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I have a couple of questions regarding varnishes:

Can anyone name some varnishes that contain tung oil so I can see what is available to me locally?

Is there such a thing as a urethane or polyurethane that contains tung or is it only non-poly spar varnishes that contain tung oil?  (Mike Mihalas)

    Check out Formby's Tung Oil Finish  (Adam Vigil)

    General Finishes has been making what they advertise as a tung oil/urethane finish brand named  "ARM-R-SEAL".  It's available in gloss if you look for it.  (Jim Uzterath)

    ACE hardware sells a tung oil based spar varnish that has worked very well for me over the years. It took me a long time to get any of the makers to reveal what they used as an oil base so I was very happy when I could know for certain that I would not be mixing my oils.  (Rick Taupier)

      I, too, have had some success with the ACE brand spar varnish, but found a strong tendency for the varnish to pull towards the corners of the hexagon when removing the rod from the dip tube.  Have you encountered that difficulty, and if so, have you managed to overcome it?  I really like the dark tint of the varnish, and the way it polishes easily, but the above mentioned problem has prompted me to seek something else for my final finish.  (Harry Boyd)

    Tung Oil Varnish.  Waterlox, Man-O-War, and in my opinion the best,  Pratt & Lambert #61.  (Marty DeSapio)

    Is there a good reason for not "mixing oils?"  I had not heard that mixing tung and linseed (for instance) would create a problem.  They have somewhat different properties, to be sure, but are they in any way incompatible?  Or is it just a preference thing that you are speaking of?  (Bill Harms)

    Waterlox finishes.  You can buy the stuff right from their web page.  (Brian Creek)


This is embarrassing, but I have gotten myself into a sticky situation -- literally and figuratively. I was experimenting with Tung oil and liked it so much that I finished several blanks with it. Now, what varnish should I use on the wraps? Did some test wraps with Varmor R-10 over 10 well dried coats of Tung Oil, and the R-10 does not seem to be sticking to anything, and it is clearly not drying properly. This probably falls under the category of "what did you think was going to happen" but I am at a loss as to what wrap varnish would be appropriate for this type of finish.

I am open to suggestions. Very open.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    Shellac 3 coats

    1st 1/4 shellac 3/4 thinner 10 minutes dry

    2nd 1/2 shellac 1/2 thinner 3 hours dry

    3rd full shellac  - 12 hours dry (Rex Tutor)

    You are in a bind. I would try wiping the rod down real well with denatured alcohol. If the varnish balls up I would do it again and finally sand it down a bit. Then varnish. I have a friend that finishes all of his rods in pure tung oil. He wipes it on and lets it soak for awhile the wipes it off and let's it dry. He steelwools between coats and does it three times. I forget how long he rests between coats. Take your time, take a break, slow down and you will have a more harmonious outcome, and remember that the ox is slow but the earth is patient ;>)  (Timothy Troester)

      Oh! the wraps! I guess my joke doesn't apply then. gee, in my experience if varnish doesn't dry in hours it dries in days. Hopefully someone will have a secret tidbit. let me know what you do. I cut my varnish for wraps about 20 to 25% with mineral spirits. I have had rods not dry but yet to have the problem with wraps. I have this to look forward to I suppose. (Timothy Troester)

        100% raw tung oil won't ever dry without you rub it in hard and generate enough heat to cause it to change physically.  Maybe you could cook it on in an oven.  You might try going over it lightly with spar containing  driers.  Otherwise, wipe it down with mineral spirits and try something else.  (Brian Creek)

    Maybe you should try Varathane 900 on those wraps. Dries quickly, looks nice.   Get it at Home Depot or Lowes.   (Adam Vigil)

    Several nights ago I fired off a a question regarding what wrap varnish to use over a Tung oil finish.  It was a panic situation, but I got immediate responses from so many helpful people that it would be impossible to thank each one of you. This is a great list, with great people.

    There isn't a whole lot in the archives on Tung oil, so here is what I learned:

    Why did I consider tung oil? Well, I made my dad a Payne 98 for Christmas, and it turned out extremely well. I used a polyurethane finish. Then we went fishing. About 10 o'clock the sun came out, and you could see that rod reflect light 100 yards away. It looked like a lighthouse. I vowed never again to make a rod with a high gloss finish. I decided to try tung on a few rods because I was looking for something that would look good as a matte finish.

