Why I Use Tung Oil

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Tung Oil On White Oak Web

Tung Oil On White Oak WebPeople often ask me what I use for finishing my floors. My answer is: It depends. It depends on the floor, the clients, the expected use, and the look. I never have and never will stick to only one brand of finish and one product. Much like I would not have all my power tools of the same brand. I pick and choose the best product for the application.

In my last post I showed photos of a hand-scraped job being finished with tung oil. So, why do I like tung oil?

•    Easy to apply. This has always been my first reason for using a product.

•    I can tint it with stains and dyes.

•    I can topcoat it with other finishes.

•    It looks richer than surface-finished.

•    It is a penetrating oil.

•    It needs no abrasion between coats.

•    It does not raise the grain.

These are just a few reasons. How are those reasons translate into reality? Here are some examples:

  • On one wide-plank oak job, the owners wanted an old patina look. All I had to do was mix the tung oil with oil-base stains (this is a recommended procedure by the manufacturer). Stains alone would have made the porous areas darker. The other finish manufacturers did not (and still don't) recommend tinting their finishes. By using the tung oil I achieved the look requested by the customer and was still covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
  • On another job I did I scraped a walnut floor. After two coats of the oil, I noticed one big spot I was not happy with. I scraped that area again down to bare wood and applied tung oil to it. Now, because it is a penetrating oil the wood sucked that coat pretty fast. And because the oil "melts" onto the prior coat instead of sitting on top of it, a half hour later I applied a third coat over the entire floor with no problem. That's unheard of with surface finishes. Once surface finishes start to set, you cannot touch them. After the coat dried it was like it never happened. You could not see any issues with that area I touched up.
  • On another job I was just ready to apply the first coat. Then I noticed one plank that seemed a little lighter than the rest of the floor. I tinted some tung oil and colored that plank. Then I applied the coat to the rest of the floor. When I was done, you could not tell the difference.

Whatever your choice of finish is for the job, make sure you follow the instructions and test it first. (Sometimes you will follow the instructions and the finish will look horrible, that's why I said test it first).

I have a lot of finishing techniques in my arsenal: dewaxed shellac, oil modified, water base, stains, dyes, glazes, oils, brushing, T-bar, rolling, buffing on and the list goes on. Tung oil is one of many finishes a floor finisher should know. You never know what your next awesome job is going to require, so keep an open mind.

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