Danish Oil vs. Tung Oil: Which Should You Buy?

Danish Oil vs. Tung Oil: Which Should You Buy?

If you've heard of both tung and Danish oils, but just can't seem to choose one over the other for your project, then maybe it's time to take a closer look at the two.

Both oils provide protection for your furniture, but they do it in different ways. In fact, tung oil is often used in making Danish oil, but the addition of other substances gives Danish oil different characteristics from tung oil.

Danish oil is easier to use than tung oil because it penetrates wood faster and it also dries faster than tung oil. On the other hand, tung oil cures to a very hard and beautiful, golden finish, which is often worth all the trouble of applying it.

1. Tung Oil

Tung Oil

Tung oil is a natural product with a transparent, deep, and golden look. It is normally produced by pressing the seed of a tung tree's nut. 100% oil often has difficulty penetrating wood, so it's usually thinned down with mineral spirits or with a thinner.

One important aspect of tung oil is its water-resistant properties. This made it popular with the Chinese for use in shipbuilding thousands of years ago. Today, it continues to offer the best water-resistance properties among wood finishing oils.

Tung oil cures to a hard surface, which is both durable and beautiful at once. Its coating is additionally elastic, making it able to keep up its beauty as the wood expands and contracts.

Being a natural product, 100% tung oil is non-toxic, and it is therefore perfect for finishing wooden items like fruit bowls and other kitchen or food items.

Since pure tung oil has difficulties with penetrating wood, many manufacturers are offering their own blends of tung oil finishes. These usually include varnish, a thinner, and some tung oil, although some manufacturers will use a completely different oil and not tung.

Pros

  • Waterproof. Tung oil has been used since thousands of years for its waterproofing qualities. As long as the coats are properly applied, your furniture will stay protected from soaking water.
  • Lovely appearance. Another reason tung oil is much loved is because its clear and deep look brings out the natural texture of any wood that it gets applied on. This produces an unmistakable effect.
  • Food Safe. Pure tung oil is a non-toxic, natural product and so, it's safe to use with kitchen utensils. For non-100% pure tung oil, you'll need to look at the label to know what's included.
  • Elasticity. After a tung coating has cured, it interestingly remains flexible. This allows the tung oil coating to expand and contract with the wood, preventing it from cracking and maximizing its lifespan.
  • Strong Protective Surface. Tung oil polymerizes after curing and creates a hard bond inside the wood, as well as a hard layer covering the wood's surface. This surface protects the wood from scratches, dents, and even from acidic fluids.

Cons

  • Plenty of work involved. Unlike other finishing oils which need just a few coats, tung oil requires 6 or more coats on average. This is because it has a low penetration rate and the wood's surface additionally needs extra sanding before each coat. These reasons make applying tung oil time and work intensive.
  • Curing takes up to 24 hrs. Tung oil also takes longer to cure than most other finishing oils, usually requiring up to 24 hours before the next coat. As you can imagine, a proper tung oil finishing procedure will need many days of sanding and brushing.
  • Storage difficulties. Another issue with tung oil is how difficult it can get to store it properly. This is strictly for 100% tung oil though. You'll need to protect it from excessive heat and exposure to light, else it'll go bad.

Tips for Applying Tung Oil

If you want to get the best from tung oil, then you should get your hands on pure (100%) tung oil and thin it down by yourself. This way, you'll know exactly what you are working with. Leave a minimum of 24 hours curing time before coats and always sand the surface before each additional coat.

2. Danish Oil

Danish Oil

Danish oil is a type of wood finishing oil, which is made using either tung or linseed oil. Although there is no exact formula for Danish oil, it is usually made using oil and varnish.

The resulting coat is often water-resistant and hard-wearing. It dries quickly and cures to a nice satin finish. Danish oil has a good rate of wood penetration and it's very easy to apply without problems.

It also maintains its color over time and will not yellow with age. You can mix tints to it to produce specific shades and you are free to either use it as a primer or as a sealer.

Although Danish oil and teak oil are both blends of finishing oils, varnishes, and mineral spirits, the major difference between the 2 is that Danish oil creates a more waterproof and hard-wearing surface, much like pure tung oil.

Pros

  • Dries quickly. Because it is thinned down with mineral spirits, for example, Danish oil dries quicker than tung oil. It is, therefore, a good oil finish for those who don't have the time.
  • Easy to apply and repair. Its mixed nature also makes it easier to apply than tung oil. There are fewer coats and shorter curing periods.
  • Good penetration. Danish oil penetrates woods well and so it's great to use on hardwoods like mahogany, maple, cherry, oak, and ironwood.
  • Waterproof coat. Most Danish oils are waterproof and this is a big plus point because water can get very damaging to wood. Always check the can though, to make sure.
  • Nice satin finish. If you are looking for a natural wooden look for your furniture pieces, then Danish oil will surely deliver with its satin look.

Cons

  • Less durable. Danish oil is not as durable as tung oil.
  • Usually not food safe. Since you can't ever be sure of all the stuff that goes into making Danish oil, it's better to not use it for kitchen or food-related stuff.
  • The threat of spontaneous combustion. After using a piece of cloth to apply Danish oil, it's advisable to let it lie flat to dry because Danish oil can spark off the cloth and burn it as a result of exothermic oxidation. So, you need some caution when using Danish oil.

Tips for Applying Danish Oil

A well-sanded surface will bring out the best in your furniture. You'll get best finishing results on new wood, although you can also apply Danish oil to surfaces which were previously oiled. You should try to apply it in the same direction as the grain for best results, and if you are in a hurry, just apply your coats with 30-minute intervals. After 2 or 3 coats, wipe the wood 2 or 3 times with an hour interval each, and that's it, you're finished.

Making The Right Choice

It should be obvious by now, that your choice of either Danish or tung oil depends on the work you have on hand. This is because of their different features, which determine the final results that you'll get. Following is a side by side comparison of their most important features.

Danish Oil

Tung Oil

Appearance

Satin finish

Glossy & hard finish

Types of wood

All types

All types

Coats Required

3 coats are enough

6 or more coats

Average Drying Time

4 - 24 hours

Between 8 hours and a week

Ease of Penetration

Very good

Poor penetration. Requires thinner

Water Resistance

Good

Very good

Food Safety

Not safe

Safe

Conclusion

Coming to the end of this side by side comparison of Danish oil vs tung oil, you can see that they each have their specific uses. Your final choice, therefore, depends on what you plan to do and how much time you have available.

Danish oil cures faster and is easier to use, but tung oil looks better and is food safe. So, if you don't have the patience or the time, then Danish oil will definitely be a great time saver.

If however, you are working on a masterpiece or something that has to do with food, then tung oil will probably be what you need.

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Tom Bradly
 

My entrepreneurial journey started in 2006, when I dropped out of university. I wanted to work with my hands, to build things. Now I mix my background with computers with my first-hand experience with woodworking to provide insights into the tools I like best. I love everything about woodworking and have been building stuff for over 20 years of my life. I hope to pass some knowledge and expertise.