    If you finish with Tung oil, your guide wraps can be finished with Flexcoat (let's not start that thread again), Shellac, and some polyurethanes (but not Varmor R-10). Not all polyurethanes will stick. But the solution I chose was Man O War spar varnish, which is tung oil based. It worked fine.

    I have found that Tung oil is a finish used by few rodmakers, and there is no consensus on its utility as a finish. It is nontoxic, goes on and works easily, and you do not need a dip tank. I used pure tung, and put on about 15 extremely thin coats. I put some on my hand, rubbed the blank down, and then wiped it off completely with a cloth. No buffing or heat friction at all. Just wipe. For a while I thought that I wasn't leaving any finish on the rod.  I let each  coat dry  for at  least 24 hours.  After about 8-10 coats, it build up a very handsome semi-gloss finish that seems hard as glass - I can not scratch it with my fingernail. I had no trouble getting it to dry. Afterward I let the blank hang for several weeks before wrapping.

    There are two issues with Tung oil that you need to be aware of. The first is that it has no gap filling properties. Scratches, chatter marks, and low spots will stick out like a sore thumb. Consequently your sanding has to be perfect, and you need to go to a very fine grit before you get even close to the power fibers. You can't hide anything. You can't hide much with varnish, but even the slightest blemish will be visible with Tung.

    The second issue is water resistance.  Here there is no consensus. Many list members contacted me to warn that Tung oil will allow moisture to creep into the rod. Other people, including a chemist who works for a major paint company, told me that it is an excellent moisture barrier and they often use it in wet environments. Again opinions were divided and strong. Those few rodmakers that used Tung seemed to like it a lot, and I have been contacted by only one person who gave it a serious try and was not satisfied with the results.

    Bottom line is that I did several blanks with Tung oil, and will let you know how well it lasts, and what happens to the rods as I use them. But it sure looks pretty. For those who want a matte finish and do not care for grand experiments, you may want to consider spar varnish, which can be dulled by rubbing it down with a fine abrasive. That will be my approach for the next batch of rods.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      Excellent update.  Course, if a person still likes the properties of a poly finish, you can avoid the high gloss by using a semi-gloss, or even a satin finish.

      As to the tung oil finish not offering much moisture protection, that would be a claim that applies to pure tung oil.  But, I think most of us don't use the pure stuff.  Usually, when you buy  commercial preparations called "tung oil, wiping-finish," they are actually finishes that have been partially polymerized and include urethanes and/or other resins.  Nothing wrong with that, especially as the pure tung oil takes a long, long time to dry (and it never really cures).

      Another tung oil based finish that can be brushed, dipped or rubbed would be Waterlox.  You can get it directly from their web site, and it comes either in a standard sort of gloss or a satin.  I used the satin on my cherry floors a couple years ago, and it really is fabulous stuff.  I've also used it for creating the oil-rubbed finish on a bunch of  gun stocks, and it sure beats the time-honored English, linseed crap.  (Bill Harms)

      One other take on the issue of water resistance. I'm not an old-timer (made 18 rods or so), so this is just one guy's opinion, but I'm convinced that water resistance in varnish is not important, for two reasons. First, I'm convinced that properly heat-treated bamboo is altered in such a way that it absorbs little water, and is not significantly affected by what little is absorbed. Second, I believe any rod will gradually absorb or lose water in response to the humidity of its environment until it reaches equilibrium no matter what varnish is used. Most of the rods varnished with "waterproof" varnish aren't varnished under the cork, for example, and the glue used on the cork is not necessarily a waterproof barrier. Even more to the point, if heat-treated bamboo gets limp when wet, virtually everyone's fishing rod would have been limp in the Midwest and South during the pre-air-conditioning era by the middle of summer, and rod-heating before going fishing would have become a commonplace practice, but that is not what happened.

      People tell anecdotes about finding old rods, dark enough to look heat-treated, that were limp as noodles until they dried them out. These rods may not have been heat treated adequately in the first place, and the darkness could be due simply to age (of the bamboo and/or the varnish). All of the recent empirical testing I have seen makes it clear that heat treated bamboo does not absorb much water and does not get limp when wet.

