Teak Oil vs. Tung Oil: Which Should You Use?
Teak oil and tung oil are two of the most popular oils for finishing wood products, so, it's understandable if you are wondering which of the two is the better finishing oil.
Both oils are generally used in almost the same way and offer similar properties, but they are different and need proper understanding to make the right choice between them.
Following is a close look at each of these oils, including their positive and negative properties. By understanding these features, you should hopefully be informed enough to make the right decision.
1. Teak Oil
Teak oil is a marketing name for a blend of oils and varnish, which is specifically designed for use on dense woods such as teak, walnut, rosewood, mahogany, ironwood, cherry, and oak.
The oil is not produced in any way from the teak tree, but comes rather from a blend of oils such as tung oil, linseed oil, soy oil, and varnish. There is no exact list of oils used in the making of teak oil and there is also no exact composition for the components.
Read More: Tung Oil vs. Linseed Oil
Each teak oil product from each manufacturer is a unique product, which gets manufactured for a specific type or types of wood. You will also find teak oil with toxic and non-toxic materials, and each will be better suited for a specific kind of job.
Teak oil penetrates wood easily and this makes it ideal for use on dense woods such as snakewood, walnut, and mahogany. It has UV filters which help to prolong the life of your furniture, especially those which are outdoors.
If you have interests in green living and in the environment, then you may want to choose a non-toxic blend of teak oil. It might come at a premium price, but it'll give you that peace of mind you want.
- Easy to apply. Teak oil penetrates most types of wood easily. It's also fast drying, with 2-8 hours of drying time depending on the manufacturer. This makes teak oil ideal for jobs where you don't have the time to wait.
- UV protection. Teak oil generally includes UV filters which makes it able to protect furniture from the harmful rays of the sun and prolong their lifespans. Having UV protection makes teak oil ideal for both indoor and outdoor furniture.
- No cracking or chipping. Teak oil protects your woodwork from the inside and this prevents it from cracking, peeling, or chipping in any way.
- Great for dense woods. Because of its ease of penetrating wood, teak oil is ideal for use with dense woods such as rosewood, mahogany, snakewood, and a lot more.
- Can be custom made. Since teak oil is always a unique blend of different oils, it is often custom designed for a specific type of wood, or for a specific purpose like boats, or to produce a specific effect like a satin or a high gloss finish.
- Gluing problems. Once the teak oil has been applied to a piece of wood, that wood becomes difficult to glue with anything else because of the hard layer that it forms.
- Color changes with time. Another disadvantage of teak oil is that it can affect the color of the wood and cause it to change over time. This usually depends on its composition or manufacturer.
- May not extend furniture's lifespan. Since each container of teak oil is different from the rest, it's impossible to determine if teak oil can actually extend the lifespan of wood.
Tips for Applying Teak Oil
Teak oil penetrates wood easily, so 3 coats are often enough. It's recommended to apply it on a dry and clean surface and to first test it on a small area before the full application. You can wipe it, spray it, brush it on wood, or use any other application method that you are comfortable with.
2. Tung Oil
Tung oil is obtained from the tung tree by pressing the seed inside its nut. 100% tung oil has a wet and almost plastic-like look. It is water-resistant and has found use in boat building by the Chinese for thousands of years.
It's difficult to use 100% pure tung oil in finishing woodwork because of its low-level of penetration. Most woodworkers will blend pure tung oil with a thinner like turpentine or mineral spirits before using it to finish wood.
Manufacturers are also offering tung oil finishes and tung oil varnishes for those who want things faster and easier. These tung oil finishes are usually a blend of a thinner, varnish, and oil. This oil might, or might also not be tung oil.
Tung oil produces a hard and polished wooden surface, which is non-toxic and therefore ideal for all kinds of furniture which deal with food, like vegetable bowls and cutting sheets.
- Waterproof. A properly applied coat of tung oil provides a thick layer of finish which waterproofs the wood. This makes the piece of furniture more durable and valuable.
- Rich natural appearance. Tung oil brings out the natural texture and grain of the wood, making it look better than with most other finishing options.
- Resistant to lots of other stuff. In addition to being waterproof, tung oil also protects wood from lots of other substances, such as acetone, alcohol, and fruit acids.
- Food safe. Tung oil is food safe, but remember that this only applies to 100% pure tung oil. Always check the label or buy the pure form if you are unsure.
- Flexible. Tung oil has the property of remaining flexible after it has cured. This is good news as it can continue to protect the wood while expanding and contracting with it.
- Lots of work. Given tung oil's low-speed of penetration, you'll have to apply it up to 8 times, plus you need to sand the surface before each application. This can present a lot of work for some people.
- Up to 24 hrs to dry. Tung oil needs a longer time to dry than teak oil. In general, it's recommended to let each coat dry for at least 24 hours before the next coating. Tung oil finishing is therefore not for those in a haste.
- Penetration problems with pure tung oil. 100% pure tung oil suffers from penetration issues, so it's hardly applied alone, but rather, mixed with a thinner.
- Pure tung oil is difficult to store. If you have 100% pure tung oil, then you'll have to check and control its temperature and exposure to light, because the wrong conditions can create gummy deposits which will spoil the entire oil.
Tips for Applying Tung Oil
In order to get the best results from tung oil, you should first clean the surface and make sure you use good quality tung oil. For best results, you can use 100% pure tung oil and thin it down by yourself. Allow at least 24 hours after each coat, before sanding and applying an extra coat. After applying 6 to 8 coats as needed, leave your work to cure properly for 15-30 days.
Making The Right Choice
Teak oil and tung oil both have their positive and their negative features in woodworking. Making the right choice between the two depends on the job that you have at hand. Here once again is an overview of their properties.
About 3 coats
6 coats or more
Average Drying Time
2 - 8 hours
Over 8 hours and up to a week
Ease of Penetration
Pure tung oil requires a thinner to penetrate woods
Can be toxic
As you can see, these two finishing oils may seem similar, but they have very different features. Teak oil is great for jobs where time is of the essence, while tung oil is perfect for masterpieces where looks are more important.
In most cases, teak oil will get the job done, so, it's a good idea to always have it around. If you plan on building a great piece though and you have enough time to invest in building it, then tung oil is most probably what you need.
Read More: Tung Oil vs. Danish Oil: Which Should You Buy?