Can You Use Tung Oil on Maple Wood?

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Maple wood stands out as a resilient and adaptable hardwood, celebrated for its distinctive grain patterns and exquisite coloration. Yet, the application of an inappropriate oil finish can lead to the unfortunate compromise of its inherent beauty.

With this in mind, I’ve meticulously crafted a comprehensive guide centered on the utilization of tung oil for maple wood. Continue reading to unlock the secrets to both safeguarding and maximizing the aesthetic appeal of your maple wood items.

Is it Recommended to Use Tung on Maple Wood?

Yes, I highly recommend using tung oil on your maple wood, especially on wood furniture that you want to stand out. Tung oil can enhance the natural color, grains, and patterns of maple wood, giving it a warm and lustrous glow.

Most importantly, tung oil can give optimum protection to your maple wood. It can penetrate the maple’s dense fibers to create a hard, durable, and water-resistant finish.

Besides, it easily seeps into the pores of the wood and cures quicker, resulting in a protective layer that seals the maple surface.

tung oil on maple wood

This layer helps to prevent moisture and water from penetrating the maple wood, which can cause cracking, warping, and other damage. Tung oil provides a barrier against scratches and protects your maple wood from everyday wear and tear.

Additionally, it is a natural oil resistant to mold, mildew, and other types of fungi, making it ideal for your maple wood outdoors. Overall, tung is an excellent choice for protecting and preserving maple wood in various applications.

Using Tung On Maple Wood: Key Advantages

Most woodworkers prefer to use tung on maple-made wooden surfaces for many reasons. Below are some of the benefits of coating maple with tung:

How Should You Apply Tung on Maple Lumber?

Tung oil has excellent penetration properties, so it works well with maple wood. However, you must follow the proper procedure and use high-quality tung oil, so you can achieve a durable and smooth finish.

applying tung oil on maple wood

Below are the steps you can follow to apply tung oil on maple wood:

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Step #1: Prepare Your Maple Wood Surface

It is important to prepare the maple wood surface before applying tung oil. This is because maple wood has a very dense characteristic, making it difficult for the oil to penetrate the wood.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the presence of debris, dirt, and various contaminants can impede the proper and uniform penetration of tung oil.

Sanding the maple surface will help to remove any rough spots or imperfections on the wood surface and open the wood pores to allow the tung oil to penetrate more deeply.

preparing maple wood

To prepare the maple wood surface, you should start by sanding the wood with progressively finer sandpaper until you achieve a smooth and even surface. You must initially use sandpaper with 120-grit, then use 150-grit.

You can also wet sand the maple surface using 220-grit sandpaper. But I only recommend this once you smoothen enough the surface. Spray water on the surface or soak the sandpaper in water.

Sand gently along the grains’ direction, and don’t apply excessive pressure to avoid damaging the maple wood surface. After sanding, use a clean tack cloth to clean the wood surface thoroughly. Ensure to remove any dust, debris, and sanding residue from the surface.

Step #2: Thin Tung Oil Using Mineral Spirit

Tung oil can go bad, quite thick, and viscous, making it difficult to apply evenly and smoothly to a wood surface. To make tung oil easier to apply, thin it with a solvent such as mineral spirits.

tung oil with mineral spirits

Thinning your tung oil using mineral spirits helps to reduce its viscosity, making it easier to apply. This will also help tung oil to penetrate more deeply into the wood fibers. To thin your tung oil using mineral spirits, you may follow the steps below:

1. Use high-quality products

You must choose the right type of mineral spirits. You should pick only pure or genuine mineral spirits. When buying thinner, you must look for the labels “paint thinner” or “mineral turpentine.”

Do not use the mineral spirits usually labeled as “odorless” and “low odor” since they do not blend well with tung oil.

2. Work in a well-ventilated workspace

Ensure to prepare your work area before starting to mix solvents, as they contain harmful chemicals. Wear protective gloves, goggles, and a mask.

3. Measure the correct amount ratio

Get a measuring cup and pour the needed Tung oil for your first coat. Transfer the amount to a bigger container like a plastic cup or glass jar. Measure the same quantity of mineral spirits and add it to the container.

tung oil and mineral spirits process

4. Mix the solvent well

Ensure to mix the tung oil and mineral spirits thoroughly using a stirrer. Depending on the quality of your thinner, you may need to adjust the ratio to achieve the consistency that you need for your project.

5. Test the mixture’s consistency

Before you apply the thinned oil on the maple surface, you must first test it on a small hidden area of the wood to determine if it’s the right finish you want to achieve. You may adjust the mixture’s ratio as necessary.

Step #3: Apply the First Oil Coat

Use the soft-bristled paintbrush or clean tack cloth to apply the first coat of tung oil. Soak it thoroughly into the mixture, then gently scrub it on the maple wood surface.

