A Le Tonkinois Oil Application Guide by Bill Rickman
Le Tonkinois (Le TON-kin-wah)
Le Tonkinois is an all natural product that applies and maintains like an oil, but produces a rich and durable varnish finish.
Le Tonkinois is linseed oil and tung oil, combined with other tropical oils, cooked in a proprietary process to produce a unique varnish oil.
The Le Tonkinois formula was found by the French in Viet Nam 100 years ago, its true age is unknown. It is the official varnish of the French Navy.
Le Tonkinois should ALWAYS be used as it comes out of the can, from first coat to last. Solvents or thinners will degrade it, possibly to the point of ruining the job.
Le Tonkinois can be applied with any good quality brush, including foam brushes. It levels very easily.
Le Tonkinois needs very little sanding. Use a fine grit (220-320). I like to wet sand using a wiping motion. Sand only until the surface feels smooth. Le Tonkinois does not need to be sanded to adhere to itself, the sanding is used only to clean the surface. More sanding will only remove perfectly good varnish.
Generally, sanding is only needed after the first couple of coats. If the dry surface feels smooth, just wipe down with a water dampened rag (no solvents) to clean the surface, then apply the next coat.
Humidity does not affect Le Tonkinois.
Avoid applying to a hot surface, the hot wood can bubble the oils. If you must varnish during a hot summer afternoon, rig an awning.
Thin coats are better than thick coats, just cover the wood. Because there are no evaporating solvents, everything you put on the wood will stay there. Thin coats will build very quickly.
Le Tonkinois is very durable, but more coats are better than fewer. Approximately 6 coats give a good result, and since there is little or no sanding between coats they build up quickly.
Le Tonkinois can be used on decks, it will not be slippery.
Le Tonkinois is not brittle like synthetic varnish. It will not crack or peel, or allow water to get under the finish. It will ‘move’ with the natural expansion and contraction of the wood.
Le Tonkinois can be applied over other clean, well-sanded finishes, but the original finish next to the wood could still crack or peel.
To maintain, watch the finish. When the gloss becomes dull, clean the surface and apply one or two more coats. If this schedule is followed, stripping varnish will become part of your past.
Scratches and dings are easy to fix, just clean the surface and touch up. No need to feather, etc.
Like all natural products, Le Tonkinois will skin over in the can. For longer shelf life, it is recommended to decant into smaller containers filled as close as possible to the top.
Number One has a small amount of pure wood alcohol added to the formula. This produces a faster drying time, and extends the can life. But many prefer to stick with the undiluted Original formula, reasoning that the thicker varnish needs fewer coats (plus it comes in a slightly larger can for the same price).
Because Le Tonkinois is a very ‘green’ product, it is very popular for interior use. No noxious solvents evaporate into the cabin.
Le Tonkinois is tough, durable, amazingly beautiful and extremely user friendly. It provides a ‘professional’ finish with little effort, and...in my case anyway....even less talent.