Linseed Oil vs Tung Oil: What’s the Difference?

If you have just finished on your wood project, chances are you may now be looking at what finish is best to wrap up your craft. There are a lot of finishing types and techniques that you can apply on your project that will give it a more aesthetic appeal and at the same time, make it more durable and lasting. In this particular article however, we will be looking closely at boiled linseed oil and tung oil.

To decide which one you’d rather use on your wood project, we will touch on the advantages and disadvantages of each oil. We will also discuss what circumstances these oils will work best on. First, let’s see the characteristics of each oil in detail.

What is Linseed Oil?

Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, is among the more popular options when it comes to wood finishes. This is not a surprise since linseed oil, not only makes your wood prettier, it also gives it an added layer of protection against humidity and scratches. Perhaps the most distinct character that the linseed oil gives your woodcraft is its satin finish.

Linseed oil is sold in two types. One is the raw version which takes longer, even weeks, to fully cure. If time is not an issue to you, you may opt for this version. The other one is the boiled linseed oil. While it is not actually boiled as the name suggests, this type has additives and chemicals that make it easier to dry. This is best to use if time is of the essence.

Linseed Oil Advantages

To help you decide better, let’s dive into the details of what sets linseed oil apart from the rest.

Aesthetic Finish

The best thing about linseed oil is that it brings out the natural colors of the wood and gives it a brighter color. If you are using a dark type of wood, using linseed oil will make the wood’s own color to appear more vividly. If your wood is on the lighter scale, it will give it a yellowish tint. If that is something you fancy, then linseed is probably the one for you.

Easy Application

Linseed oil is also very easy to use and you’ll get the finish that you want in just a few applications. You don’t need multiple applications to achieve the color and look that you desire. Even as little as two or three applications and you are good to go.

Fast Drying

This one applies specifically to the “boiled” version of linseed oil. As previously mentioned, the boiled one is mixed with additives that make it easier to dry out. It dries as much as 10 times faster that raw linseed oil. Using this version can be fully cured in just a day.

Adaptable And Universal

One of the best characteristics of the linseed oil is that it is a universal finish. You can apply it to any kind of wood and still get that amazing satin finish. It improves whatever color and texture your wood material has. Aside from the beautiful finish, it can also make your wood more durable and also works well as a paint binder.

Linseed Oil Disadvantages

While linseed oil is a really great finish to go with, it also has a few weaknesses that you ought to know about before going with it. Here are the major ones:

Best For Indoor Use

While the linseed oil offers a layer of protection to your wood project, it is not that sturdy to be constantly exposed to natural elements. Since this oil does not have chemicals added to it, it may not be as durable when it is always in contact with water or snow. So if you are working on a porch or any outdoor furniture, better look for more suitable finishes.

The Yellow Tint Fades Over Time

The bright tint that linseed oil gives the wood can only last for a few months. Over time, that yellow tint fades to a darker, orangish tone that not everyone is fond of.

Long Curing Time

This particularly applies to the raw version of linseed oil. Since it has no chemicals added whatsoever, it requires a longer curing time. It may take even a week to fully cure which doesn’t make it ideal if you are pressed for time.

What is Tung Oil?

Just like the linseed oil, tung oil is also extracted from seeds. In earlier times, the tung oil is used to make ships more durable and waterproof against sea water. Apart from the very effective protection that it gives the wood, it gives the wood a very shiny finish. In fact if you apply a few more coats, the wood can look almost like plastic because of the shine it has.

Tung Oil Advantages

No doubt that tung oil is also a good choice when you are looking for something to improve your woodwork. Let me tell you why:

Amazing Waterproof Quality

If your project is anything outdoor, tung oil is one of the best options out there. As mentioned, it was used to coat wooden ships to make it more durable against the waves of the sea. If it was effective for that purpose, it will absolutely impress you if you are just facing it against rain or snow.

Fast Drying

Unlike linseed, tung has a fast-drying quality even without any additives. In fact, this wood finish can effectively dry in just a few hours and the wood can be fully cured in less than a day.

Honey Coated Finish

Using tung oil gives the wood a very beautiful, translucent finish. It has a light yellow tone that makes the wood look like it’s coated in honey. This yellow tone makes the color of the wood brighter regardless if the color is dark or light.

Tung Oil Disadvantages

While the tung oil has some very amazing qualities, it is not without flaws. Here are some disadvantages you need to know before you use it.

More Applications

While the linseed oil can deliver a great finish in just a couple of applications, tung oil is different. To get a really good coat, you’ll have to apply at least 5 coats. It also needs more sanding if you want to get an impressive finish.

Quite Pricey

Tung oil gives extra ordinary protection to wood against natural elements and thus, it doesn’t come cheap. Since the production of tung oil is also a bit more challenging, it is quite expensive.

Linseed Oil Vs. Tung Oil

To give you a better comparison, here are some key characteristics of each oil that you have to keep in mind:

  • Linseed has a brighter, yellowish tint while the tung oil dries to a light honey color
  • Tung oil gives a sturdier protection to wood especially for projects that will have plenty of exposure to natural elements like rain, sunlight, and snow
  • Tung oil has better waterproof qualities that linseed oil
  • When raw versions are compared, tung oil dries faster
  • Tung oil is significantly more expensive that linseed oil

Final Thoughts

Either of the mentioned wood finishes will give your woodwork a beautiful finish. You only need to consider two things to really decide: that is where your craft will be placed and how much are you willing to spend. If the quality and durability is more important to you and money is not a concern, then go with tung oil. However, if you are working on a budget, linseed oil will give beautiful results without breaking the bank.

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