Thursday, April 7, 2016

Accentuate the Natural Beauty of the Wood

Formby's Low Gloss Tung Oil Finish

The project I'd (finally) completed was small, and I'd made an unusual choice of woods: half clean, yellow-blond poplar and the other half handsome, chocolaty walnut. The choice of woods – in particular the colors --  was the point of the piece, so when it came time for finishing I wanted something that would accentuate the wood's texture without overpowering its natural colors. My Dad liked tung oil for subtle finishes, so I followed his lead by choosing some Formby's Traditional Tung Oil Finish. Although Formby's is now a member of the MinWax family, Homer's bespectacled face still decorates the label and, according to MinWax, the formula is unchanged.

The low-gloss formula I used is 70% aliphatic hydrocarbons (i.e., mineral spirits), and the rest is a proprietary mixture of oils and resins of tung oil, pressed from the nuts of a tree native to east Asia. Formby's Tung Oil is intended for use as a hand-rubbed finish, applied with lint-free cloth in a circular motion, much like waxing a car. After the finish dries -- some twelve hours, unless the humidity is high -- you apply another coat. I prefer to soften the grain with a light application of steel wool between coats. Repeat until the finish is satisfactory.