Fireplace Wall #1: Popping the Grain in Black Walnut

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Blog entry by SouthpawCA posted 01-14-2010 03:16 AM 3049 reads 4 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Fireplace Wall series Part 2: The Lower Surround »

I was trying to find a good article/link about popping the grain in black walnut but didn’t find one that really explained it for me. There are many articles/links dealing with maple though. As luck would have it, our woodworkers club in association with the local adult education was going to host a few classes on finishing. These classes were mainly dealing with “old school” finishing techniques including French polish. Although not actually going all the way through the French polish procedure I took pieces and parts of the technique and applied them to my black walnut raised panels that I am making for a fireplace surround.

The process I used was:
After sanding to 220 I applied boiled linseed oil (BLO) to the piece and kept adding additional oil if needed (where it soaked in – end grain). I let that sit for 15 minutes+- then wiped it off and sanded lightly. Then added another application of BLO, sanded with 320 to create a slurry to fill some of the pores. Let that sit and then wipe it off. I then put the piece out of sight (out of mind) for 5 days or so to let the BLO cure.

I brought the piece back out after 5 days and put on a 1 lb cut of blonde shellac. After that dried (30 minutes or so) I sanded with 320 to get any grain that might have raised. Then I added 2 more coats of shellac and let it sit over night.

After curing overnight the piece had way too much gloss which I expected. The gloss wouldn’t have worked on an arts & crafts, craftsman style that I was going for. However, I did want it smooth as silk and have a reflective sheen, which is not to be confused with gloss.

I knocked the gloss down with one of those hand sanding nylon sanding pads then brought it back up to the sheen I wanted with a woodturners micro mesh sanding kit which includes grits from 1500 to 12000.

Anyhow, here are the results:

Raised Panel Flames

Love those flames!!! The piece is as smooth as silk and you can even see some reflective sheen on the end grain.


And to prove it I put a quarter next to the piece and you can make out the reflection in the wood.

-- Don

5 comments so far

View dustyal's profile


1322 posts in 4715 days

#1 posted 01-14-2010 04:50 AM

uh, very, uh, adequate… 8 >)

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 4798 days

#2 posted 01-14-2010 07:48 AM

You’ve sold me! I’m always looking for great finishing recipes. Black walnut is one of the most beautiful woods naturally, and really makes nice accent pieces to quartersawn white oak.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Julian's profile


884 posts in 4765 days

#3 posted 01-14-2010 03:11 PM

That is my favorite wood finish and use it on all but table tops that will see lots of abuse. Looks great.

-- Julian, Homewood, IL

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4574 days

#4 posted 01-14-2010 05:33 PM

Great result, beautiful wood.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View XquietflyX's profile


339 posts in 2200 days

#5 posted 02-10-2016 12:49 PM

Thank you for sharing the technique

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

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