Lacquer over Tung Oil – How Will it Work

Many people ask whether lacquer can be applied over tung oil and what will it give to their projects. The shortest response to this is that it will awaken your surface. However, that transformation will take more than a few dabs of paint to accentuate your surface. Most who have applied lacquer over a surface with Tung oil have differing sentiments about it.

Some recommend it, while others warn you to stay as far away from the two as possible. Since you are not looking to destroy a good surface over a painting thrill, you can at least work from the point of knowledge.

Below we shall discuss a few things that you will need to consider as you undertake this project:

  • Benefits accrued after using lacquer over Tung oil
  • How to go about painting lacquer over Tung Oil
  • What you stand to gain when you combine the two
  • Problems you might encounter along the painting journey
  • Expected results from the painting task

How Will Lacquer Work over Tung Oil

  • Added Protection

Tung oil combines with atmospheric oxygen to form a hard cover. The cover acts as a sealant, making the surface resistant to water, scratches, and dirt. When a layer of lacquer is added, it enhances these protective qualities. Lacquer forms a hard glossy coat on a surface that repels water and dirt.

Through polymerization, a blend of solvents is cross-linked to form strong bonds. These bonds produce a synergetic effect that improves how well lacquer adheres to the surfaces or paint underneath. In this chemical reaction, the solvents are varied to achieve the correct solvency, viscosity, and evaporation rate.

The lacquer coat also protects against weather and heat by providing more elasticity. To avoid cracking and chipping, lacquer offers wiggle room for the surface to expand and contract.

  • High Gloss Retention

Tung oil does not have a glossy finish. It has a matte to semi-gloss finish even after several layers. However, when applied correctly, it brings out the surface’s natural sheen. On the other hand, elements used when formulating lacquer paint form a glossy effect.

When applied to your project, lacquers give a pristine, shiny-looking surface. The gloss is not only attractive but makes the surface easy to clean. When combined with Tung oil, you can sleep knowing you will enjoy the beauty of both worlds.

On one hand, Tung oil enhances the natural beauty of a surface. On the other hand, lacquer increases its glossy appearance. This accentuates your surface and makes it eye catchy. You can use this to your advantage by making it a key selling point during a sale negotiation deal.

  • Return on Investment

Painting is not a cheap undertaking, especially when done on large surfaces. The goal is to ensure your paint lasts as long as possible. When Tung oil alone is used, you might need a touch-up or subsequent layers a few years later to restore your surface to its original form. This makes it both an expensive and time-consuming venture.

It might also sound even more expensive when you plan to apply lacquer over a fresh coat of Tung oil. You are likely to hesitate, but it is a necessary move. Most people fail to understand that lacquer makes up for Tung oil’s ineffectiveness. Tung oil never forms a solid protection for your surface while lacquer does.

Also, the coat or two of lacquer over tung oil finish will enhance the looks of the project which will definitely make it much better.

  • UV Protection

High UV rays are a major threat to paint or other finish. They make it chip, crack, or even melt. Your surface ends up exposed to air impurities, which worsens the situation further. Tung oil is a good cover, but the rays damage it over time. It dries up and chips, which ruins your surface’s natural appearance.

Applying lacquer over Tung Oil offers twice the protection on the surface from UV rays. Once exposed to these high UV rays, it forms a solid film and, while at it, activates reactive molecules. These molecules break down the energy from the rays into less harmful components. This reduces the damage caused by UV rays on the surface over time.

  • Fast Curing 

The wait before accessing or using a space after painting can be painstakingly long. Knowing this, you will likely avoid painting tasks that will make you wait. Tung oil and lacquer dry fast, and you can use your painted surface within a few hours or after a couple of days.

Whether you use a brush or spray the surface, the waiting time is similar. However, the layers are applied to determine how fast you can use the surface. The more layers, the longer the wait.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong with Lacquer Over Tung Oil

  • Tacky Outcome

When working with different paints, you will likely mess them up without proper application processes. Putting a layer of lacquer over wet Tung oil is one of the common mistakes experienced in the past.

It would be best if you let Tung Oil cure before adding a coat over it. Avoid dirt, mud, etch marks, and streaks, as they can ruin a perfect paint job. Tung oil, to be specific, should be applied evenly to avoid seeping streaks since they are hard to get rid of.

  • Unpleasant Smell

Both Tung Oil and lacquer have a natural scent specific to each one of them. Applying each layer of paint means the smell is present. This can be a problem for people suffering from respiratory issues. It would be best to consider working in ventilated spaces and wearing protective masks. Stay away from painted areas if you are allergic to the products used. However, the odor disappears as soon as the paint dries.

Additionally, some paints nowadays are odor free. If you are not lucky enough to get one, add mineral spirit to your paint can and mix well. The mineral spirit takes care of the odor.

  • Incompatibility

It would be nice to walk into a store, pick lacquer, apply it over Tung oil surfaces, and expect great results. However, this can backfire on your face as soon as you begin painting. The simplest explanation for such an outcome is that lacquer varies to fit specific surfaces. Lacquer exposed to UV has some mercury, while food-safe lacquer is free of VCOS chemicals and is non-carcinogenic. Lacquer is also categorized depending on the solvents and resin activities.

Nitrocellulose lacquer contains three solvents, while acrylic contains a plasticized polymer. Nitrocellulose lacquer is ideal for wood due to its high hydrocarbons. An acrylic one is ideal for the automotive industry since it can be air-dried or short-stoving.

Others include catalyzed lacquer as either a pre-mix or a post-mix, where you add the catalyst yourself. The latter has a relatively short window within which it should be used.

Water-based lacquer, which is gaining popularity by the day, is ideal for indoor surfaces. It is both eco-friendly and less pungent. This makes it suitable for spaces one needs to be around immediately after a paint job. However, it is not ideal for outdoor surfaces as it can easily discolor.

How to Apply Lacquer Over Tung Oil

To start with, you do not need master painter skills to apply lacquer over Tung oil. You can easily use a brush if that is what tickles your interests or spray paint. Many question why a product is presented differently, but the answer is in its initial manufacturing process. A variation of solvents and polymers is used to determine the application technique. The variation also helps determine the application’s consistency and solvency.

Work on dirt and grease-free surface since particles left behind will leave a rough coat when painted over them. Sand the surface to eliminate any streaks and create a smooth surface to work with. Where possible, you can apply an extra layer of Tung oil to remove any finish left. Sand it down and vacuum to remove any excess dust. You can now apply your first layer of lacquer. Avoid excess product on the surface as it ends up looking uneven.

Additionally, with lacquer, a little goes a long way. Avoid the sun as it speeds up the drying process. Let it rest for at least 4 hours before applying another coat. Use proper protective gear and masks to avoid overexposure. Between each layer, sand to ensure smoothness and uniformity.


To summarize, lacquer over Tung oil will always evoke a debate. This should not deter you from starting out or even completing your painting project. Ask experts as many have tried all forms of paints over others and can share their outcomes.

Manufacturers share guidelines on how to use paint. Painting enthusiasts, too, are a good source of information as they have learned a lot through mistakes and research. You, too, can also learn through your trials and errors. Start and share the outcomes and let others learn through you too. Have fun painting!