      I've not used much tung oil, though I may, but I think the water resistance issue is a moot point for anyone who heat treats the bamboo adequately.  (Barry Kling)


If I could again pick your brains on this.  How would tung oil work as a finish for a rod used in salt water only?  (John Vitella)

    Again, there's tung oil and there's "tung oil."   One of them is 100% tung oil and never cures, while the other (much more commonly available product) is a rubbing oil that is actually blended  with resins or polymers.  This latter does cure, but even so, neither product will yield the kind of moisture retarding qualities that a good spar varnish will.  The glow of tung oil is lovely, to be sure, but unless many, many coats are applied, you don't get a lot of protection.

    As to salt water, it's not the water itself (or its accompanying salt) that presents much of a threat.  It's the water vapor, or humidity.  I really don't know if saline molecules would (or could) enter along with ambient humidity, or, even if they did, what effect this might have upon  the structure of the cane.  But, in the end, I would guess that the rod's hardware would be more vulnerable to potential salt damage than the rod itself.  Wax everything well, flush it, and wipe it all down after each use. Between use, store the rod in a particularly dry place.  (Bill Harms)

    I don't know for certain but salt water is very good at leaching oils and  finishes in general. It and nothing else for that matter last very long on  tillers and toe rails in my experience. I'd be inclined to use a polyurethane.  (Tony Young)

    After checking with Tony,  he added this:  This may not be correct. I just know on my boat that lives on a mooring nothing seems to last on bare wood but a rod may fare better.  Polyurethane would undoubtedly be better no question of that though.


Here's a question:  I am making a rod with a  hand rubbed Tung oil  finish, and so far I think it looks really exceptional.

I am at the stage of rubbing on the tenth coat of Tung oil, and  the blank is starting to glow with a  luster that is really worth looking at.

I have been fly fishing for trout since 1966, and  I have never really had a wet rod in all  that time  that I couldn't quickly and easily dry off, so I don't feel that I am going to suffer at all from any loss of waterproofing quality. Anyway,  the rod is glued with Epon and that ought to be  about as water resistant as you can get.

BUT - how the do you seal the signature on oil finished rods, except by slopping on a section of  varnish????  (Peter McKean)

    Putting in a late night in the shop too I see. As for your answer. I started back in 1995 using tung oil as a rod varnish. Still do sometimes. I always used India ink for the signature directly on the surface of the cane.  Then I very carefully started coating my rod with the tung oil by SOFTLY rubbing on consecutive coats to the desired result. Since you already have several coats on your rod try this. Let those coats cure up a bit. Then gently with say 1000 or 1500 grit sand paper lightly rough up the flats where you want to write. This will allow your writing to adhere better as well as allow the tung oil to properly adhere as well. At first you might think it will ruin that area of the rod, but once you coat the signature and the roughed up varnish it will turn clear again. I would rub on at least 2 more coats to do this (after you sign the rod).  (Randall Gregory)

    After you sign the rod, mask off the signature on each side with tape. Put a coat of spar varnish over the signature. If you do it with care, you won't get any on the adjacent flats. The signature coating will be glossier than the tung finish. You can rub it down with rottenstone or cutting compound to cut down the gloss, or leave it as is depending on your taste.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Has anyone used a hand rub finish of tung oil only, or is that a waste of time and should I just stick with the drip tube that I have built?  Also is everyone using a high gloss finish or low gloss or is that just a matter of preference?  (Mike Maero)

    Depends on what you mean by hand rubbed tung oil finish. There are tung oil/varnish mixes that you wipe on and let dry. Basically they are just thinned varnish. They work OK. Then there is a hand rubbed pure tung oil finish. If you use pure tung oil you have to rub a lot and build up a lot of heat or you get a real matte, almost powdery looking finish.  (Darryl Hayashida)


How do you protect the inscription on a rod finished with tung oil only?  (Bill Freiman)

    Do your inscription with ink, then give just the flats with the inscription a coat of Man O War spar varnish. You can mask the ends of the overcoat with tape or a put on a decorative wrap to give the ends of the coating a clean edge. If any varnish flows over onto the other flats, just wipe it off with a finger. The end result should be a glossy little rectangle over the writing. I would not try using polyurethane as an overcoat. Some  brands such as Varmor R-10 are not compatible with tung.

