Tung oil is made from the seed that is found in the nut of the tung tree. These seeds are available from the various species of the Aleurites. This is a deciduous shade tree and belongs to the Euphorbia family. It was originally grown in China. Perhaps, this is the reason its name is derived from a Chinese word, which represents the heart. This is probably because of the shape of its leaves; which are large and heart shaped and dark green in color. It can grow up to 40 feet in height, and its oil is often preferred to castor oil and linseed oil, when it comes to the utility factor.
Facts about Tung Trees
The tung tree lives for about 30 years, bearing fruits in clusters. Each fruit has at least 4 to 5 nuts. When it grows under conditions that are conducive to bear fruit, it can give about 2 tons of nuts, which can yield 100 gallons of oil. This is possible only when proper care is taken. One has to ensure that the conditions are extremely favorable, as it requires the right balance of the warm and the cool climate. It begins to bear fruit when it enters its third year of growth.
It was in the year 1912, that the American Ambassador tried to ship the tung trees to California, but met with little success. As mentioned earlier, these require favorable climatic conditions for their survival, therefore none of them survived, due to the change in the atmospheric conditions. Some of the Gulf coast areas tasted success due in the growth of these, as they were able to provide the right climatic conditions. They are now also grown in areas of Argentina, Africa, and Paraguay.
Uses of Tung Oil
In order to obtain the pure and raw form of tung oil, one would have to follow a certain process. This is made from the pressed seed of the nut. The first mention of this oil can be found as early as 400 B.C. It was mentioned in the writings of Confucius. The Chinese who identified its benefits and uses, mainly used it as a way to protect the masts and sails of the boats. It was also used to give a good finish to the furniture that belonged to the royal families. It was also known as China wood oil or the nut oil. Now, most oil farms in the Southern areas of the United States and Argentina, supply it all over the world.
The seed of the tung tree is underneath a hard layer of the fruit. This hard layer is called endocarp layer. The oil that is processed from the seeds of the fruit is used on wood furniture for an excellent finish.
Tung oil in its purest form is water and alkali resistant. Therefore, when used on furniture, it resists scratching and damage. It penetrates well and has a transparent finish giving a matte look. It is also used for paints and waterproof coatings and many professionals are known to testify about the lustrous and excellent finish it gives to wood. This amber colored oil is very high in its proportion of eleostearic acid. It gained prominence, because of its commercial use in the paint industry. Besides, other alternatives such as the castor oil and linseed oil are known to take a longer time to dry when used on a wood surface as compared to it. Its specialty remains in the fact that it can dry quickly and give a waterproof coating. It is useful in paints, varnishes, and printing inks. Other oils leave an oily surface till they get completely soaked into the wood.
A word of caution: its nutty odor can give reactions and therefore should be avoided by people who suffer from such allergies. It should always be stored in an airtight container.
Tung oil is able to adhere other minerals that are porous. This is because of its excellent penetrating power. It is an important ingredient that is applied to granite or marble, which is mainly used for the kitchen and the bathroom areas. Such areas need stain resistant materials, due to the usage of chemicals and food products that cause stains. When applying it to any surface, remember to dust it properly to get rid of all the particles. The first coat can be applied with a soft rag. Let it remain for at least 10 minutes so that it can soak completely. Excess can be wiped off with a rag or a soft cloth. You have to ensure that it dries completely before two coats. The number of coats you need to apply would largely depend upon the object. It is also used for kitchen tables, chopping blocks, wood floors, etc. With the long shelf life that it offers, it is not a wonder that this is the most preferred oil by many today.