Tung Oil Vs Tru Oil: Which One Better For Wood And Guitar Finishing

Wood finishing is essential to woodworking, especially in the furniture and guitar industries.

Tung and Tru oil are two popular oil finishes artisans often use to protect and beautify their creations.

Tung oil, derived from the nuts of the tung tree, is a natural, durable, and water-resistant finish.

On the other hand, Tru oil is a blend of natural oils, resins, and solvents, formulated explicitly for gunstocks but also widely used for guitar finishing.

This guide provides valuable information on the differences between tung and tru oil, helping you decide when to select the right finish for woodworking projects. It covers application techniques and real-life examples.

Main Differences Between Tung Oil and Tru Oil

Although tung and tru oil serve similar purposes, they differ in various ways, including their composition, application process, and drying times. These differences can significantly impact the final appearance, feel, and durability of the finished product.

Composition: Tung oil is a natural oil extracted from the Tung tree, while Tru oil is a blend of various oils and resins, including linseed oil and polymerized linseed oil.

Application: Tung oil requires more time and effort to apply than Tru oil. It must be applied in multiple thin layers and requires a longer drying time between coats. On the other hand, Tru oil can be applied in a single coat and dries quickly.

Properties: Tung oil provides a more natural and matte finish, while Tru oil provides a glossy and smooth finish. Tung oil is also more durable and water-resistant than Tru oil.

When it comes to guitars, the type of finish applied to the body and neck plays a crucial role in the instrument’s overall tone, aesthetics, and durability.

Oil finishes enhance the wood’s natural beauty and protect it from moisture, wear, and tear.

The right oil finish can also improve playability, making it easier for musicians to glide their fingers up and down the neck.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is a natural, penetrating oil derived from the seeds of the tung tree, native to Asia. It is highly regarded for its ability to protect and enhance the beauty of wood, making it a popular choice for guitar finishing.

Tung oil is composed mainly of eleostearic acid, a fatty acid with excellent drying and water-resistant properties.

Benefits for Guitar Finishing

The natural feel of the wood: One of the most significant advantages of using tung oil for guitar finishing is how it preserves the natural feel. It penetrates deeply into the wood fibers without forming a thick film on the surface, allowing the guitar player to experience the genuine texture and resonance of the tonewood.

Satin look on tonewood: Tung oil imparts a beautiful satin sheen to the guitar’s tonewood, emphasizing its natural grain pattern and color. This finish perfectly balances aesthetics and functionality, providing a comfortable playing experience without compromising the instrument’s visual appeal.

Application Process

Applying tung oil to a guitar is straightforward but requires patience and attention to detail.

  • Begin by sanding the guitar’s surface to a smooth, even finish.
  • Then, use a clean, lint-free cloth to apply a thin layer of tung oil, working toward the wood grain.
  • Allow the oil to penetrate the wood for about 20-30 minutes before wiping off any excess with a clean cloth.
  • Letting the oil dry for at least 24 hours between coats is essential to ensure proper curing.

Number of coats for a guitar neck

  • The number of tung oil coats needed for a guitar neck depends on your desired finish and the wood’s absorption capacity.
  • Typically, 3-5 coats are sufficient to achieve a smooth, satin finish that provides adequate protection and playability.
  • However, some guitarists may prefer more coats to enhance the wood’s natural color and grain pattern.

Number of coats for a guitar body

  • Like the guitar neck, the number of tung oil coats required for a guitar body depends on the desired appearance and protection level.
  • Generally, 4-6 coats are adequate, but you can apply more if you prefer a richer, deeper finish.
  • Allow sufficient drying time between coats and lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper to ensure a smooth, even finish.

Regular re-treating of tung oil finishes

Regular maintenance is one of the primary considerations when using tung oil. Over time, the oil can wear down or become less effective at protecting the wood.

To keep your guitar in top condition, it’s essential to reapply tung oil every few years or more frequently if you notice any signs of wear.