    By the way, I am glad you tried a tung oil finish. It is a vastly underrated finish that works fine for those folks who  don't have the space or budget for varnishing, or want a satin finish that does not spook fish. I have done several rods with it and been quite pleased with the results.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


I just finished a rod for my personal use and I'm trying to make something different. I like to test a new taper 7' 6" #4 3/2 configuration with an oil finishing. The problem is that here in my country I can not find tung oil.  Any formula or suggestion. I'm waiting for Mike Brooks impregnation solution for other rods, but I like to make this one in different way.  (Marcelo Calviello)

    I don't think that tung oil is the only finish you need to consider.  The Tru-Oil sold for gun stock finishes is excellent,  It can be applied with your fingers and rubbed in.  I think any purified linseed oil might work.  Take a look at some of the painting medium oils in an artist supply shop.  Try a few out and see what you think.

    My favorite finish for my rods is an old proprietary mixture that a well known rod maker gave. me.  Use tung oil and white shellac in equal parts well shaken and apply with a soft cloth and rub briskly.  It is actually like a French polish, but I know that my wife's rod is almost 25 years old and still looks as good as the day that I finished it.  (Ralph Moon)

      Could you tell what the brand of shellac you like is? I am assuming it is liquid? How many coats? This sounds like a wonderful finish for rods.  Easy to do I bet.  (Bob Maulucci)

        I would suggest that you make your own.  Go to the Hock Blade site and Ron tells you about shellacs.  The primary thing is that it must be fresh.  Older shellac does not have the protective qualities that fresh stuff does, and you can never know just how good a can of shellac in the store may be.   There are several things to remember.  One you must rub until frictional heat builds up.  Two, on a tip do not rub back and forth or you will snap the tip.  One direction only.  You can apply successive coats within a very short time.  I kind of like to rest it about an hour between coats.  For best results it may take ten coats.  However it takes only a very few minutes to apply a coat.  (Ralph Moon)

          Hardy used to use Shellac on their rods and I would seriously suggest you drop any idea of using it.  Long term the stuff goes brittle and flakes off. Stick with polyurethane.  (Paul Blakley)

            I don't want to be contentious, but I still think that a proper shellac finish is a desirable way to finish a rod.  Partly I say this because I have used it on rods for over 25 years with NO bad effects.  It is easy to use, looks good and provides as good or better protection against moisture as other resin based finishes.   I would invite anyone who is curious to read Ron Hocks's story of shellac at his web site.  A couple of excerpts below:

            Among traditional wood finishers, dewaxed shellac is preferred as the best protection for fine wood surfaces.  Shellac flakes are dissolved in "spirit", simple denatured alcohol, to make a finish that is considerably more  "shop friendly" than other, petroleum-based finishes. A shellac finish becomes hard, durable, non-yellowing, and easy to repair. And it's nontoxic. In fact, shellac is used as a coating on pills, candy and fruits.

            Also, Hock Shellac forms an excellent vapor barrier that prevents moisture from migrating to or from the wood. Because it is dissolved in alcohol, shellac is the preferred, sandable sealer coat under other water or solvent based topcoats. It is often used to seal oily knots and other surface blemishes that could bleed through and stain the final finish. (Ralph Moon)

              Go on be contentious should you wish, I am very 'thick skinned' and very very rarely take offense! I appreciate fully what you are saying it's just that MY experience with shellacs points me away from them to polyurethanes. Each to there own and if you have been using shellacs for such along period of time they obviously work for you.  (Paul Blakley)

        Shellac is as good a vapor barrier as one can find.  The paradox is that it is not a good finish when exposed to water.  Shellac used as a sealer, top coated with a varnish or oil finish, makes sense.

        Liquid shellac has a very limited shelf life.  Zinsser makes the best I've used as far as shelf life is concerned, but shellac is easy to mix.  Use dry flakes, dewaxed, and mix with potable pure grain spirits.  The shelf life of the dissolved shellac is about 6 months.  A half pound of flake shellac will last a rodbuilder at least a lifetime or until grandchildren come along with the usual need for toys finished with nontoxic materials.

