Sanding walnut

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Forum topic by Rick posted 08-25-2010 11:57 PM 7819 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Rick's profile


19 posts in 4705 days

08-25-2010 11:57 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut

So I pick a nice piece of walnut for the grain but when I sand it the grain pretty much disappears and the wood gets lighter in color, nothing like before it was sanded. The finish – usually tung oil – restores some of the color & detail, but I’m never happy with it. This happens every time I use walnut. I sand 110, 220, 320, regular sandpaper. Anyone have a suggestion?

13 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5188 days

#1 posted 08-26-2010 12:40 AM

I’m stumped, Rick. I use walnut all the time, and I have not seen what you are describing. I’m guessing that you are picking your walnut from stock that has been milled for a very long time, and has darkened with age from exposure to light, so sanding reveals “fresher” wood.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View BroDave's profile


107 posts in 4783 days

#2 posted 08-26-2010 01:07 AM

Just expose it to sunlight for a couple of hours before you apply the finish, it will darken up again.

-- .

View Sawmillnc's profile


150 posts in 4024 days

#3 posted 08-26-2010 01:43 AM

Could be you are using steamed walnut instead of nice sawmill air dried then kiln dried walnut. If you buy from a retailer you have steamed.

-- Kyle Edwards,, Iron Station , NC (near Charlotte)

View Xtreme90's profile


193 posts in 4162 days

#4 posted 08-26-2010 03:37 AM

try just sanding just to 150 then apply finish.

-- "I don't cut wood. I machine it!" G.M. The wood machinest

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 4756 days

#5 posted 08-26-2010 04:22 AM

You could also try a card scraper instead of sanding. It will give you the same surface quality as if you hand planed it. However, like Charlie, I have never had that result. I use air dried, though.


-- Go

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4044 days

#6 posted 08-26-2010 04:23 AM

Just an idea – - try card scraping instead of sanding.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Ollie's profile


146 posts in 4244 days

#7 posted 09-03-2010 10:45 AM

I have noticed a similar effect recetly but i found once I applied oil fiinsh the grain came back very well.
I would say that if it is straight pieces then just plane it or use a scraper, thus avoiding sadpaper al together.

-- Ollie, UK.

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3895 days

#8 posted 09-03-2010 05:20 PM

From my experience, walnut color becomes lighter with age...
Cherry darkens.

I have never seen the “symptoms” you describe either.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 3891 days

#9 posted 09-04-2010 11:12 AM

I had the same experience with walnut that I used on a box. Also the finish never got really smooth. It seemed like there were little bits almost like the surface was “fuzzy”. I finally got a tolerable finish with poly, sand, poly sand, etc.

-- curious woodworker

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5329 posts in 4930 days

#10 posted 09-04-2010 11:24 PM

Sounds like you have steamed walnut. Walnut will naturally lighten with light and age (not like cherry which gets darker).

-- [email protected]

View ChrisJohnson's profile


3 posts in 3809 days

#11 posted 09-05-2010 04:45 AM

I agree with a few other post here that when you use air dryed walnut the color stands out more.
When ever you sand a piece of wood the air on it makes it look different after you place any stain or finish on it.
On a different note: you can use a mixture of vinager and steelwool If you want the wood to look more aged as one different process

View MOJOE's profile


571 posts in 4238 days

#12 posted 09-09-2010 04:20 AM

Just a guess, but walnut is somewhat open grained…...might be fine dust collecting in the pores and making things look washed out. Might try a quick wash with alcohol or the like and then blow dry with compressed air. The alcohol should also show you a “sneak peak” of how the wood will look when finished.

-- Measuring twice and cutting once only works if you read the tape correctly!

View 489tad's profile


3968 posts in 3981 days

#13 posted 09-10-2010 04:58 PM

I just cut and sanded a sample piece of walnut to see how it would look next to lacewood. Off the band saw, 60, 80, 120, 220. I spritzed with water to raise the grain and sanded with 220 again. Very smooth, and the sanded side is the same color as the original surface, one coat of oil and the grain popped. Sample is from Woodcraft so maybe its steamed? Good luck.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

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