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View Hawkdriver60's profile

Black walnut finishing opinions

by Hawkdriver60
posted 02-15-2018 01:30 AM

4 replies so far

View CaptainKlutz's profile


2050 posts in 2058 days

#1 posted 02-16-2018 09:53 AM

An oil based finish will highlight the grain, not just bring out richer/darker brown from walnut. Wipe on oil/poly blend like AmrRSeal or MinWax works well alone – IMO. Only reason I would use shellac on walnut is to fill grain for smooth finish, but there are faster “clear” surface fill methods like crystalac or aqua coat.

One note: Walnut will lighten up from a deep brown to light brown when exposed to UV light over time. If your mounting location is exposed to unfiltered sunlight, be sure to use a finish that includes UV protection. Most Spar/Marine varnishes have added UV protection.
For indoor furniture, regular use of beeswax blended furniture wax provides some protection as well.
Neither of these will not completely stop the fading process, but will help keep the walnut darker longer. The only way to counteract the color fade is to apply a stain before final finish. This can be tricky on a live edge slab, but could be handled with a couple of shellac coats on sap wood with little selective masking, followed by masked edges when stained center wood.

Learned about walnut fade hard way: Have some 25 year old danish oil finished walnut speaker cabinets where the side that was facing a window for10 years is now a straw yellow color, and rest is many shades lighter than when 1st built. More recently, watched a friend put an epoxy coated walnut slab on an outdoor bar top in AZ sun. After a couple of years it looks more like hickory than walnut. Walnut will always have beautiful grain it starts with, but keeping the rich dark brown color over time can be challenging.

Best Luck

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5838 posts in 3057 days

#2 posted 02-16-2018 05:58 PM

I don’t disagree with the shellac, but I think I would just pad on 1 coat of garnet shellac to enhance the color, and then top with a good varnish…to me “good” is something that’s not Minwax (personal preference). I’d probably give it 3 brushed coats, or maybe 7-8 wiped coats, with that same varnish thinned 50/50 with MS. That really is a beautiful piece of wood!

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View OSU55's profile


2452 posts in 2553 days

#3 posted 02-16-2018 07:50 PM

You do want it dry and it might not be there yet. Depending on the meter type, you will probably need to cut an or so off end end to know if the center is dry.

Many ways to go here. Do you want a perfectly flat fully filled finish? If so use one of the clear fillers mentioned. Put a coat of finish on first if you use dye.

Nothing wrong with mw ob poly – had great success with it over many years. I mix dyes in it sometimes when I want color -read here.

A weak mixture of dark dye like dark walnut can really enhance the grain without darkening the whole surface. Applied without a binder You can always sand some off if it turns out too dark. Dont see any need for shellac it wont do anything unless you just want the particular color of some you have.

View ArtMann's profile


1447 posts in 1380 days

#4 posted 02-16-2018 10:51 PM

I don’t think shellac will do anything positive in this application. Why not just apply the varnish to start with? If you have any doubts, try it on a piece of scrap with and without shellac and see if you can tell the difference. If you want to enhance the grain, try boiled linseed oil instead. It is often used for this purpose.

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