Got myself into a bind: walnut and tung oil - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 19 Old 07-02-2016, 10:30 PM Thread Starter
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Got myself into a bind: walnut and tung oil

So someone talked me into using pure tung oil on a walnut bookcase headboard I built. It went on like a dream, bringing out the character of the wood like gangbusters...but then it wouldn't dry. Ever. I waited several weeks....still wet. Actually, it's still somewhat wet now in some places, a month and a half later.

I took a single part (the top piece) and added Briwax, as recommended by a guy at Woodcraft. I'm not liking what I'm seeing...it's accentuating the open pores in the wood, leaving almost a zebra speckling of white all across this particular board, while dulling the figure and leaving a blotchy finish.

Am I screwed here? What can I do to FINISH this headboard at this stage? It's driving me nuts, having the actual assembly done but not being able to USE the silly thing.

Attached is a pic after the tung oil but before the wax was added to the top. There's also a plywood backing piece that will wait until I get it up the stairs and in place.
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post #2 of 19 Old 07-02-2016, 11:38 PM
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I think the Briwax was a big mistake. It's difficult to get rid of even with paint stripper. I think you have two options, keep applying the Briwax or strip it off and do another finish. You could use steel wool with the Briwax to help it go on more uniform. The big problem with Briwax is it will always rub off on any cloth that rubs against it and stain the cloth. I've never experienced the problem you have been having with tung oil. My best guess is the can you got was old and not viable anymore. Even when tung oil is fresh it may take a week to dry. It's naturally slow drying. If you go back with tung oil the best way to tell if a coat is dry enough to recoat is to briskly rub the finish with a clean cloth and see if the tung oil smell rubs off onto the rag. When there is no smell it is ready. It's nothing like working with a varnish, you have to let each coat fully cure before adding another. If it were me I would strip it a couple times with paint and varnish remover and put old fashion varnish on it. Don't use polyurethane on it since it has had the wax on it. Polyurethane inherently has adhesion problems, even when conditions are good.
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post #3 of 19 Old 07-03-2016, 09:26 PM
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Always test your finish on scrap first.

Even at this point, test any modifications on scrap. So, put some Tung oil on scrap, and then try out various things.

You might just have to sand it down and start again, or at least remove as much tung oil as you can with steel wool or a scotchbrite pad.

Either way, don't guess at what will work, just test it first.
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post #4 of 19 Old 07-04-2016, 07:23 AM Thread Starter
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I've only put the Briwax on the top piece, which is not glued yet (most of the upper assembly is still just biscuited with no glue, to allow us to get it upstairs easier). I can always just remake the top piece, if necessary.

More importantly, what do you guys suggest for the rest of it, which now has two coats of tung oil? I can let it dry as long as necessary, but what to do from that point to complete the finish, since Briwax is not the way to go?

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post #5 of 19 Old 07-04-2016, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by st.ryder64 View Post
I've only put the Briwax on the top piece, which is not glued yet (most of the upper assembly is still just biscuited with no glue, to allow us to get it upstairs easier). I can always just remake the top piece, if necessary.

More importantly, what do you guys suggest for the rest of it, which now has two coats of tung oil? I can let it dry as long as necessary, but what to do from that point to complete the finish, since Briwax is not the way to go?
Generally it's best to continue with the finish you start with. A finish expands and contracts just like wood does and different finishes expand and contract at different rates so the long term effects of changing a finish is a gamble.

From where you are I would get a wax and grease remover and thoroughly clean the briwax off frequently changing rags. Then go back to using tung oil. Tung oil can have the same appearance as using polyurethane. It just takes more work. If the sheen puts you off with the tung oil you could add a flattening agent to the final coat to make it a satin finish.

I suspect tung oil was chosen due to ease of application. In reality had you bought a paint sprayer and a compressor and used a lacquer finish the project would have been done a long time ago. You could have sealed it and put two coats of finish on within three or four hours and been done. You don't have to have high dollar spray equipment with wood finishes and lacquer could easily be sprayed outdoors. Within a couple minutes the finish is dry to touch so any dust or bugs wouldn't get in it.
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post #6 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 08:01 AM Thread Starter
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Generally it's best to continue with the finish you start with. A finish expands and contracts just like wood does and different finishes expand and contract at different rates so the long term effects of changing a finish is a gamble.

