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Forum topic by teenagewoodworker posted 02-25-2008 04:05 AM 21220 views 3 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2727 posts in 4734 days

02-25-2008 04:05 AM

I don’t know if this is under the right forum but here i go.

i want to get some Walnut for a project and while looking through my Rockler Magazine i noticed that they sell both Walnut and Black Walnut and i was wondering if anyone knew of any significant differences between them.

and while i’m on the subject does anyone have any advice on staining Walnut?

19 replies so far

View Composter's profile


1 post in 4710 days

#1 posted 02-25-2008 04:25 AM

The whole point of getting real walnut is the walnut. If you’re going to stain a piece of wood, get poplar or pine. If you want a truly beautiful piece of wood, rub some linseed oil into walnut. It brings out the grain, puts a little sheen on the surface, but leaves the natural character of the tree to its own glory.

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4727 days

#2 posted 02-25-2008 04:26 AM

Black Walnut is more commonly referred to as “American Walnut”. This is the standard gunstock walnut – until plastic came along. There is also a Claro Walnut, which I believe is mostly found in California. English Walnut has a lighter, more reddish tone. It is also referred to as French Walnut and Turkish Walnut but is the same species as far as I know.

Be very careful with stains on American Walnut. You can end up with something as black as Ebony.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4788 days

#3 posted 02-25-2008 04:36 AM

I agree with composter. Usually with walnut you do not need to stain. An oil application brings out the beauty of the wood. There may be some issue with the color of sapwood. But this is handled by steaming.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View USCJeff's profile


1065 posts in 5034 days

#4 posted 02-25-2008 05:00 AM

Please don’t stain Walnut. :) Couple of considerations: Walnut is pretty porous in all variations. You’ll have to account for that at some point. There are many great fillers for dark woods. I tend to wet sand the finish I’m using to fill the grain. I’m fond of Danish Oil for Walnut. I’ve used Watco’s Dark Walnut Danish Oil as well as their traditional D.O. Both worked nicely. I like to follow either with Amber Shellac. A few coats gives it a “touch me” appearance.

I posted a similar question about a year ago - Finsihing Walnut. The responses proved to be very well founded as I’ve done a few of them. Karson’s posting of Danish Oil and Amber Shellac was where I found that strategy. He linked a picture of a pulpit he finished using the above.

Enjoy your podcats, BTW.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4954 days

#5 posted 02-25-2008 05:18 AM

You don’t stain walnut. Here is a box I made with just a wipe on finish.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4734 days

#6 posted 02-25-2008 01:24 PM

just to clear this up
i would say my biggest weak spot is finishing
so sometimes when i refer to finishing a piece i stay staining
just a habit i need to break because im so used to working with pine

View Dadoo's profile


1790 posts in 4956 days

#7 posted 02-25-2008 03:52 PM

Denis, finishing doesn’t have to be all that complicated. I really strive to a “Keep It Simple Stupid” (KISS) philosophy because I really don’t have the time or patience to do it otherwise. I also take into consideration just what it is I’m finishing. Furniture that is constantly used will need a durable finish whereas artwork would require a more fine finish. I’ve used a simple combination of oil based Minwax stains and oil based polyurethane top coats. If you allow your first coat of poly to dry hard, a good 24 hours say, then you can sand it with 220 grit, and then your final topcoat of poly will sit smooth as glass. Poly was designed to protect wood flooring…you can’t get much tougher than that kid.

As for your walnut…Have you tried visiting your local cabinet shops? Most of those guys are very helpful and will sell you a nice piece of wood cheaper than you can buy it elsewhere! You might even get them to mill it for you for an extra buck or two!

-- Make Woodworking Great Again!

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4781 days

#8 posted 02-26-2008 02:32 AM

Most of the stuff we’ve been doing lately has been walnut. Personally, I don’t like the milk chocolate color of walnut…particularly steamed.

I say stain it.

