No-Odor Finish for Fine Furniture

Modified tung oil is odorless after curing and brings out the beauty of unique wood pieces. July 17, 2008

I have a client that has had a number of serious illnesses and has become quite sensitive to anything ill-smelling. I need to find a finish: poly, catalyzed, water or solvent based, that once it off gases, there is no smell. Even a water-based wipe on oil finish is okay if it loses its odor after a few weeks. The piece is made out of walnut and will use filler, but the issue is the topcoat. Thanks in advance for any help.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
What is the piece you’re doing?

From the original questioner:
Per the image below, it'll be the same but out of walnut with wenge splines and feet.

From contributor D:
If the client has no nut allergies - I would recommend polytung oil to get the look. I see in your picture that once cured it will not have any odor. The second choice would be either nitrocellulose or polyurethane. All these coatings, once cured, will give no odor. The curing time till hard (haps free) is a minimum of 30 days. Acrylic will last a little longer. The nitro, oil modified polyurethane and acrylic can be had in various sheens from gloss to flat 90 degree to 5 degree.

On an art piece such as you have I still think the polymerized tung would be the best and bring out the features of the walnut the best. If you need more info contact me. By the way, the table is very nice, and worthy of a great finish that’s easy to repair if and when necessary. The tung will give you that option readily, good luck.

From contributor A:
Gorgeous piece! Button polish (shellac) freshly made - not store bought.

From the original questioner:
Contributor C - thank you. I ordered some Sutherland Wells polytung oil and sealer from Lee Valley. This will give me time to get a feel for the finish and get a large sample to the client.

Contributor A - I'm going to stick with the tung oil per above since I have worked with it a little over the years.

From contributor M:
I've used a good bit of Tung oil, I've never heard of "poly-tung" oil, sounds like an oil varnish blend. I have yet to see a product that has much tung oil in it that doesn't smell for several weeks to those who are odor-sensitive.

The most "non-gassy" finish I have ever sprayed is 2-part Polyurethane. Mind you, stinks like heck when you spray it, but one day away from the gun and it's odorless. It’s available in any sheen you can imagine, and nearly the most durable finish you can spray.

It is certainly going to be less of a headache than an oil or oil-varnish finish since you can spray two to three coats in less than a day and be done with it, rather than the usual 24-hr waiting period between coats of oil/poly types.

From contributor C:
Polytung is polymerized tung oil, and each coat dries in approximately 6 hours or less depending on driers. There is no smell after 48 normally, and it brings the beauty of the wood out much better and is very easy to repair.