Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Featured Craftsman -- Artisans of the Valley

The “microbrew of wood finishes,” meant for handcrafted pieces of wooden art that go beyond everyday mass produced wood products. That’s how Eric Saperstein, Master Craftsman at Artisans of the Valley Hand Crafted Custom Woodworking in Pennington, New Jersey, describes Waterlox premium wood finish. So when it came time to finish some of his proudest solid white oak pieces from Artisans of the Valley’s New Wave Gothic line, choosing a wood finish was easy.

“These Gothic pieces will be around long after I’m gone,” Eric said. “They need a finish that will last as long as they do.”

Eric prefers Waterlox to lacquer or polyurethane finishes for a number of reasons.

“Waterlox lasts years beyond lacquer and polyurethane finishes, which can color and fall off,” Eric said. “Waterlox is a flexible finish that will expand and contract with a piece over time, unlike other finishes.”

More importantly, Eric says, he trusts Waterlox as the finish he puts on what he considers investment pieces.

“Artisans of the Valley is a custom shop and we consider our work to be heirloom quality,” Eric said. “Many of our pieces see an annual increase in value. It’s furniture you can pass down to your kids. It’s why we use Waterlox.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010



Tung oil is made from pressed seeds from the nut of the tung tree. The tung tree, native to China, is named for its heart-shaped leaves because “tung” is Chinese for “heart.” In the 14th century, Chinese merchants were noted for using tung oil to waterproof and protect wooden ships from the eroding powers of the sea. There are even mentions of tung oil appearing in the writings of Confucius in around 400 B.C. For these reasons, it is also sometimes referred to as “China wood oil.”

Pure tung oil is considered a drying oil much like linseed, safflower, poppy and soybean oil and is known to have a slightly golden tint. Tung oil, which is actually a vegetable oil, is considered the best penetrating drying oil available due to its unique ability to wet the surface, allowing it to penetrate even the densest woods. Unlike linseed oil, it will not darken with age.

Although Tung oil is a superior drying oil, Waterlox Original Tung oil finishes differ because they are resin modified. Therefore, resin-modified Tung oil is what makes our finishes superior to others.


It is a small deciduous tree that grows up to 40 feet tall with smooth bark and a branchy head. Its leaves are dark green and glossy with blades 3-13 inches wide. The tung tree has flowers that range in size from 1-3 inches in diameter with petals that are white tinged with red and yellow. Each nut or fruit contains 3-7 large seeds.


The tung tree’s official botanical name is Aleurites fordii. It thrives in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil. These hearty, fast growing trees mature to bear fruit in their third year and yield commercial quantities at four to five years of age. Maximum production occurs in the tenth to twelfth years of growth, with trees expected to be commercially productive for at least 20 years after optimum production has occurred.

In the Northern Hemisphere, tung tree nuts grow in clusters and fall to the ground from late September through November. The fruits and are left for a few weeks to dry and cure. Tung oil is produced by harvesting these nuts and separating the nuts from their hard outer shells. Then the transparent oil is squeezed from the seeds inside.

Dried and pressed nuts yield about twenty percent oil. Under favorable conditions an acre of tung trees will produce about two tons of tung nuts and yield about 100 gallons of raw tung oil annually.

  • Tung oil has been used extensively in the paint and varnish industry.
  • In the 30’s, tung oil compounds were used to coat cables, telephone wires, generators, fans, and various other types of electrical equipment.
  • The automobile industry used large quantities of tung oil. For instance, every brake band manufactured used it as a binding agent to hold it together.
  • At one time, more than 2 million pounds of it were used annually to manufacture cosmetic tubes.
  • During the War of 1914 it was used extensively in the treatment of airplane fabrics as a water resisting varnish.
  • The Chinese have used it for waterproofing masonry, cloth, shoes, clothing, and paper.
  • It can be used to seal concrete.
  • Tung oil, mixed with lime mortar or burned tung nut residue, was one of the world’s first agents for waterproofing caulking boats.
  • It is used by stonemasons on granite and marble to permanently seal stone surfaces to prevent staining.
  • A light coat rubbed onto steel is an effective rust inhibitor.
  • The shells of tung nuts yield a valuable raw material for the manufacturing of insecticides.
  • It is used in printing inks.
  • It is used to print US paper money.
  • Tung oil was reportedly mixed in the mortar that made the Great Wall of China.
  • Its non-toxic nature makes it particularly appropriate for children's toys and furniture

The first tung tree seed was brought to America from Hankow, China in 1905 by a senior agricultural explorer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1912 the Bureau of Plant Industry issued a special bulletin that urged growers to plant tung orchards and offered a limited number of free one-year old trees. This was a perfect fit, because after acre upon acre of pine trees were cut for timber in the early 1900s, Gulf Coast farmers were looking for a sustainable cash crop for the vast vacant land. That same year, ten trees were planted at University of Florida’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Gainesville. By 1927, there were over 400 growers and more than 10,000 acres of tung oil trees in Alachua County Florida and surrounding areas alone.