From where you are I would get a wax and grease remover and thoroughly clean the briwax off frequently changing rags. Then go back to using tung oil. Tung oil can have the same appearance as using polyurethane. It just takes more work. If the sheen puts you off with the tung oil you could add a flattening agent to the final coat to make it a satin finish.

I suspect tung oil was chosen due to ease of application. In reality had you bought a paint sprayer and a compressor and used a lacquer finish the project would have been done a long time ago. You could have sealed it and put two coats of finish on within three or four hours and been done. You don't have to have high dollar spray equipment with wood finishes and lacquer could easily be sprayed outdoors. Within a couple minutes the finish is dry to touch so any dust or bugs wouldn't get in it.
Thanks for the reply, Steve. Your suggestions make sense...my only concern would be that the wood seems to get quite dull as the tung oil gets toward the final drying stage, almost acquiring an ashy tone. If I add more applications of tung oil, will this eventually stop happening or is this a cycle that will always occur?

Also, this is a headboard...if I will have to periodically add tung oil to keep the surface finished properly, it's going to be a problem since it would be very difficult to keep the pillows and sheets away for the months it's going to take to dry after each application.

David
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post #7 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by st.ryder64 View Post
Thanks for the reply, Steve. Your suggestions make sense...my only concern would be that the wood seems to get quite dull as the tung oil gets toward the final drying stage, almost acquiring an ashy tone. If I add more applications of tung oil, will this eventually stop happening or is this a cycle that will always occur?

Also, this is a headboard...if I will have to periodically add tung oil to keep the surface finished properly, it's going to be a problem since it would be very difficult to keep the pillows and sheets away for the months it's going to take to dry after each application.
You have to keep in mind that tung oil is a lot thinner and slower drying than a normal finish. It's getting dull and ashy looking because the wood is absorbing all of oil. Eventually the wood pores will seal and the oil will start drying on the surface. Tung oil will dry like a varnish so it will be unnecessary to re-apply if you get enough on to begin with. All you can do is keep applying the tung oil until you get the desired appearance and stop.
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post #8 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 08:40 AM Thread Starter
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You have to keep in mind that tung oil is a lot thinner and slower drying than a normal finish. It's getting dull and ashy looking because the wood is absorbing all of oil. Eventually the wood pores will seal and the oil will start drying on the surface. Tung oil will dry like a varnish so it will be unnecessary to re-apply if you get enough on to begin with. All you can do is keep applying the tung oil until you get the desired appearance and stop.
Thanks, Steve. Sounds like that's where I need to go then. I appreciate the quick response...now I can get started on the next couple months of drying time.

David
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post #9 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 09:02 AM
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Thanks, Steve. Sounds like that's where I need to go then. I appreciate the quick response...now I can get started on the next couple months of drying time.
Tung oil shouldn't take that long to dry. If it's taking longer than a day or two to dry to touch there is something wrong with the finish. It shouldn't take more than a week in warm weather for a coat of tung oil to fully cure.
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post #10 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 09:08 AM
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David, next time you want to make the grain pop, try boiled linseed oil (BLO). Like tung oil, BLO must not be thickly applied and left to dry. It should be liberally applied, allowed to be absorbed, and then, just before it begins to dry, wiped off thoroughly.

After the BLO dries it should be sealed with dewaxed shellac. Zinsser SealCoat works well, or you could make up your own shellac with flakes and denatured alcohol. Shellac is a universal sealant and allows you to use any top coat you want from oil-based varnish to lacquer to waterborne polyurethane, so long as it's not alcohol based.

I am working on a bed frame made of walnut and maple. I have applied the BLO and shellac so far and will finish with WB poly. This is a closeup of the headboard after applying the shellac:


Next, the shellac has to be sanded smooth and then the poly can be applied.

If you can get the Briwax off and get the tung oil to dry, you could seal the tung oil with shellac and then apply a tougher finish like poly so you won't be having to refinish in the future.

I have heard of using lacquer thinner to remove undried tung oil (I would test it first) but if it thins out the tung oil, it will give it a chance to completely dry.

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post #11 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 09:36 AM Thread Starter
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David, next time you want to make the grain pop, try boiled linseed oil (BLO). Like tung oil, BLO must not be thickly applied and left to dry. It should be liberally applied, allowed to be absorbed, and then, just before it begins to dry, wiped off thoroughly.

After the BLO dries it should be sealed with dewaxed shellac. Zinsser SealCoat works well, or you could make up your own shellac with flakes and denatured alcohol. Shellac is a universal sealant and allows you to use any top coat you want from oil-based varnish to lacquer to waterborne polyurethane, so long as it's not alcohol based.