Tung oil’s tendency to get dirty

While it provides a beautiful, natural finish, it can sometimes attract dirt and grime, especially on frequently touched areas like the guitar neck.

To maintain the appearance and feel of your instrument, it’s crucial to clean the surface regularly with a soft, damp cloth and reapply tung oil as needed.

Minwax Tung Oil Finish

Minwax Tung Oil Finish is a popular product that combines the benefits of pure tung oil with other ingredients, such as solvents and varnish.

This blend offers improved drying times and ease of application while providing tung oil’s wood protection and natural beauty.

It is an excellent option for those seeking a more convenient alternative to pure tung oil without sacrificing the desired finish quality.

Number of coats for a tung oil blend

The number of coats required for a tung oil blend, like Minwax Tung Oil Finish, may vary depending on the specific product and your desired outcome.

Generally, three to five coats are recommended for a satin finish, while seven to ten coats are required for a high-gloss finish.

As with pure tung oil, it’s essential to allow adequate drying time between coats and lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper to ensure a professional-looking result.

Tru Oil

Tru Oil is a well-known finishing product initially developed for use on gun stocks. It is a blend of linseed oil, oil varnish, and mineral spirits, which provides a durable, high-gloss finish that effectively protects wood surfaces from moisture and wear.

Tru Oil has been a popular choice for finishing gun stocks because it creates a hard, protective layer while preserving the wood’s natural beauty. The resilience and high-gloss appearance of Tru Oil make it an attractive option for guitar finishing as well.

Combination of linseed oil, oil varnish, and mineral spirits

The unique formulation of Tru Oil combines the penetrating properties of linseed oil, the durability of oil varnish, and the ease of application provided by mineral spirits. This blend results in a finish that is both visually appealing and long-lasting.

Benefits for Guitar Finishing

Harder, more varnish-like finish

Tru Oil provides a harder finish than tung oil, making it more resistant to scratches and wear. This attribute is particularly beneficial for guitars that see frequent use, as it can help maintain the instrument’s appearance and protect the wood over time.

High gloss appearance

The high-gloss finish produced by Tru Oil enhances the wood grain’s natural beauty and depth, giving the guitar a polished, professional look.

Resistance to tackiness or stickiness in humid environments

Unlike other oil finishes, Tru Oil does not become tacky or sticky in humid conditions, making it an excellent choice for guitarists who live in or frequently perform in high-humidity areas.

Application Process

Applying Tru Oil to a guitar is a simple process.

  • First, clean and lightly sand the guitar’s surface to ensure it is smooth and free of dust or debris.
  • Using a clean, lint-free cloth or a foam brush, apply a thin coat of Tru Oil, following the direction of the wood grain.
  • Allow the coat to dry for 2-4 hours, then lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper to remove imperfections.
  • Repeat the process until the desired number of coats is achieved.

Number of coats for a guitar neck

The number of Tru Oil coats needed for a guitar neck depends on the desired finish and protection level. Generally, 3-5 coats will provide a smooth, glossy finish with adequate protection from wear and moisture.

Number of coats for a guitar body

For a guitar body, 4-6 coats of Tru Oil are typically recommended to achieve a high-gloss, protective finish. As with the neck, you may apply additional coats if you prefer a deeper, richer appearance.

Drying Time

Tru Oil dries in 2 to 4 hours: One of the advantages of Tru Oil over some other finishes is its relatively short drying time. It typically dries in just 2-4 hours, allowing for multiple coats to be applied in a shorter time frame. However, it is essential to ensure each coat is completely dry before applying the next to avoid potential issues with adhesion or appearance.

Tru Oil as an Alternative to Tung Oil

Higher level of protection: While tung oil offers a natural, satin finish that preserves the wood’s feel, Tru Oil provides a higher level of protection due to its harder, more varnish-like finish.

This characteristic makes Tru Oil an excellent choice for guitarists who want to protect their instruments from scratches, dings, and moisture while maintaining an attractive appearance.

