How to Apply a Tung-Oil Topcoat Over an Oil-Based Wood Stain

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Apply tung oil over wood stain to give the wood a shiny gleam.
Apply tung oil over wood stain to give the wood a shiny gleam. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

The Chinese have used tung oil, which comes from the seeds of the native tung tree, for centuries to protect their hardwoods from the elements. Tung oil hardens quickly and effectively seals wood and wood stains from water and scratches. Pure tung oil has a thick consistency and can be difficult for beginners to apply, while tung-oil finishes have thinning solvents added to make them easier to work with.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Dusting cloth
  • Rubber gloves
  • Respirator face mask
  • Stain applicator pad
  • Lint-free staining cloths
  • Soft polishing cloth

Prepare the work area by placing plastic sheeting beneath the wood item you'll be working on. Clean the item by lightly wiping away any dust with a dusting cloth.

Don the rubber gloves and face mask before you begin applying the tung oil to the wood.

Apply the tung oil in thin layers by wiping the applicator pad across the piece, left to right, evenly.

Allow the oil to seep into the wood for 15 minutes. Then wipe away excess oil with a clean, lint-free staining cloth.

Wait an hour and apply another coat of tung oil. Let the oil sink into the wood for 15 minutes; wipe away the excess oil with another clean staining cloth. Repeat the process a third time if your wood item will remain outdoors.

Buff the wood with a soft polishing cloth to give it a sheen.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wait at least 12 hours after you apply the oil-based wood stain before applying a tung oil topcoat.
  • If you want to create a high shine, buff the last coat with a fine steel-wool pad. Wipe clean and buff with a soft buffing cloth.
  • You can use tung oil as a sealer prior to applying the wood stain and as a topcoat.
  • Proper ventilation is essential when working with stains and varnishes. Natural tung oil isn't toxic, but tung oil finishes with solvents in the ingredients are toxic and require good air flow for your safety.

References

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