In Finishing

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After showcasing the two most popular finishes I work with as an educator—Flaxseed oil and Shellac—I’m excited to delve into another favored option: Tung oil. Tung oil and Walnut oil stand out as a natural choice for woodworking projects, offering both durability and a distinctive finish.

As with all finishes being used by students, there are key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Safe and easy application
  • Addressing finishing spills and cleanups
  • Fast cure time

Tung oil has a rich history spanning millennia and is revered for its use as a natural finish for furniture and food utensils. Derived from the Tung nut, it shares similarities with Walnut and Flax oils in its ability to oxidize and polymerize, forming a solid topcoat. However, unlike Flax and walnut oil, which can take two weeks to a month to cure, Tung oil typically cures within 5 to 7 days, making it a quicker option for finishing projects. Moreover, its resilience as a topcoat surpasses that of Flaxseed oil, providing long-lasting protection.

Pure Tung Oil by Real Milk Paint Co. is my favorite product. I use it both at my home shop and in my classroom.

While Tung oil finds its place in my classes, I predominantly utilize Flax oil for several practical reasons. Tung oil’s thicker consistency and more pungent odor necessitate more thorough hand washing, and its availability can pose challenges compared to locally sourced Flax oil. Additionally, the quest for unadulterated Tung oil amidst various brands can be daunting, urging caution against blends containing solvents or polyurethane additives.

Since I mentioned both Flax and Walnut oils, both abundant and inexpensive, then why do I prefer flax? Both are great, but I lean towards Flax oil for one primary reason in my classes. Throughout my career, I’ve only encountered one instance where a child’s parents informed me of their allergy to flax. However, I’m aware of the numerous cases of children with allergies to nuts. To avoid any potential risk, I prefer flax oil.

Stay tuned for my next discussion, where I’ll delve into opaque finishes best suited for student projects.

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Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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