosphere, it may only require periodic reapplication.

To decide if a fresh coat of tung oil is necessary, examine the wood’s surface for evidence of aridity, listlessness, or crevicing. If any of these signs are visible, the application of the oil can reinvigorate the finish and secure the timber.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Coats Of Tung Oil On Walnut?

For a beautiful and even finish, as well as to protect the walnut wood against environmental impacts such as moisture, rotting, and decay, apply 5-6 layers of tung oil. Ensure you lightly sand with 320-400 grit sandpaper after every coat in order to achieve a perfectly smooth result without any dripping or running.

How Long Should Tung Oil Dry Between Coats?

Allow the tung finish to dry for 8-12 hours between coats if you are working with any kind of wood, but for pores wood like walnut the wait time should be extended to at least 24 hours. Never try to apply an additional coat until the prior one has dried completely; otherwise, the surface will become blotchy or tacky and it can be difficult to fix.

How Long Should Tung Oil Sit Until it is Fully Cured?

When applying Pure Tung Oil or other drying oils, the curing interval could span up to 30 days, with a suggested minimum of 7-10 days before use for ideal results. Waiting facilitates adequate drying and completion of the curing process.

Can You Use Tung Oil on Walnut – Final Thoughts

So to end this article, Can You Use Tung Oil On Walnut, well, yes! Tung oil is an excellent finish for walnut wood due to its capacity to permeate the wood fibers and offer a protective covering. Although there are some drawbacks to using this oil, it remains a fantastic choice when seeking to safeguard and enhance the natural aesthetics of walnut wood.

With proper application and maintenance, tung oil will provide a durable and stunning finish. If you’re looking to revive an antiquated item or add protection to a new creation, tung oil is the perfect selection for walnut.

If you’re in search of food-safe oil finishes, my post entitled “What is the best food-safe wood finish (all in one guide)” has the answers you seek. From natural oils to specialized products, we offer a complete guide to finding the right finish for your kitchenware like butcher blocks or furniture. Whether a pro or novice, this guide will help identify the ideal solution for any project. Hence, browse through and explore all the food-safe options readily accessible!

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