In 1928, L.P. Moore, nephew of the Benjamin Moore Paints founder, built the first mechanized tung oil compressing mill in the world, located in Gainsville. This began the commercial production of tung oil in America. Other mills later popped up in Cairo, Georgia and Florala, Alabama. The U.S. was a prime location for this new industry, importing 100 million pounds of Chinese tung oil in 1927, and 120 million pounds in 1933, with demand still exceeding supply.

The industry expanded from Florida, Georgia and Alabama to Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, with Mississippi becoming the largest producing state.

Just prior to the outbreak of WWII, tung oil was declared a strategic item for defense use, so the government aided growers to help them to produce more and better trees. During the war, all ammunition was coated with tung oil and products containing tung oil painted all ships. Not only were government support programs available for US growers, but the government also assisted foreign plantings in South America, particularly Argentina. There was an embargo on Chinese tung oil at the time, making domestic oil profitable. The Pan American Tung Research and Development League was formed between tung oil producers in Amercica and Argentina to work jointly on research and development and to pool tung oil from both countries to provide consistent supplies to U.S. consumers.


Major production of tung oil in the U.S. occurred between the late 1930’s and 1972, peaking in 1958 at 44.8 million pounds.

However, because tung orchards are greatly affected by adverse weather conditions, frost was a huge hindrance to U.S. tung oil production, usually decreasing the yields of tung groves. Between 1934 and 1940 frost almost totally destroyed the domestic tung nut crop. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, freezes wiped out commercial tung oil production in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and all of Georgia.

Hurricanes Betsy (1965) and Camille (1969) dealt the final blows to the tung plantations in southern Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. Camille cut tung oil production in the U.S. by over half. Since those growers were eligible for government disaster compensation, they took the money and went out of the tung oil business and into other agricultural production.

In addition, by the late 1960’s many of the US tung oil mills had closed due to the fact that importing tung oil from Argentina had become cheaper than producing it in the states.

Camille came on the heels of what was thought to be the savior of the tung oil industry – a genetic breakthrough that produced late-blooming varieties capable of escaping late spring freezes. Unfortunately, there was little incentive for replanting. Because oil is the only economically significant product of the tung tree. It cannot be grown for fiber, meal or fertilizer. That, along with the fact that domestic consumption declined nearly 50% between 1955 and 1970 spelled the end of commercial tung oil production in the U.S. 


While there is not a whole lot of tung oil being produced domestically these days, it is still readily available thanks to imports from China and Uruguay. Which is a really good thing since it is an essential ingredient in Waterlox Original Tung oil products.

Because Waterlox creates a unique line of tung oil based wood finishes – even among others who use tung oil in their formulations. Chemically speaking, our Waterlox Original Tung Oil products are resin-modified tung oil based wood finishes. The tung oil provides the best penetrating drying qualities available while the resin allows the coatings to form a film that is both water-resistant and elastic – standing up to both foot traffic and common household spills.

Different from other types of wood finishes, Waterlox offers “best of both worlds” benefits. For example, raw oils penetrate into wood but do not provide any real protection to the substrate. Plus, raw oil finishes need to be recoated often due to oxidation and wear. Urethane coatings lay on top of the surface, look more like plastic, can be brittle and once breached ultimately fail. Waterlox is truly incomparable because it penetrates like raw oil, while protecting and nurturing the wood without becoming fragile or having a plastic appearance.

Waterlox resin-modified Tung oil finishes penetrate into the pores of the wood and build up a coating that both guards and strengthens the wood. Best of all, they are easier to restore and re-coat. And without tung oil, Waterlox extraordinary finishes wouldn’t be possible.

  • Marco Polo is said to have brought a sample back to the western world from China.
  • Completely natural and renewable, pure tung oil has gained recent popularity among the environmentally conscious.
  • Inherently resistant to disease and insects, tung trees require no fungicides or pesticides.
  • Tung nut byproducts can be used for mulch or burned for fuel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waterlox announces the Debut of its e-Newsletter!

Waterlox has officially launched the first issue of its e-Newsletter. It is designed to provide you with information, new product developments and ideas with regard to Waterlox.

You don’t need to be a Waterlox customer to receive the e-Newsletter. If you are interested in subscribing, simply join our database by clicking on the following link.

Click HERE to join our mailing list.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Share your Waterlox story with us and get a free Waterlox t-shirt!

Waterlox is hoping you’ll share your project details with us and the world. Simply submit details about your “labor of love”  along with some quality images (JPG files if available) and your t-shirt size via email to khawkins@waterlox.com and we’ll notify you if you’re the winning entry!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two New Ways to Interact with Waterlox – YouTube and Weekly e-Newsletter

This month Waterlox has launched not one but two new ways to interact with the company by announcing the debut of the new Waterlox YouTube Channel and the debut of the weekly Waterlox e-Newsletter.

The new spot to view Waterlox videos is on the Waterlox YouTube Channel. The YouTube Channel will not only be home to Waterlox-generated content, but videos from customer uses of Waterlox that have created their own “how-to’s” relating to our products.

