Hey! Hope everyone had a great weekend! We had a perfect combination of fun, relaxing, and productive. Finished up the painting in our coastal farmhouse style master bedroom makeover, and was able to do what has to be the easiest mantel makeover ever using pure tung oil!
So our fireplace mantle was, I think, in its natural state. The wood was totally dried out. If you look really closely, you can see from the cracks that it was in serious need of some hydration. In my initial design plan for this space, I wanted to stain the mantel a charcoal color. The natural wood looked awful next to the dirty yellow walls. But once the white was on the shiplap walls, the natural color of the fireplace really started growing on me, and I knew that rather than change the color of the natural wood, I needed to try to restore the wood instead. Enter pure tung oil.
What is pure tung oil?
Tung oil comes from the nuts of a tung tree. It’s oily (duh), and from what I’ve read, usually needs multiple coats, with sanding in between. A lot of people use tung oil for their countertops, because it does make a water resistant finish.
However, I knew that I would only need one coat, two at the absolute most. Obviously, I don’t need a water resistant finish, and I’m not planning on chopping any veggies on this mantel. I was really hoping to alter the color of the mantle very little- my goal was really just to hydrate and protect the wood.
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This really couldn’t have been any easier! Okay, here’s what I did:
Step 1: Clean the mantel. I just used a damp cloth to go over the entire mantel.
Step 2: Pour some of the tung oil onto a lint free cloth. (I used Old Masters 100% Pure Tung Oil, which I’m linking for your convenience here. However, there is tons of variation with the pricing on this stuff, and I bought mine locally lots cheaper. Like $10 cheaper. Just FYI). Initially I was pouring just a dab at a time, but found out quickly that pouring a larger amount- closer to approximately a tablespoon or so at a time works better. The key is to not do more than the wood can absorb at one time.
Step 3: Rub the tung oil in the direction of the grain of the wood until the tung oil is absorbed. The wood on my mantel was weird- there were spots on the very same piece of wood on the mantel that would very easily absorb the tung oil, and spots that were very resistant to absorbing it. You can see the differences in the pics below.
Here’s what the mantel looks like about halfway through- you can see the top and most of the front have had a coat, but that side piece and the bottom part of the front are still dry:
Step 4: When the entire mantel has had one coat, wipe it down with a lint free cloth.
Step 5: When the first coat is dry, you can apply another if needed. The brand that I used recommended sanding with steel wool between coats. I did not want another coat. I, my friends, was done!
So here’s a side by side comparison of the results:
Here’s my honest feelings about this stuff and the results.
First, this couldn’t have been any easier to work with. It is oily, but it doesn’t get everywhere. I did spill a little bit, but it wipes right up and is much less messy than stain. According to the manufacturer, the rags that you use to apply are flammable, so you have to use caution of course, and there is definitely an odor similar to when you stain a piece of furniture. It took me about an hour to do the entire mantel.
It was a little frustrating how the mantle had spots that were so resistant to absorbing the tung oil- you can definitely see the differences with that in the color variation in the pic. However, probably following the directions and sanding and applying more coats would completely fix that.
But…I’m not sure that I want to do that. The main reason is that the color changed so much. Since then (and I did this project yesterday) the mantel has darkened even more, and some definite orange tones have emerged.
I knew that the wood would darken with the tung oil, but the orange tones have kinda thrown me for a loop. Since they’re bringing out the orange in our floors (which I’m definitely trying to avoid), I’m pondering my next move.
So I’m going to sit tight for a few days and see what the color does. I may sand and apply another coat. I may keep it as is. Or, I may apply a darker stain.
Overall, though, I am glad that I did this project- it was well worth the time and effort!
Edit, a few weeks later: The mantel has darkened a bit, but the color and finish has evened out, and I love it! It looks great in our coastal farmhouse inspired room. I ended up keeping it as is 🙂
PS. Want to see our finished Collected Coastal Farmhouse Master Bedroom? Click here!
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