You must apply a generous amount of tung oil along the wood grains direction, ensuring it covers the entire surface, even the nooks, and crannies. Do not apply too much pressure on the maple surface to avoid brush marks or scratches.

Work in small sections and blend each section’s edges to avoid any visible seams and excess tung oil on the maple surface. Let the tung oil stay for 30 minutes before you wipe it with a clean cloth to remove the drips and bubbles.

applying tung oil on maple

Step #4: Let the Wood Dry and Sand Lightly

Allow the first coat to completely dry for at least six hours before applying the subsequent coats. Generally, tung oil dries faster, but you should let it cure fully to avoid a tacky surface.

Once the maple surface has dried and cured completely, you must lightly sand the surface using fine sandpaper with 320 grit, or you can also use an abrasive pad.

This will remove brush marks, drips, nibs, runs, and uneven strokes on the surface, helping you achieve a smoother and flawless finish. Also, if you sand between tung oil layers, it will create stronger bonds and help the next coat adheres properly.

Once you’ve sanded the surface, wipe the dust and debris using a clean tack cloth. Ensure that the surface is clean before moving to the next step.

Step #5: Apply More Coats/Layers As Needed

Proceed to apply the subsequent layer of tung oil on the maple wood. You must not thin the tung oil for the second coat since the first coat already prepared the maple surface to receive additional layers of finish.

apply more coats

The unthinned tung oil for the second coat can fully penetrate the wood fibers, resulting in a stronger and more durable finish. Follow the same application procedure as what you did on the first coat.

You can apply up to five layers of tung oil on your maple surface depending on the quality of the product you used and the finish you want to achieve. But here are some important things you must keep in mind when applying the subsequent layers of tung oil:

Step #6: Dry and Cure the Oil

Each layer of tung oil requires at least six hours of drying time. But leave it for one day or overnight for optimum results. It’s important to let the surface completely cure to avoid an uneven and blotchy finish.

drying oil overnight

For the final layer of tung oil, let it cure for 14 days to make it more durable. This will also allow the tung oil to bring out the beautiful color of the maple wood, making it appear richer and more vibrant.

Can You Darken Maple with Tung?

Tung oil will not darken the maple wood, but you can use the dark tung oil available in the market if you want a darker finish. Generally, pure tung oil does not alter the color of maple wood. Instead, it provides a clear finish that brings out the natural color of the wood.

How Many Coats of Tung Oil Do You Need?

You need at least four layers of tung oil to fully protect your maple wood from water, moisture, insects, and other harsh elements. For exterior applications, you need at least five coats as they are more exposed to weather variations and are more prone to rot and decay.

applying more coats as needed

Is Tung Oil Prone to Yellowing?

No, tung oil is not prone to yellowing. In fact, it will not cause discoloration of your maple wood and will not turn it yellow even after many years of application. This is why it’s ideal for your maple furniture and other decorative wood pieces that you want to retain the natural color.

The Best Oils for Maple Wood

Maple wood looks best with a clear oil finish like tung oil and linseed oil. They are durable but can be susceptible to moisture and water damage.

So, it’s recommended applying an extra coat of shellac, polyurethane, or lacquer to waterproof your maple wood pieces. Below are some of the top brands of oils that you can use on your maple wood:

Minwax 70050 Espresso Wood Finish Oil-Based Wood Stain

How About Danish Oil? Does it Work on Maple Too?

Danish oil is not natural but a mixture of varnish, oil, and mineral spirits. Although you can use tung oil to make a Danish oil mixture, some synthetic resins can darken your maple wood and alter its natural beauty. 

You can use Danish oil on maple, but there are important things to consider. 

How Long Does Tung Oil Last on Maple? Will it Dry Hard?

Tung oil can last up to 10 years on maple wood, especially if you put a top coat like shellac or lacquer. Truly, tung oil is a very durable finish, but it does not dry into a solid hard finish. Rather, it cures into a clear hard coat.

Do You Need to Sand Between Coats of Tung Oil?

Yes, you need to sand between layers of tung oil to ensure that each subsequent layer can penetrate deeper into the wood fibers, providing better protection to the wood. Also, this will remove any rough spots or raised grain, which can result in blotchy or uneven areas.

sanding and refinishing

FAQ

Is tung oil better than linseed oil on maple?

Yes, tung oil is better than linseed oil on maple [1] because it does not darken or alter the color of the wood. Unlike linseed oil, tung oil only enhances the color of maple but retains its natural beauty.

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Conclusion

Opting for tung oil as a finish for maple wood proves to be a stellar choice in preserving and augmenting its inherent allure. This method bestows a robust and enduring sheen, effectively highlighting the maple’s singular patterns and vibrant hue.

By selecting a top-tier tung oil and adhering to the detailed application guidelines outlined in this post, you can confidently secure a long-lasting, attractive appearance for your maple wood, ensuring its beauty endures through the years.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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