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Chinese Tung Oil

Reviewed By Steve , 26 January 2010

When it comes to finishing arrows archers have at their disposal any number of options, varnish, lacquers and waxes along with paints and stains, the combination of which will offer the opportunity to be creative and produce a distinctive and personalised arrow.

Over the years I have used many products to produce arrows in keeping with the intended purpose, sometimes I like a colourful and complicated crest but when I want to produce a traditional arrow I almost always reach for the Tung oil.

For 600 years the Chinese have treated boat timbers with Tung oil. Tung oil, was used to waterproof Chinese ships as long ago as the 14th century. The thin, transparent oil penetrates deep into wood pores, forming an almost permanent seal against moisture because it never loses its elasticity.
Tung Oil is the world's oldest and best wood preservative.

Chinese-Tung-OilIf you are after a preserving oiled or wax finish then I recommend Tung Oil instead of linseed oil, varnish, lacquer or shellac preparations because it's easy to work with and protects by penetrating the wood surface, leaving no streaking or brush marks. Tung Oil offers a protective barrier against water, stains, abrasions and wear another nice thing is that it will not darken with age, as other finishes will. Most finishes leave a film but as Tung oil penetrates it can be touched up if there is any damage to the finish.

Tung Oil will not mildew - linseed oil will. Linseed oil "bleeds" out too excessively for a satisfactory finish. Tung Oil Finish dries clear to allow the wood's natural beauty to come through. The look is natural, hand-rubbed, classic, perfect for traditional looking arrows.

You can use a stain first if you want but I tend to go "natural" when using an oil finish.

Sand the wood first, Tung oil doesn't raise the grain in the same way that other finishes do, which will mean less work between coats - having said that you can get away with just one application if you wish.

This is the way I use it, first up prep the wood with sandpaper to get as fine a finish as you can. Then wipe the shaft down with a tack cloth just to take off any dust or particles.

Brush it on if you like brushes but I tend to use a cloth, the first coat should be put on thick and wet, for the first 15 minutes keep the shaft good and wet, if parts look like they are drying or sucking up the oil, put on a little more - the object here is to penetrate the shaft. After the first 15 mins leave it another 15 minutes, the Oil should start to get a sticky or tacky feel to it. Quickly press your finger into the Oil and see if it will hold your fingerprint on the wood. If it does, then it is ready to be wiped off. Take a clean, dry, lint-free shop cloth and wipe the it off the wood. I recommend you use a lint-free white cotton cloth. Yes, that's right, I said to wipe it all off now.

Once you have finished wiping down your arrow, you are going to want to immediately apply a second wet coat of Oil. We want this coat to sit on the wood for about 15 minutes or until it starts to become sticky or tacky, then again wipe it all off.

The interesting thing about Tung Oil is that it will seep out of the wood grain and back onto the surface of the arrow. We want to avoid having this Oil sit on the surface and harden up. After you have applied both your coats of Oil to the shaft and wiped them off, let it sit for 30 minutes. I will usually check the arrow every 30 mins for the next 2 hours and each time if any oil has seeped back out just wipe it right away.

You could leave it there and let it dry for a day or two, but I always like to give my arrows as much protection as I can so after a day or so, take some fine 400 grit wet or dry and soak it in oil, give the shaft a couple or 4 rubs with the paper and wipe off any excess, make sure not to leave any excess - you do this 3 times or so on alternate days, just to allow it a good dry in between and you will have some seriously smooth and beautifully protected arrows, then the final finish, either some beeswax or any wax rubbed on and buffed off is going to be hard to beat.


I tend to fletch the arrows first, this way I get a fabulous bond with the quil and the wood, unless you wait a while after finishing you can find the fletches having trouble adhering to the shaft and my patience only goes so far - on the whole this is a good and quick way of preparing shafts as if you wanted you could fletch them, finish them and use them the next day and then the day after put on another coat.

This particular oil is very versatile, it's 100% pure and sold by Flybow, sometimes known as Lignea or Aleurites Fordii, this is the oil you want to use as you can create your own particular oil finish by combining it with other oils and or Turpentine. Try out some of these recipies.

Tung oil thinned with Turpentine 5:1, this will aid penetration.

Tung oil + Camellia oil - 10:1 will produce a fast and deep penetrating oil.

Tung oil + Beeswax + Turpentine, a very fine and beautiful smelling finish. Dissolve the beeswax in Turpentine 20-100g per L and then mix with the Tung oil.

Tung oil is a wonderful finish, we recommend that you get yours from Flybow, who stock a range of fantastic Traditional Archery Products, when you do, don't forget to mention Archers-Review.

Features & Design
100% natural Lignea - Tung oil, designed by nature and the choice of woodworkers for centuries.
For the purist, traditionalist and those who want a great finish without any drama.
Value for Money

Cheap as chips a bottle will last even folk who wreck arrows on a weekly basis.

A 5* finish


Your Comments

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  • Posted by: Charles Tsang on Nov 23, 13:55

    Have you heard of anyone having allergic reactions to Tung oil? I’d have to test this first as the source is a nut and I wouldn’t want my son (who has a nut allergy) handling them without testing it first. BTW, I only found a remark on wikipedia that mentioned this. Also the Tung nut is a tree nut. My son can eat chestnuts so his allergy may only be ground nut related. I thought you might want to be aware of the allergy angle. Oh and in the primary school class of 30 2 kids have allergic reactions to certain foods (so you have at least an idea of some kind of scale!)

  • Posted by: Steve@archers-review on Nov 23, 17:37

    Hey Charles you know I haven’t heard of anyone having a reaction to it but that doesn’t mean anything as someone might have. In fact it is something I hadn’t considered and you raise a very important point…. thanks for that..

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    Essential Details
    What :
    Chinese Tung Oil
    Price :
    Euro 6
    Where :


    A bottle will last a long time.


    Tung oil doesn't alter the colour of the wood and over time the wood will not darken or fade. Here half the wood is treated and half untreated.


    Easy to use and a top finish.


    Magazine We were very pleased to give our support to the James Whale Kidney Foundation shoot which we cover in this months magazine. We were also contacted by Lars Pilø with news on the archery related finds on Jovfonna, and while we couldn't get out there ourselves Lars kindly filled in some background information for us.

    Views of the course at Dunkery A mixed bag this month, me in the South West, Geoff putting the record straight, a chat with Keith Stay and the wisdom comes from South Cox of Stalker bows. 

    We take a tour the length and breadth of the British mainland to visit Scotland with Border Bows, Yorkshire with Aidy Hayes, the Wirral with Jason from, down South with the Company of Canterbury Longbowman, and Geoff is in Spain.

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