Danish Oil vs. Tung Oil

Danish Oil vs. Tung Oil: Advantages and Disadvantages

After a lot of hours spent sanding wood, you want the wood to have a beautiful finish, but you are torn between whether to use Danish oil or tung oil. This article is aimed at helping you decide which oil you want to use to finish your woodwork.

Both these oil are wood finishing oil, but both oil function in different manners. Tung oil is a component used to make Danish oil. However, the addition of other materials makes Danish oil different in nature from tung oil.

Now, this article is aimed at helping you to decide which oil you want to use to finish your woodwork.

Let’s find out more about these oils!

Danish Oil

Danish oil is basically a mixture of various components such as tung oil or linseed oil, as well as a mixture of varnish, mineral spirits, etc. There is no fixed formula of Danish oil, and so it varies according to the manufacturer.

Danish-Oil

Now, Danish oil is usually applied over a bare surface of wood in the direction of the grain for better results. It penetrates the wood easily and dries faster due to its mixture of various components.

This oil is ideal for beginners, as its application is quite easy. It will protect your woodwork from scratches, damages done by chemical or heat, stains, etc., leaving behind a beautiful satiny finish.

Unlike other oils, Danish oil does not become yellow with age. If you have a particular shade in mind, you can simply mix various tints to get your desired shade, and then you can also use it as a sealer or primer. It is water-resistant and is durable as well.

Advantages of the Danish Oil

So in a nutshell, Danish oil has the following advantages:

Very Easy to Apply

It is perfect for you if you are a beginner or novice woodworker as you can just apply it on the bare surface of the wood without any hassle.  

Great Finish

It leaves behind a satiny yet hard finish.

Dries Faster than Tung Oil 

As Danish oil is diluted with other components, it does not take days or weeks to cure. And it needs fewer coats and curing time as well.

Waterproof

Water damages can ruin all your hard work, so make sure to pick up Danish oil that will leave a waterproof coating on your furniture.

Easily Penetrates Wood

It seeps into the wood faster than other oils such as Tung oil and so can be used on hardwoods such as cherry, oak, maple, ironwood, and mahogany.

Disadvantages of the Danish Oil

Unfortunately, Danish oil has quite a few disadvantages as well.

Not as Durable as Tung Oil

When you compare its durability to tung oil, this one doesn’t last long.

Not Ideal for Kitchen Bowls or Other Kitchen Wares

It is very difficult to know what chemical compounds are present in Danish oil. So it may be hazardous for health if it is used to make materials in which food is stored.

Spontaneous Combustion

One advantage of Danish oil is that it hardens as it comes into contact with air (if it consists of polymerized linseed oil). However, there is also a possibility of spontaneous combustion due to exothermic combustion.

So to avoid any danger, be careful and make sure to either let the rag used to apply Danish oil is placed flat to dry out or soaked thoroughly in water before discarding it.  

Frequent Maintenance Is Required

It needs maintenance more frequently than any other type of oil treatment.

Tung Oil

Tung oil has been in use for centuries; it was used by Chinese in building ships and was also mentioned by Confucius in about 400 BC in his writings. It is derived from nuts from tung trees that are indigenous to China, and so is also known as China wood oil.

Tung-Oil

As it is organic and all-natural, tung oil does not have any toxic elements. Tung oil provides the best waterproof coating amongst all oil treatments. It also provides a beautiful golden color to wood.

However, tung oil penetrates wood slowly as it is 100% oil, so it has to be thinned down with thinner or mineral spirits.

Tung oil forms a hard surface once cured; at the same time, it is water-proof, durable, and has a glossy finish that gives the wood a ‘wet’ look. Amongst all other oil treatments available, Tung oil is the only on that polymerizes (hardens) completely and does not darken as it ages and is less vulnerable to molds.

Advantages of the Tung Oil

Here are a few advantages of the tung oil:

Waterproof 

It is known for being waterproof and has been used for hundreds of years for its ability to make wood waterproof. Once it is properly applied and cured, your furniture will be safe from absorbing water.

Beautiful Color 

Tung oil leaves an all-natural transparent yet deep golden, wet look on the surface of the wood.

All-Natural 

As it is produced from nuts from the tung tree, it’s completely organic and good for the environment.

Elastic 

Tung oil hardens completely, but it also remains wonderfully elastic, and so contraction or expansion of wood does not affect the coating. Furthermore, it prevents cracking on the surface and increases the lifespan of the wood.

Offers a Hard Protective Layer 

As Tung oil polymerizes completely after it is cured, it leaves behind a very hard coating on the surface of the wood, and so keeps it safe from scratches, acidic components, dents, etc.

Safe for Kitchen 

Tung oil is safe to be used in making kitchen utensils as it is an all-natural and non-toxic product. However, there is a variety of tung oil in the market available, which is made thinner by adding chemicals, so be careful and read the label.

Disadvantages of the Tung Oil

Tung oil has disadvantages, as well. They are:

Penetration Isn’t Quick 

Greater amount of effort is necessary as pure tung oil penetrates wood very slowly. Unlike Danish oil, tung oil requires 6 or more coats to stain the wood properly. Also, because of its slow penetration of the wood, sanding before every application of tung oil is required.  

Lengthy Process 

It takes a long time to cure woods coated with Tung oil properly. You need to wait 24 or more hours for the wood to cure properly before you can apply another coating of tung oil.

Isn’t Easy to Store 

Tung oil is difficult to store as you need to keep it away from a lot of heat and light. But this applies only for tung oil that is 100% natural, not those that have been mixed with thinners.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, what type of oil you want to use depends on the time and effort you are willing to put in your woodwork.