I am working on a bed frame made of walnut and maple. I have applied the BLO and shellac so far and will finish with WB poly. This is a closeup of the headboard after applying the shellac:


Next, the shellac has to be sanded smooth and then the poly can be applied.

If you can get the Briwax off and get the tung oil to dry, you could seal the tung oil with shellac and then apply a tougher finish like poly so you won't be having to refinish in the future.

I have heard of using lacquer thinner to remove undried tung oil (I would test it first) but if it thins out the tung oil, it will give it a chance to completely dry.
Thanks, Steve. I'll go with BLO next time. As for the drying time of the tung oil, it's literally been 1.5 months since the last application (2nd coat) and I can still run my finger across the wood and come up with oil on my fingers. I wouldn't say I put it on sparingly, but I did wipe it with rags after application to get as much off as possible.

It's in my basement, which is cooler than the rest of the house, obviously...but my AC has been running since May so the humidity should be relatively low. Earlier someone mentioned that tung oil has a shelf life and older stuff won't dry worth a damn. That seems odd to me, for an 'oil' but I suppose that could be what's going on here.

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post #12 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 10:00 AM
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Thanks, Steve. I'll go with BLO next time. As for the drying time of the tung oil, it's literally been 1.5 months since the last application (2nd coat) and I can still run my finger across the wood and come up with oil on my fingers. I wouldn't say I put it on sparingly, but I did wipe it with rags after application to get as much off as possible.

It's in my basement, which is cooler than the rest of the house, obviously...but my AC has been running since May so the humidity should be relatively low. Earlier someone mentioned that tung oil has a shelf life and older stuff won't dry worth a damn. That seems odd to me, for an 'oil' but I suppose that could be what's going on here.
Yes, if the tung oil is old, that may be the problem. But my guess is it wasn't wiped off sufficiently. You almost have to buff it off before it dries.

But your biggest challenge right now is to remove the wax completely before doing anything else. If you don't get the wax off COMPLETELY, it will reek havoc on any coating you apply afterward. I avoid using wax specifically for that reason. If I need a mirror shine, I use French polishing to achieve it rather than wax.

I can't help you with how to remove the wax but maybe someone here can.

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post #13 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 10:37 AM
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Thanks, Steve. I'll go with BLO next time. As for the drying time of the tung oil, it's literally been 1.5 months since the last application (2nd coat) and I can still run my finger across the wood and come up with oil on my fingers. I wouldn't say I put it on sparingly, but I did wipe it with rags after application to get as much off as possible.

It's in my basement, which is cooler than the rest of the house, obviously...but my AC has been running since May so the humidity should be relatively low. Earlier someone mentioned that tung oil has a shelf life and older stuff won't dry worth a damn. That seems odd to me, for an 'oil' but I suppose that could be what's going on here.
Being in a basement might have added a day or two to the drying time but not six weeks. What I would do is wipe off the project with mineral spirits and if need be lacquer thinner and see if you can remove any of it that is still wet. Then purchase some fresh tung oil and apply some more. Even if you manage to get that stuff dry it's going to be a defective finish and will fail prematurely.
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post #14 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 10:55 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, if the tung oil is old, that may be the problem. But my guess is it wasn't wiped off sufficiently. You almost have to buff it off before it dries.

But your biggest challenge right now is to remove the wax completely before doing anything else. If you don't get the wax off COMPLETELY, it will reek havoc on any coating you apply afterward. I avoid using wax specifically for that reason. If I need a mirror shine, I use French polishing to achieve it rather than wax.

I can't help you with how to remove the wax but maybe someone here can.
Thanks, Julie (and I notice I mistakenly attributed the BLO tip to Steve rather than yourself, sorry). I'm considering just remaking the only piece with wax at this stage...might be easier than going to all that trouble. It's just a big rectangle with some edge routing, so it wouldn't take long.

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post #15 of 19 Old 07-05-2016, 08:34 PM
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Thanks, Julie (and I notice I mistakenly attributed the BLO tip to Steve rather than yourself, sorry). I'm considering just remaking the only piece with wax at this stage...might be easier than going to all that trouble. It's just a big rectangle with some edge routing, so it wouldn't take long.
That's a huge relief! I was thinking of all the work you would have ahead of you if you had to remove the wax from everything. The problem with wax is you never know if you got it all off until you try to apply a coating on top of it.