        Avoid denatured alcohol.  That stuff is unpredictable, often contains enough water to make the dissolved alcohol difficult to dry out, and the wood alcohol that is used as a denaturant causes the dry shellac coating to be brittle.  (Howard Bryan)

      I'm a big fan of Tru-Oil. I always put on one coat, well rubbed in, before I varnish.  (Mark Dyba)

    Just my two cents on shellac.  Walton Powell used a shellac finish on his rods.  According to Jim Clarkson, the only difference is that Powell applied a coat of tung oil to the blank before finishing with shellac. 

    The finish is also known as a "French Finish" and information can be found on it on the web.  In my experience, all of Ralph's statements are correct.  The shellac should be made fresh from dewaxed flakes dissolved in alcohol (spirits).  A thin coat of shellac is laid down each time the applicator is wiped down the length of the blank.  High grade shellac finishes are well know for the ability to easily be repaired.  (Doug Brooke)

      Now the cat is out of the bag!  Press Powell gave me the technique.  (Ralph Moon)

      I once talked with Walton Powell regarding this finish. I'm sure that it worked for him. But, by all the rules shellac and oil should not mix. In French polishing, the tampon is lubricated with a few drops of oil (usually linseed) in order to make the tampon slide better. Oil is not considered part of the finish. I'd like to see someone make it work.  (John Zimny)

        I am not sure about any special function of the tung oil except as you point out that that the oil on the tampon in French polishing is used mostly as a lubricant.   The two materials do make a kind of homogenized mixture that seems to be fairly stable.  That is, it does not separate on standing to shellac and oil.  It remains that kind of creamy color that one gets when it is first shaken.   Do you know anything about a melamine adhesive that is akin to white aliphatic glue?  (Ralph Moon)

        We do it on harps all the time.  The oil serves as a lubricant, must be "spirited off" when the build is complete.

        I don't like linseed oil, for it is too slow to polymerize.  Sesame oil works very well, buy it at the grocery store where the salad oils are kept.

        Our procedure is to sand to 600 grit, then apply a sealer coat of thinned shellac (about 4 lb. cut).  When this is dry, we use thinned shellac with about 4 to 5% sesame oil.  When the slightest evidence of tackiness happens, wait about a half hour, then start again.  If uneven surfaces begin to develop let dry for an hour or so, then sand lightly with 600 grit to level, go at it again.

        Usually it takes about 4 sessions to get the correct buildup.  Don't rush it.  When you think you have enough buildup, put the piece aside for a week, check it again, for the full dry state is a very thin finish.  One usually has to make one more pass after a week, then clean off the excess oil by wiping lightly with a very dilute alcohol/shellac mixture, no oil.  Let dry overnight and then apply a coat of hard wax.

        Sesame oil will harden in about a week, leaves a less shiny surface than if it were spirited off before it can cure.  (Howard Bryan)

          Doesn't sesame oxidize/spoil eventually?  I just opened a bottle of old sesame oil and it was rank.    (Joe West)

            Yes, sesame oil will spoil in time.  We use enough that it isn't a problem.

            Once the oil in the finish has dried spoilage isn't a problem.  It has become a solid that is pretty inert.  (Howard Bryan)

    Doesn't shellac leave an inflexible finish on the rods which is likely to crack?  (Jim Lowe)

      I don't know about shellac, but I have a stool I made a number of years ago, finished with polyurethane varnish.  I made it from a piece of 2x12, so it DOESN'T flex.  The finish has now a) yellowed and b) chipped.   It's been a real pain to refinish without stripping completely.  (Neil Savage)

      Shellac, properly prepared and applied, is actually pretty flexible.  The total buildup needs to be thin -  about 0.004 in.

      I think that a lot of shellac problems are caused by the use of denatured alcohol.  Usually the denaturing chemical is wood alcohol, which will make the dried shellac brittle.

      We've worked on 200-year-old harps with shellac finishes that were in remarkably good shape, including on the flexed soundboard.  Unlike old furniture finishes, the harp finishes were not applied over either oil or hide glue size.  Shellac over either oil or glue base coats will alligator in time.  The alligator cracks are actually in the base coats, but shellac seems to get the blame.

      A few years ago I repaired a harp that had been built in 1895.  All we did to the finish was clean it well, then go over it once with French polish. It looked new.

