Tung oil is a plant-based oil used as a wood finish. It is clear, quick-drying, and penetrates the grain to enhance and protect the wood. It’s one of the oldest and most popular wood finishes in the world and is derived from the
seeds of the tung tree in Eastern Asia. Tung oil has become a staple among fine furniture craftsmen in the United States and beyond. It is eco-friendly, non-toxic, and food-safe.
Vermont Furniture Designs uses tung oil on maple furniture as an alternative to linseed oil. Due to the dense grain of maple, linseed oil doesn’t penetrate well and can result in a blotchy appearance. Tung oil has no issues
penetrating the dense maple grain, and because it dries clear, it’s a great finish for lighter colored woods. Tung oil is available as a finish on cherry and walnut, as well, upon request.
Similarly to linseed oil, it is difficult to find furniture that is made with raw or 100% pure tung oil. Many craftsmen will use boiled or polymerized tung oil, and it’s also common for manufacturers to mislabel products as tung
oil when they’re not. If you’re interested in a tung oil finish, it’s worth doing a bit of digging to understand exactly what finish is being used and what it’s comprised of.
Note: You'll have to contact us to request a tung oil finish, unless you're ordering maple furniture from Vermont Furniture Designs, in which case tung oil is the standard finish.
Pros & Cons of Tung Oil as a Wood Finish
There are many reasons a craftsman might consider using tung oil to finish wood furniture. It’s all natural, non-toxic, and eco-friendly, and it doesn’t yellow as much over time as common finishes like linseed oil,
nitrocellulose lacquer, or varnishes like polyurethane. On the other hand, tung oil is expensive and susceptible to water rings, stains, and scratches.