This is an example something we’re just finishing up. O.K. crappy pic without alot of detail…but you get the general idea.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View AWood's profile


53 posts in 4712 days

#9 posted 02-26-2008 04:20 AM

The walnut that might be made a reference to is butternut. As a tree it is characteristic and similar to that of the walnut tree(belongs to the same family) The wood is ring pourous (anual rings that if you look closely look like the bubbles you see in an Aero chocolat bar) and the grain is the same except the wood does not have the depth of darkness as black walnut. I built a hope chest for my daughter out of black walnut, and as the general opionion being made on the blog you do not want to stain it. The butternut wood, although I have not seen much lately, if the wood is light and you stain it correctly it would appear the same.
To emphasis the beauty of black walnut, I had a board that you might say was burled and when I put my polyurethane on it, the colour showed a yellow gold patina much of what you would see in a 200 or 300 year old painting hanging in an art museum.
Keep in mind when working with the black walnut the dust is more toxic than other wood dust. The walnut boards I used in my construction was rough and I had to have them dressed. I took them to a friend whose wood business dressed lumber. He mentioned that he dresses his black walnut once a month. In a nut shell, a year previous, a customer who uses all of his shavings for his horse barns woke up one morning and found two horses dead. The vet claimed the horses urine and the black walnut shavings were absorbed through the hooves as a toxic mix.
I look at the heirloom of my daughters chest and the beauty of the black walnut grain, you want to use the wood and finish it properly.

-- AllWood

View USCJeff's profile


1065 posts in 5034 days

#10 posted 02-27-2008 07:14 AM

I know I already put my two-cents in here, but I found a resource as I was reading an American Woodworker supplement, “Guide to Finishing”. Winter 2007, if interested. There is a section that offers tips for Walnut. Here’s the cliff notes:

~Sapwood can be dyed to match if there is a contrast that is undesirable. They suggest powdered dyes. The ratio in parts is: 1 red, 1 blue, 2 yellow, 1.5 black. Dilute with 4 part H2O. I like the contrast in most cases so far though.

~ Seal the end grain with shellac or diluted glue to avoid it absorbing more stain and being darker than face grain. I’ve done this and it makes all the difference. Another tip not mentioned is to sand the end grain a grit higher than the face.

~ This tip was saved a ton of guess work once for me. To match new walnut to aged walnut, try this recipe: 1 part red, 2 yellow, .5 black. I had to replace a couple pieces on a 40+ year old rocking chair. Matched very closely. After a light glaze, it was a match to anyone that didn’t know what I did.

Finally, you mentioned in a podcast that finishing is your weakness. Mine too. Another Jock suggested me getting “Understanding Woodworking Finishes” by Bob Flexner. It is the encyclopedia of all things finishing. Many chapters are way beyond my skill. The most used use for me is that there are individual chapters dedicated to finishing each of a dozen or so common species. It offers multiple strategies and when they should be used as well as photos for perspective. Easily the most used written resource I have.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View grumpycarp's profile


257 posts in 4712 days

#11 posted 02-27-2008 01:44 PM

As to buying wood from Rockler, they’re fine folks there but I’m sure you can get wood locally much cheaper, especially if you factor in shipping. Ask a cabinet or millwork shop in your area.

View cutman26's profile


17 posts in 4960 days

#12 posted 02-29-2008 03:10 AM

Thats a lot of info guys!...Do or try what you want to!...sometimes you just have to try it and see if you like it, and I don’t think anyone should say dont stain walnut! General Finish has a danish oil with walnut pigments which help to bring out the color. Try that

-- Jeremy

View grovemadman's profile


745 posts in 4738 days

#13 posted 02-29-2008 03:33 AM

You’ve got some pretty sound advice here so far Lad! Dadoo makes a great point and so do Scott and Gary as well, Actually everyone. Here is what I prefer most for wood with fabulous grain or striking color. I use linseed oil mostly or Danish oil, Usually Watco cuz it’s easy. I also use watco Satin Wax clear and start by wet sanding it @600 grit. As I apply each coat I go up in grit to about 1500 or 2000 wet or dry. Try it on some scrap and tell me what you think. Take a look at the box I made out of walnut and purpleheart posted in my projects. You will see what the other guys mean about the color. Linseed oil will raise the grain and give it spectacular highlights. the wax process I use gives it a really great Sheen and is eaaaasy to maintain.

-- "It is the job of the woodworker to hide his mistakes and keep a tight set of lips about them!"--Chuck

View Jim's profile


49 posts in 4734 days

#14 posted 03-06-2008 04:16 AM

Golden Oak Watco Danish Oil looks great on walnut. And I’ve had luck dyeing sapwood to match heartwood using Rit dye from the grocery store. Your mileage may vary, of course, and be sure to test on scrapwood. And of course, water-based dye will raise the grain. Wet with water and sand first.

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

273 posts in 4719 days

#15 posted 03-10-2008 12:51 AM

The walnut around me is real dark brown almost black. Maybe is from not being steamed? Butternut is much different in looks then walnut. My favorite finish for darker wood is natural danish oil or tung oil.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

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