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I have been seeing some contested information about which oil I should use between the two. I found several sites with verbage like this one from CanadianWoodworking

So I started researching and found that the information available about tung oil was often incorrect, conflicting, and/or misleading. Let’s examine and debunk some of the myths.

Later in that article there is a comparison table for Tung and Boiled Linseed.

General consensus is that Tung Oil is more expensive. Aside from financial aspect what are (if any) functional differences that I should consider when deciding between these 2 oils.

A specific aspect I would like to hear about is the difference in finished appearance and the difference over time.

  • Are the claims coming from manufacturers, authorities on finishing, or from forums? Would you mind adding references to some of the conflicting claims? – rob Apr 14 '15 at 19:50
  • @rob Most of the sites that I where I was reading about it kept referring to misleading information themselves. Like tung and boiled linseed have been in this big battle all this time I was not aware of. I added one such "reference" that I found. – Matt Apr 15 '15 at 13:48
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Some of the contested information is probably due to manufacturers and woodworkers alike misusing the term 'tung oil' when what they mean is some combination of tung oil and another solvent and/or finish.

Generally, pure tung oil isn't a great finish on it's own- it doesn't entirely harden, it takes a long time to not be a sticky mess, and it has to be refreshed fairly regularly.

That being said, boiled linseed oil (often shortened to 'BLO') is similar, except that it takes a shorter time to cure/dry. I've had good luck combining BLO with sanding sealer and denatured alcohol to make my own wiping finish.

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  • +1 for the BLO reference ... made me laugh (hopefully for an obvious reason, lol). – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 14 '15 at 20:50
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I don't think you'd notice much, or perhaps any, difference in the finished appearance switching from BLO to tung oil.

This is partly going on general principles, where oils of similar types tend to give similar finish, and partly based on photos of pieces finished in both that I've seen. There's no basic difference that I can perceive. There could of course be a slight difference in colouring but only a direct comparison would highlight this, with wood varying naturally anyway.

And as a natural product each oil could vary in colour from maker to maker to begin with.

A specific aspect I would like to hear about is the difference in finished appearance and the difference over time.

Obviously you're asking about ageing characteristics here but this is going to partly depend on the wood it is applied to as well as the finishing regimen used (scraped finish or sanded, final grit used, number of coats applied, how much buffing was done and so on).

These variables may have as much to do with differences in reported performance as the different qualities of the oils themselves.

The main practical difference concerning application is that it takes more coats of tung oil to achieve the same surface gloss as fewer coats of BLO will give (source: Bob Flexner). So it's possible that some of the improved performance accorded to pieces finished with tung oil are due to a higher number of coats, not to the material itself being superior. I'm theorising here, I don't know. I have read numerous times that tung oil is more weather-resistant than BLO I've never read any actual data, and without it I don't believe we can trust that information.

Note: saying tung oil may also be a bit too general. Other than pure, "raw" tung oil there are some modified versions (partially polymerised to improve drying time). Additionally care must be taken to distinguish between actual tung oils and a "tung oil finish" which may contain no tung oil at all; in fact these can be little different to products sold under the name Danish oil (that is: a blend of oil with resin or varnish, with additional spirits).

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I've used both BLO and Tung Oil. I prefer Tung Oil because its adds a warmth to the wood that BLO does not. I find BLO tends to make the wood look a little muted (at least on Walnut).

When I get home, I can take a picture of BLO and Tung Oil side by side. In the mean time, you might want to check out Bob Flexner's book. As I recall, he compares the two side-by-side on several different species. If I remember right, he concludes that BLO tends to darken more than Tung Oil (but TO adds warmth that BLO does not).

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The biggest difference in aging between the two you'll find is that BLO will darken over time, whereas pure tung oil won't.

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  • All oils of vegetable origin used in finishing discolour to some extent because they share some common elements, e.g. linoleic & oleic acids. – Graphus Jun 29 '17 at 21:51
  • From practical standpoint, the difference the guy is going to see is that BLO darkens to visibly larger extent than tung, which is the point of the question asked. – Dr.U Jul 3 '17 at 5:42
  • But your Answer says plainly tung oil won't darken over time, not that it will do so less. – Graphus Jul 3 '17 at 6:24

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