Compatibility with tung oil

If you’re torn between tung oil and Tru Oil, it’s worth noting that these two finishes can be used together.

For example, you can apply tung oil as a base coat to preserve the wood’s natural feel and satin appearance, then follow up with a few coats of Tru Oil for added protection and a high-gloss finish.

This combination provides the best of both worlds, giving your guitar a beautiful appearance while ensuring its longevity.

Comparison between Tung Oil and Tru Oil

Differences in composition and properties

While tung oil is extracted from the nuts of the tung tree and is purely natural, Tru Oil is a blend of linseed oil, oil varnish, and mineral spirits.

These differences in composition affect their properties, with tung oil offering a more natural finish and Tru Oil providing a harder, more durable coat.

Impact on wood appearance and color:

Tung oil is known for bringing out the natural beauty of wood, giving it a rich, warm tone and a satin appearance.

On the other hand, Tru Oil tends to result in a high-gloss finish that enhances the wood grain and provides a more polished look.

Depending on your preference, you might choose one over the other based on your guitar’s desired appearance and color.

Comparison of hardness and durability

When it comes to hardness and durability, Tru Oil has a slight edge over tung oil.

Due to its varnish-like properties, Tru Oil provides a harder, more protective finish better equipped to withstand regular use and potential wear.

While offering protection, Tung oil is comparatively softer and may require more frequent maintenance.

Suitability for different types of wood

Maple neck

Both tung oil and Tru Oil can be used on a maple neck. Tung oil will provide a natural, satin finish that accentuates the maple’s grain, while Tru Oil will offer a glossier, more polished appearance. The choice depends on your desired outcome for the neck’s aesthetics.

Mahogany guitar

Mahogany is known for its rich, warm tones, and using tung oil on a mahogany guitar can further enhance its natural beauty. Tru Oil can also be applied to mahogany, providing a high-gloss, protective finish highlighting the wood grain.

Warmoth neck

Warmoth guitar necks, often made from various woods, can benefit from tung oil and Tru Oil. The choice depends on your preference for a natural, satin finish (tung oil) or a glossy, more protected finish (Tru Oil).

Comparison with other oils and finishes

Danish oil

  • Key differences: Danish oil, like Tru Oil, is a blend of oils and varnishes, but it typically produces a lower gloss finish than Tru Oil. Danish oil also penetrates the wood more deeply, offering a different level of protection and finish.
  • Key similarities: Danish oil and Tru Oil are blends, balancing the natural look of an oil finish and varnish protection. They are both suitable for use on various types of wood, including guitar bodies and necks.
  • Tru oil’s specific look advantage: Tru Oil’s higher gloss finish can benefit those looking to achieve a polished, more reflective appearance on their guitar.

Teak Oil

Teak oil is another blend of oils and varnishes, typically used on dense, oily woods like teak. While it can be applied to a guitar, it may not provide the same protection or desired finish as tung oil or Tru Oil.

Linseed oil

Linseed oil is a natural oil derived from flax seeds and is the primary component in Tru Oil. While it can be used independently as a finish, it does not offer the same hardness or protection as tung oil or Tru Oil.

MinWax tung oil finish

MinWax tung oil finish is a blend that contains a small amount of tung oil, combined with other oils and varnishes. This finish provides some of the benefits of tung oil, such as a warm, natural look, but also offers additional protection due to the presence of varnish. However, it may not deliver the same level of authenticity as pure tung oil.


Tung oil and Tru Oil are two popular options for guitar finishing. Tung oil provides a natural, satin finish that enhances wood’s beauty, while Tru Oil offers a harder, high-gloss appearance with greater resistance to wear. When comparing these options to other oils and finishes, it is important to consider the specific characteristics, benefits, and limitations of each.

Additionally, proper preparation, applying the right number of coats, and sufficient drying time is essential to ensure a successful and visually appealing guitar finish.