If you have any suggestions or would like to submit a video for posting, please email a link to khawkins@waterlox.com and we’ll review your content and possibly make it the newest post on the Waterlox YouTube Channel!

The weekly Waterlox e-Newsletter will make its debut soon too, so look for more details on how to join that email list!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Waterlox Celebrates its 100-Year Anniversary!

Not many companies can boast about having started at a time when the Model T was just becoming popular and are still in business today to e-mail and blog their customers with product tips that many even receive on their cell phones…Waterlox is one of those.

Founded in 1910 as The Empire Varnish Company by R.L. Hawkins, Sr., Waterlox has grown to become the nation’s leading provider of premium wood finish handmade from natural Tung oil. For four generations, the Hawkins family has worked to maintain the quality and tradition behind every Waterlox product.

It was in the 1930s with the introduction of Waterlox Transparent (known today as Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish), which led to the innovation of other Tung oil based products, when the Waterlox division at Empire Varnish was created. Some 30 years later the company officially became Waterlox Chemical and Coatings Corporation, shortened in the 1990s to Waterlox Coatings Corporation.

The Waterlox commitment to value, education and reliability never wavered over the years, in fact it was reaffirmed at every stage of the company’s growth, when tradition and quality reigned over every decision – as they still do today.

Since its inception, Waterlox has been using Tung oil as the base for its wood finishes for a variety of reasons. Tung oil is completely natural and renewable as it comes from the nut of the Tung tree and it is the best penetrating drying oil available. It has been used as a base for sealing and waterproofing Chinese ships as early as the 14th century and it remains elastic by moving with the wood during seasonal changes.

The Tung tree, indigenous to China and South America, is named for its heart-shaped leaves because “Tung” is Chinese for “heart.” When applied, rich Tung oil penetrates deep into the pores of the wood to provide a tough, highly water-resistant finish that never loses elasticity and does not darken with age.

Waterlox would like to thank all of our customers over the years for using our products and we will continue to uphold the tradition and quality of our products for years to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Waterlox communicates with customers and consumers through Social Media

Starting this week, Waterlox is placing a strong emphasis on delivering and sharing our information with you electronically through our website (waterlox.com), social media venues and a new weekly e-newsletter. Every week, Waterlox will be posting a variety of information to include news, trends, specials, product information and application case studies through the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. As always, we’d love to have your feedback!

We want to address the questions, concerns and needs that you have as Waterlox customers, so every week we’ll be posting on these sites and we’ll also include mainstream trends about industry and product news on a regular basis, as well.

We’re very proud of our new Web site – www.waterlox.com. Redesigned and offering an incredible amount of product and project solution information, it’s a great resource for consumers, flooring contractors and woodworking professionals. Please check it out! And don’t miss the FAQs page, it’s chock full of project guides that help with everything from flooring and woodworking tips to information on drying and curing, kitchen and countertop details and even a materials calculator to make sure you get just enough of your favorite Waterlox products.

In November, look for two very significant launches – the debut of the Waterlox YouTube Channel and the very first Waterlox e-Newsletter. We’ll use our YouTube Channel to not only promote the videos that we produce, but also those that are submitted that give other Waterlox users a greater feel for using products in specific applications, from flooring and cabinets to outdoor uses and more.

Our Waterlox e-Newsletter will be a bold foray into providing weekly information directly to your in-box. We’ll have links to all social media and will focus on highlighting the trends and products that have made our customers come to know and love Waterlox. We’ll announce the e-Newsletter on Facebook and make sure to add your address to our list to receive our weekly emails.

Please share our social media sites with friends and colleagues and have a safe and Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Welcome to the Waterlox Blog

Four generations after Waterlox was founded in 1910 and the company remains committed now more then ever to providing superior finishing solutions that enhance and protect the natural beauty of wood.

So to launch our new blog it makes sense to post the history of Waterlox to give you a better sense of how the company has evolved over the years.

1910          R.L. Hawkins, Sr., establishes The Empire Varnish Company to produce a full line of exterior and interior paints, varnishes, enamels and stains.

1930s    The introductions of Waterlox Transparent leads to other tung oil-based finishes that become the company’s most prominent line. The Waterlox Division is established.

1940s    R.L. Hawkins, Jr., joins his father’s company.

1960s    The Empire Varnish Company becomes Waterlox Chemical and Coatings Corporation. R.L. Hawkins Jr. is named President.

1970s    J.W. Hawkins (3rd Generation) joins the company, becomes president (1985), and continues to run the company today.

1990s    A name change to Waterlox Coatings Corporation signifies a continued commitment to delivering a new and expanded product line and a continued commitment to quality coatings.

2000s    Waterlox launches a brand new look for its tung oil line of Legendary Wood Finishes. Kellie Hawkins-Schaffner (4th Generation) joins the company, reaffirming the Hawkins family’s commitment to quality, value, reliability and knowledge.