Tung Oil vs Danish Oil: What’s the Difference?

Carving small action figures, large bears, or kitchen cabinets takes a lot of time, effort, and talent. It is important to finish a wood carving project with an oil that will give it color, dimension, texture, and durability. Tung and Danish Oil are both great oils for this purpose, but what are they and what are the differences between them?

Tung Oil and Danish oil are both great options for wood finishes. They each have different ingredients, drying times, and a slightly different drying color. Danish oil dries faster and can last longer, while pure tung oil is all-natural and can give beautiful color to the wood.

Read on to find out the differences between Tung and Danish oil and how those differences make one oil better for different wood projects than the other.

What is Tung Oil?

Tung oil is a natural oil that comes from a seed. The trees that these seeds come from grow in Asia and South America and are known as Tung trees or Vernicia Fordii trees. Tung oil from these trees is used as an oil finish for wood to make the wood appear smoother and brighter. It also improves durability.

Sold at hardware stores, Walmart, Home Depot, and more, Tung Oil can come in pure tung oil form, or in hybrids. Some Tung oils have different solvents, resins, and other ingredients that adjust the durability, drying time, and color.

The product you purchase may have the ingredients listed on the label. Instruction for application and drying times may also be listed. Pure Tung oil straight from the seed will take longer to dry than a Tung oil blend.

Tung oil is can be used for stained and bare wood, water-resistant, does not produce harsh fumes and pure tung oil is food-safe. It is most often used for furniture (indoor and outdoor), wooden toys, musical instruments, tools, and more.

What is Danish Oil?

Rather than being all-natural and from a plant, Danish oil is usually a mix of Tung oil and linseed oil, mineral spirits, synthetic resins, and varnish. Danish oils will have different compositions depending on the company making them. The ingredients very amount different creators and the wide variety of ingredients makes the oil easier to use and more durable.

Some forms of danish oil is food safe and non-toxic, but you will have to check with the manufacture first. Similar to Tung oil, Danish oil is commonly used for furniture like kitchen tables, food utensils, tool handles, and more. It is used more often in modern days because of the mixed content. It is generally easy to apply and durable. It can also be purchased at stores like Walmart and Home Depot.

These oils can be purchased in different colors such as mahogany, walnut, golden oak, and more.

Drying Times

Danish oil and Tung oil in purpose and both leave a beautiful finish on wood, but they have a slightly different effect on the wood. The needed number of coats and the time it takes for them to dry differ between the two as well.

The pure version of Tung Oil takes longer to dry than danish oil. It is extremely thick. When applying it to a well-prepared wood object, brush or rub a generous amount of the oil on the wood. It will look like honey, but don’t eat it. For a few minutes, watch for the dryer spots on the wood and add more tung oil. Then, after waiting for at least 15 minutes, wipe off the excess oil and apply a second layer. It is up to you how many layers you would like to add. Most often people put on at least 2 coats, but you can add up to 7 or 8.

Pure tung oil can take days to a week to dry. When each coat sits for 15 minutes, it is not completely dry. When you add a layer, it adds a layer to the previous layer of the wet oil. It makes the layer heavier and denser, which makes it take longer to dry. The blended Tung oils can dry within the day.

When it comes to applying Danish oil, you can also use a brush or cloth. I primarily use an old rag to apply as it is much thinner and easy to apply than Tung oil. The time between coats should be at least 15 minutes. Most people do at least two coats of danish oil. Adding more is optional, but it is not as necessary because two coats should provide adequate coverage and protection. It takes an average of 6 hours for danish oil to dry.

Danish oil is more time-efficient to apply to wood. Tung oil takes longer to apply and completely soak into the wood. If the Tung oil is a mixture, it will dry faster than pure tung oil.

Color of Finished Wood

Both oils will leave a beautiful finish on the wood. Tung oil will make the wood slightly darker and brighter than Danish oil will. Tung oil tends to leave a brighter sheen, but there is hardly a difference.

Wood finished with danish oil has more texture. The grains on the wood appear more defined. If you love the design of the wood, it may be wise to use danish oil.

Tung oil brightens up the wood, giving it a slightly yellow tint. The sheen is shinier with Tung oil.


Projects finished with tung oil will need touch-ups more often than products finished with danish oil. Every couple of years, more layers of tung oil will need to be applied.

Danish oil tends to be more durable than tung oil. This is because of the added resins, varnishes, and other ingredients.

If you want to achieve a natural finish for one of your carving projects, consider using pure Tung oil. This traditional finish penetrates deeply into the wood and over time its surface cures hard, providing limited scratch and water resistance. As the finish ages, it will yellow slightly, producing a warmer appearance.

Danish oil is more commonly used, less time-consuming, and more durable than tung oil. It complements the texture of the wood. Tung oil is all-natural and will provide a slightly brighter look on the wood, but may take longer to apply and dry.

Brian Carver

A long time carving enthusiast that enjoys carving wood and stone. The main person behind the Carving is Fun website and YouTube channel. Always has way to many carving tools and is willing to try new and exciting carving projects!

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