      I really prefer shellac over lacquer.  Many lacquers are brittle, have a very large coefficient of thermal expansion, and will craze in 25 years or so.  Get a lacquer finished piece of wood really cold and watch the finish craze.  I've seen 3 year old harps with a crackle finish after being left one night in a car during Virginia's not very severe winters.  (Howard Bryan)

        What solvent to use if not denatured?  Everclear?  Moon shine?  (Joe West)

          Everclear.  The only way to go.  Here in VA it means getting a special permit to buy the stuff after a couple of college kids killed themselves drinking it.  Of course, since this is a group of teetotalers I'm communicating with drinking the stuff isn't an option.   Purple Passion was passe' by the time I finished college.  (Howard Bryan)

    I want to thank you all very much about your post about oil finishing. Anybody can tell me what is tung oil. I look in dictionary and can not find the answer. I look for this oil here in Argentina and nobody knows nothing about it.   (Marcelo Calviello)

      Tung oil is nut oil from a Chinese three called Tung, also called Chinese Tree oil.  (Danny Twang)

        Pardon me, but I think you'll find the alternative name is Chinese wood oil, rather than tree oil. (Dave Kennedy)

          Hmmm, I do have a can of Danish oil which stats it contain Chinese Tree oil, but on the other hand I do believe I've seen it refers to wood oil as well.  (Danny Twang)

      I think that tung oil is also called palm oil, as it comes from tung nuts which are from a species of palm.  (Steve Weiss)

        I can give some info here. Palm oil is indeed an oil which comes from a tree but I don't think it is used in wood finishing. It is an edible oil, orange in color if you have the pure, natural oil. It may however be refined and deodorized (it has a strong specific flavor) for the use as kitchen oil or for margarine.  (Geert Poorteman)


Just ran across this comment on a bamboo site.  They were discussing ways of preserving bamboo culms used in construction using “traditional” natural drying oils.  I thought this might be food for thought:

Now for the bad news!

Of the three oils mentioned, only tung oil comes anywhere close to creating a suitable vapor barrier and only after several coats. Even then it is substandard compared to other finishes. Linseed and walnut oils are both inferior when it comes to creating a vapor barrier -- to the point of being essentially nonexistent. Both linseed and walnut oils will dry, but pass vapor easily. Compared to a varnish (alkyd, phenolic, or polyurethane) oil finishes aren't even in the running as far as providing a suitable vapor barrier!

So the question again: Why are you oiling your flute? For appearance or as a vapor barrier? Tung oil does admirably well for appearance and will provide some protection as far as vapor transfer. A good varnish will serve both purposes.  (Al Baldauski)


I'm getting ready to do my first rod with tung oil. What are the average number of coats you all use? For those who use Tung Oil.  (Jim Tefft)

    I'd keep putting it on until I was happy with the looks, then do one or 2 more.  It keeps on getting better.  (Neil Savage)

    I have done one rod with Tung, and it took about 10 coats. The trick is to put it on, and wipe off completely. It looks like you are achieving nothing, but after about the fifth coat it starts to show up. Needless to say, Tru-Oil goes much faster and is easier to work with. You will need to use spar on the wraps, polys are not compatible.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Just had a curious thing happen.  I recently heard that some old timers used to use their fingers to rub in tung oil on small pieces.  So, last night, for my second coat on a rod I decided to give it a shot.  Being kind of a weenie about getting my hands yucky, I wore my latex gloves.  Whelp, here it is, midnight MDT, more than 24 hours later, and the rod is STILL tacky.  The gloves got kinda' weird after a few moments, kinda bubbly and wrinkly on the finger tips.  I just figured it was wet and sticky from the tung.  In any case, the gloves seem to have done something to the finish that didn't let it dry.  I even put it in my closet with a couple of 75 watt lights to heat it up a bit.  Still sticky.  What a drag!

Anyway, I figure there must be something in the latex, or the powder, or something that got into the finish that messed it up.  So, sandpaper out, and stroke!  (Jason Swan)

    Had the same thing happen.  It took over a week for the rod to dry to the point where I could sand it down.  Now I only dip the rods.  (Ron Larsen)

    We had something similar while putting wood preservative on our new porch floor at the cottage.  The latex gloves were only good for half an hour before the solvent got to them.  I've never had a problem with the blue Nitrile gloves though.

