Tung oil seals and protects wood from various elements. It provides topnotch water resistance and a layer of defense against decay. However, tung oil takes a very long time to dry. This is a big hassle if you’re working on multiple coats or if you have a tight deadline for a project. To help you out, I discussed here some ways on how to make tung oil dry faster.
An overview on tung oil
Tung oil is a natural and efficient wood finish. It’s been in use for hundreds of years in sealing wood for various purposes. Unlike other oil stains, tung oil doesn’t harm the wood, and it’s also food-safe. This is the reason why tung oil is used on tabletops and other wood items where food is prepared.
Woodworkers also know that tung oil takes a very long time to cure and dry. This is because tung oil works best in warm and dry weather. If your place is located in a humid and damp area, tung oil will take much longer to settle on the wood.
Aside from that, the type of wood you’re using will also affect the tung oil drying period. For example, fine-grained wood like maple and cherry also takes longer to absorb oil stains longer than other materials.
Despite this characteristic, proper technique and application will let you speed up tung oil drying. Below, I discussed some tips that you can apply to your projects.
How to dry tung oil faster
If your tung oil is taking forever to dry, here are some tips you can try:
1. Don’t make each coat too thick
As much as you want to seal and protect the wood, you should only apply a thin coat of tung oil each time. Avoid pools of oil or a very drippy coat. This will take too long to dry, not to mention that the surface will feel tacky.
Apply the tung oil using a brush or cloth. After that, wipe the excess with a separate clean rag. Let the first layer before applying another coat, which should also be thin in consistency.
2. Dilute your tung oil
Tung oil is thick, and it gets really sticky during the drying process, making it hard to dry. You can use mineral spirits, turpentine, and other choices of thinner for this purpose.
Feel free to dilute tung oil in a 1:1 ratio. Stir it well and make sure that the thinner and oil are mixed properly. Take note that having an inconsistent mix of thinner and oil will lead to a blotchy result.
Even if the tung oil is diluted, you should still apply it in thin coats. Based on my experience, diluted oil stains only take half the time to dry compared to their pure version. Nevertheless, other factors like humidity will also affect the process.
3. Place the workpiece in a dry and warm place.
Once you’re done applying tung oil to the wood, you should place it in a dry and warm place. You can choose between air drying and heating, whichever you find suitable.
With air drying, you just let ventilation do the job. However, make sure that there’s a constant breeze that will help dry up the oil. Also, don’t worry about having dust on the surface of the coating since you can sand it once the layer is dry.
Meanwhile, you can also heat-dry your tung oil-treated wood. You can use a hair blower in a high heat setting or an industrial-grade drying tool.
If you don’t have any of these, you can utilize direct sunlight for at least three hours. However, this isn’t possible if it’s snowing or raining in your area.
However, make sure that you control the heat control as too much can burn the surface of the wood.
4. Run a dehumidifier
If you’re working indoors, you can place your tung oil-covered wood inside a room with a dehumidifier on. As the opposite of humidifiers, dehumidifiers will remove excess moisture in the air, which will speed up the drying of your stain.
However, you should remove items like electronic devices, plants, and other things that will react harshly to very dry air. Most importantly, you shouldn’t let pets and other people stay inside the room.
5. Use a quick-drying tung oil.
If you’re keen to dry up the stain as fast as possible, you should use a quick-drying tung oil product. Many manufacturers have produced such a blend that cuts drying time by half or more.
How long does it take for tung oil to dry?
Tung oil usually takes two to three days to dry fully. Meanwhile, a full cure may stretch up to 15 days, depending on the number of coating and tung oil products you used.
If you want fast-drying wood treatments, you should consider the likes of varnishes, lacquers, and so on. However, with tung oil, you need to be patient, and you should plan your project ahead to have enough time for the drying process.
How do you know when tung oil is dry?
Your tung oil coat will be dry once it has hardened into the wood material. This can take anywhere from 24 hours to a couple of days.
However, there are times when tung oil becomes tacky despite the long drying time. This can be due to a lot of things, including applying a very thick coat.
Does heat help tung oil dry?
Heat will help speed up the drying of tung oil stains. You can literally use hot hair blowers and industrial-grade heaters to dry the oil faster. This is very helpful for woodworkers with multiple projects.
However, you should practice caution when using heat as too much can damage the wood you’re working on. Always test on a spare piece of wood to prevent ruining your work.
Is tung oil tacky?
Similar to linseed oil, tung oil is tacky and will get even stickier and gummier when exposed to air. If you don’t seal the container properly, the oil will start to polymerize. When that happens, you will have to thin the oil before applying it to the wood.
This characteristic makes tung oil quite challenging to apply on wood. Still, there’s a workaround to achieve good results.
Is tung oil flammable after it dries?
Tung oil isn’t really flammable. However, since many woodworkers add solvents to thin it, it becomes combustible. In some cases, tung oil with thinners will start accidental combustion when not handled well.
For example, rags used in applying tung oil can catch fire if left still wet near intense heat. This is why you should always dispose of tung oil rags properly. Soak it in water first or let it dry fully before putting it in the trash can.
Can I place epoxy over tung oil?
It’s possible to apply epoxy on top of a tung oil coating. Make sure that your sand the tung oil coating slightly once it’s dry. This will remove rough surfaces and nibs that would affect the adhesion of the epoxy layer.
You can actually use epoxy to fill cracks after sealing the wood with tung oil. You can use clear epoxy or the color that matches the stain. However, you should wash the cracks with acetone to get rid of some dried oil. Warming the area will also help before putting epoxy on it.
If you’re thinking of putting epoxy on the entire wood slab. Make sure that the tung oil is fully dried and polymerized so that the epoxy will adhere well.
Knowing how to make tung oil dry faster will speed up the progress of your project. It will also save you from the guesswork and endless waiting time just for the stain to dry. Just make sure that you test these methods on spare wood pieces first to see if you’ll like the results.
Do you have other tips to add here? Let us know below!