If it is a masterpiece and you have a lot of time, you can go for Tung oil as it is known for its color and durability. But if you are short on time, you can go for Danish oil as it cures faster and it is easier to use.

56 thoughts on “Danish Oil vs. Tung Oil: Advantages and Disadvantages”

  1. Thank you having never dabbled in wood oils it is useful to have some knowledge at hand.
    I am going to use Tung oil but I do have existing wood which has had Danish oil used can I re coat with Tung oil?

  2. Hello, I hope you can help me.
    After sanding back to bare pine wood I applied 3 coats of Ikea mineral oil to my table (which gets a lot of wear every day). After 4 months use it is starting to show cup ring marks etc. and needs to be oiled again Can I apply Tung oil on top or should I continue with the mineral oil.

  3. Excellent article! I have an annexe clad with oak barge boards so not in a position to sand these. I have been using Danish Oil so far, but appreciate that Tung oil has greater water proofing qualities. Access is an issue, so repeated coats for Tung Oil would be difficult. Once a year retreatment with Danish oil is amore attractive proposition. So would you recommend Danish or Tung for these?

  4. Fabulous article, great info. Thank you. So, for my son’s bar top in his garden shed pub, using big slab of oak, go with tung oil? Would a suggested approach be mix with white spirit for first two coats, wiping off excess after 15 mins, leaving to dry 24 hours in between each coat, flatting back with 0000 before each coat, repeat each day for 5 days using more oil in each subsequent coat?

  5. I personally prefer tung oil for the reasons stated. Less smell, harder surface, and color darkening. Love it!!

  6. I have a chainsaw redwood bear that has not been worked on to preserve it for years. Would Danish oil or Tung oil work to refinish it?

    1. If you want to put the time and effort it takes to apply Tung Oil, this would be our choice. If not, it is easier and faster to apply Danish oil.

  7. Very informative article, thank you.
    How much prep work is needed for one oil vs the other, before reapplication in subsequent years, when the furniture needs a freshening up?

  8. I have beautiful hardwood kitchen countertops in a cabin and I’ve done several coats of mineral oil. Is it possible to put tung oil over top of that? Would I have to sand it first? (I wish I’d known to do tung oil from the begining.)

  9. Thanks for the article. Very informative. You say Tung oil absorbs slowly on hard woods. I am making a cheese board from well seasoned oak (150 years + old, from a Victorian Bank door) Tung oil is, you say, safe for food utensils but is the oak going to be to hard and non absorbent for Tung Oil? I have all the time in the world.

    Adrian Caro

    1. Sorry for the late reply, I missed your question somehow. Yes, the oak is a very hard wood but I have heard of some colleagues that had good luck with it, it took a month or more to absorb. I have never tried it myself but I say you give it a try and be patient.

  10. Hi, great article. I do wood burning. If I apply this and sand off to apply again, can I still wood burn on it to touch up spots that have been sanded?

  11. Dear Ronald,
    You answered the question posted after my question of 25 October but do not appear to have answered mine. Can you help.
    Adrian

  12. I have some recycled mati furniture including a main tallboy and bedside cabinets I will be sanding them down completely using up to 400 to 600 this was built for me some 14 years ago. Am I best to use tung oil ( 100 % tung oil ) first and then a antiquax wax polish. What are your recommendations,
    Thanking you
    Rod

    1. My recommendation would be to avoid waxing it for at least some days. Tung oil cures in 2 to 3 days, but it takes over 3 to 4 weeks to cure completely. A wax coating will slow this process. So, it is better to let it cure. After about a month it’s safe to put wax on it.

      1. In regards to waxing over pure tung oil would I be better to poly for a higher and cleaner gloss instead as the wax may leave finger prints

  13. Dear Ronald,
    Thank you for your mail. I cant find your response, please could I trouble you to repeat it.
    It may be my incompetence being over 80!

    John

    1. Hello Dr John Caro,

      Sure, no problem. Following is my answer to your question:

      Yes, the oak is a very hard wood but I have heard of some colleagues that had good luck with it, it took a month or more to absorb. I have never tried it myself but I say you give it a try and be patient.

  14. Hello,

    Can tung oil be added to a walnut end grain cutting board after it has been treated with mineral oil and bees wax?

    Mike

  15. Thanks for this wonderful article. I have a sculpture that was waxed and oiled by the artist aproximately 20 years ago. I would like to put a coat of oil to ensure that it is still sealed. I do not know if tong or danish oil was used. I am not able to sand it as I don’t want to loose any detail. What do you advise?

    1. You will have to clean it pretty thoroughly and sand it to remove the wax and oil before applying the new finish. It is a delicate work to avoid loosing any detail.

  16. I just sanded 100 year old maple floors. I used36, 50 grit, then 60. Should I do 100 grit.? Also the floor seems very warm,honey tones by itself. I’m thinking I don’t want it any more golden. Should I use Danish oil or just water based polyurethane?

  17. Hi Ronald,
    We have an intricate stair railing made out of poplar and Ive been looking to keep the color as close to natural as possible.
    Any suggestions on danish or Tung oil? Ive been drawn to using those so I am a beginner stainer.

    1. I normally use the following ratios:

      First Coat – 70% (7 Parts Solvent to 3 Parts Tung Oil)
      Second Coat – 55% (51/2 Parts Solvent to 41/2 Parts Tung Oil)
      Third Coat – 40% (4 Parts Solvent to 6 Parts Tung Oil)
      Fourth Coat – 25% (1 Part Solvent to 3 Part Tung Oil)
      Remaining Coats – 0% (No Solvent)

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