    When I get a finishing product on me, I clean up with waterless hand cleaner followed by Lava soap.  (Doesn't work so well for water-based products though.)  (Neil Savage)


I recently tried varnishing using Tung oil but I'm not sure I'm doing it right. I just dip a lint free cloth in  and then just rub it on. Then I wait a few hours wipe the excess off and let it dry overnight or more. Then I'm ready for the next coat.

Am I doing things right?  (Moreno Borriero)

    The rule of thumb for tung oil on furniture is 1 coat a day for a week, 1 coat a week for a month, one coat a month for a year and one coat a year for the rest of it's life.  (Ken Paterson)

      Yes, but this would be for the raw, un-polymerized oils, not the products like Formbys,  Watco and the like. In the gun making industry, your formula would have been applied to "best" guns ever since the 19th century. Some makers would slip a little drier into the formula to speed things along, but I don't think there's any need for modern "tung-oil" products to be applied so tediously over such a long period of time.  (Bill Harms)

        I'm not as experienced as many of you are, but I've found that 2 coats of wipe on Formby's Tung Oil on the blank before wrapping seals the blank and makes it easier to work with.

        After mounting all the hardware, I then give the wraps 2 or 3 thin (not thinned, just thin) coats of Spar varnish to seal the wraps, and then finish the whole rod with another 2 or 3 brushed on coats of spar.  I've been happy with the results (ok, I am an experienced wood worker) but then I don't sell rods, so 1) the time it takes to do is no real consideration, and 2) I'm probably not as critical of the end result as a paying customer would be.  (Paul Gruver)

          Formby's Tung Oil Finish makes a fine undercoat, but it is not the same as pure tung oil.  It is an interior tung oil-based varnish that has been highly thinned so it can be wiped on.The fact that it forms a film is the tip-off.  A coat of Formby's is approximately equal to 1/2 coat of unthinned varnish.  (Rich Margiotta)

          I have been using Formby's Tung Oil since rod #1. I find it really helps the final finish. My first rods were finished with a water base finish and it went over the Formby's with no problem. Rod # 1 is over 9 years old and it still has the original finish. It has been used a lot.  (Tony Spezio)

    I’ve used tung oil as a finish with good results.  I vigorously rub a thin coat on with a lint free cloth and then let it dry for 24 - 48 hours in a warm room.  I warm the cloth with my heat gun before soaking it which seems to help.  I give it a light steel wool sanding every second coat or so. Generally takes about 25 coats to build up a good finish.  Pure boiled tung oil seems to take a long time to dry.

    For the last few rods I used a polymerized tung oil from lee valley.  It seems to dry better (and faster) and gives a more varnish like finish that is harder. I think I only need about 10 coats & it seems to do a better job sealing the blank.  I do filter it before rubbing it because it seems to gum up around the edges of the tin.  Actually, I like the finish better than some of my dipped / varnished rods – it seems lighter.  (Jon Babulic)


I need some opinions!  I have thought about using only tung oil on a rod (4 to 5) coats and only varnishing the wraps. However, I have heard that after time (I don't know how much) the tung oil will start to alligator.  Any opinions?  (Grant Adkins)

    I have a couple of friends that have used just tung oil. One does it regularly. I have used Formby's tung oil varnish on my first rods. They get fished the heaviest. No alligator here or have I heard my friends, that use just the bare tung oil, speak of it.  (Timothy Troester)

    I used tung oil only with varnish on the wraps for several rods and it worked just fine.  You get a rubbed or waxed look as opposed to a shiny varnished look.   I like it and it works just fine.  I have sense changed to Tru-Oil because it will dry much faster and is just a bit easier to work with.  One thing you should do with any bamboo rod no matter what the finish is to apply a coat of paste wax about once a year at the beginning of the season.   Also do this to a new rod as the final step in production.  (Hal Manas)

    I use Formby's Tung Oil for the base coats before wrapping. Use Helmsman on the wraps and the final coats. Can show you the finish when I see you in a couple of weeks.

    First few rods were finished with Formby's. still holding up real fine.  (Tony Spezio)

      Formby's in not pure tung oil but rather a tung oil-based varnish (like Man o' War) that's been thinned out with mineral spirits so it can be wiped on (see here).

      It works just fine as a finish, but you can get the same effect by thinning out your favorite spar or spar urethane and get UV inhibitors to boot.  (Rich Margiotta)


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