Every piece of furniture, whether new or antique, needs a finish, but no single finish is right for all situations. Although at least 10 varieties and more than a dozen brands of finish are available, all can be divided into two categories: penetrating finishes (those that dry inside the wood) and surface finishes (those that dry on the surface of the wood).
Penetrating finishes are easier to apply and leave a more natural look. Surface finishes are more durable but don’t look as natural.
Linseed oil is one of the oldest penetrating finishes, but it tends to become sticky in humid weather. Danish oils also fit into the category of penetrating finishes. Tung oil is a favorite among woodworkers because it’s easy to apply and leaves an attractive, natural appearance.
Apply tung oil with a rag rather than a brush. First, remove any dust from the wood with a tack cloth. Shake the tung oil container and apply a liberal amount to a clean cloth. Rub the oil directly onto the wood, adding more to the cloth as necessary. Wait 5 to 10 minutes, or until the tung oil begins to feel sticky, then wipe off any excess with a clean cloth.