The Origins of Tung Oil – A Brief History on Nature’s Most Versatile Oil

Tung oil is one of the most unique and highly-regarded natural oils used in woodworking today. If you aren’t already familiar with this item, you may be surprised by the natural powers that come with all-natural Tung Oil, and about the unique history behind this product.

Some of the earliest recorded uses of Tung Oil date back to the 14th century when merchants from China would use tung oil to waterproof and protect their ships. The oil is obtained by taking the seed from the Tung Tree, which is native to China, and pressing it into a fine oil. The oil will harden when exposed to air.

There are some sources that suggest the oil, which is known for leaving behind a “wet” or shiny finish—was used as early as 400 B.C. References to this powerful oil can be found in some of the writings of Confucius. This is also why some people refer to this oil as China Wood Oil.

Tung Oil was used for 2500 years to waterproof boats and paper parasols—and to waterproof inks, paints and stains. When the oil hardens, it actually creates a a durable, seal-like finish that helps to naturally preserve wood, which is why it became synonymous with waterproofing.

Eventually, Marco Polo brought a sample of the oil from China to the western world and helped to start spread the popularity of this oil throughout the world. Until the 19th century, Tung Oil was only popular in certain pockets, until it really took off in popularity for its wood finishing properties. Tung Oil became a preferred finishing product for wood items that need a waterproof finish.

Today, many people still love using Tung Oil on their woodworking projects. This is because Tung Oil is one of the only true green finishing oils and is an eco-friendly and sustainable product that many people feel good about using. In fact, it is an oil with zero VOCs while still delivering a durable and water-resistant coating that will help keep any type of wood well-protected.

While there are some products that will boast a “tung oil finish” in order to get all of the benefits of a truly all-natural finishing oil, you need a 100% natural tung oil product to get the best results possible when using this oil.