Maybe you can do some research on how to reduce the tung oil to the point it's almost gone. I looked into this further and read mineral spirits might work too. Again, I don't know. I last worked with tung oil over 20 years ago but abandoned it because I found BLO and shellac to be the better option.

Since you aren't trying to completely remove the tung oil, and all you need to do is get rid of the layer that won't cure, you may be able to "dial back" the coating chemically and move forward from there. I believe this will work.

If you like the grain pop, just coat it with dewaxed shellac and never look back. If you want more grain pop, stick with tung oil but rub it in vigorously and wipe it clean before applying dewaxed shellac. The idea is to let it soak in and then wipe it off (wet) like you would wax from your car. But don't wait for it to dry!

This is a guitar neck I did with BLO, dewaxed shellac and Behlen's instrument lacquer

The maple isn't bright white, like some like it, but the BLO certainly made it pop. Over time, the BLO and shellac will yellow somewhat but I doubt you will see that much with walnut.

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post #16 of 19 Old 07-06-2016, 08:51 AM Thread Starter
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That's a huge relief! I was thinking of all the work you would have ahead of you if you had to remove the wax from everything. The problem with wax is you never know if you got it all off until you try to apply a coating on top of it.

Maybe you can do some research on how to reduce the tung oil to the point it's almost gone. I looked into this further and read mineral spirits might work too. Again, I don't know. I last worked with tung oil over 20 years ago but abandoned it because I found BLO and shellac to be the better option.

Since you aren't trying to completely remove the tung oil, and all you need to do is get rid of the layer that won't cure, you may be able to "dial back" the coating chemically and move forward from there. I believe this will work.

If you like the grain pop, just coat it with dewaxed shellac and never look back. If you want more grain pop, stick with tung oil but rub it in vigorously and wipe it clean before applying dewaxed shellac. The idea is to let it soak in and then wipe it off (wet) like you would wax from your car. But don't wait for it to dry!

This is a guitar neck I did with BLO, dewaxed shellac and Behlen's instrument lacquer

The maple isn't bright white, like some like it, but the BLO certainly made it pop. Over time, the BLO and shellac will yellow somewhat but I doubt you will see that much with walnut.
That neck is gorgeous!

I did coat and then wipe off pretty vigorously. I only waited maybe 5-10 mins before wiping. But I did put it on heavy...maybe that's the problem. Do you have a recommendation for a dewaxed shellac product?

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post #17 of 19 Old 07-06-2016, 10:53 AM
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finishing walnut

These days most of my wood finishing is gunstocks. I use BLO to saturate wood, let it soak in a few hours then wipe it pretty dry before end of work day. Next day I saturate it again for most of the day and again wipe and dry over night. End grain that is exposed will require additional coats. Finish will have a dull splotchy appearance until rubbed with Howard's applied with fine synthetic steel wool. I can get anything from a military appearance to fine furniture appearance with this process. If dinged or scratched it is only necessary to sand the damaged area and repeat the process in the damaged area
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post #18 of 19 Old 07-06-2016, 11:23 AM
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Do you have a recommendation for a dewaxed shellac product?
Zinsser SealCoat is probably the easiest way to go. You could also buy shellac flakes and dissolve them in denatured alcohol but that takes time and you have to constantly shake the container to prevent the flakes from clumping as they dissolve. Shellac flakes come in many different tones like blonde, super blonde, amber, etc. When I want to keep the tint to its lowest I use super blonde.

As far as application, I find SealCoat to be easiest. The shellac I have mixed myself tends to dry very quickly when being applied. There's a learning curve as to how to apply it. SealCoat is pretty easy to apply.

But don't confuse it with this

This stuff has wax in it.

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Zinsser SealCoat is probably the easiest way to go. You could also buy shellac flakes and dissolve them in denatured alcohol but that takes time and you have to constantly shake the container to prevent the flakes from clumping as they dissolve. Shellac flakes come in many different tones like blonde, super blonde, amber, etc. When I want to keep the tint to its lowest I use super blonde.

As far as application, I find SealCoat to be easiest. The shellac I have mixed myself tends to dry very quickly when being applied. There's a learning curve as to how to apply it. SealCoat is pretty easy to apply.

But don't confuse it with this

This stuff has wax in it.

Interesting. I used the sanding SealCoat to pre-seal some birch shelves I made last year. It cut down on the blotchiness of the wood quite a bit when I added a gel stain.

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