How would you finish this Walnut coffee table top?

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Forum topic by Keith Kelly posted 12-17-2017 05:20 AM 2478 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Keith Kelly

336 posts in 2442 days

12-17-2017 05:20 AM

I’ve finished Walnut a handful of times but haven’t finished anything with quite as awesome grain as this, so I’d love your input.

This is a coffee table for my living room, where it will get beat on by young kids. I’d like to stay away from a thick film, so maybe something that’s mostly oil. Thoughts?

-- Keith | Subscribe:

11 replies so far

View Andre's profile


3570 posts in 2584 days

#1 posted 12-17-2017 08:11 AM

I used a product called OSMO on some Walnut end tables, looks great, tough and can be easily repaired.
It is a hard wax formulation from Germany.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Knockonit's profile


675 posts in 980 days

#2 posted 12-17-2017 12:41 PM

Boy sure wished i could offer a suggestion, but have to add, that is one awesome grain piece of nature. congrats on find and project

-- Living the dream

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 4091 days

#3 posted 12-17-2017 12:59 PM

A couples coats of wiping varnish would work very well with a topcoat of dewaxed shellac and then some polish. You can easily make your own wiping varnish by mixing 50/50 oil based varnish or oil based poly with mineral spirits.

Take some scraps of your walnut and see what you like best. The wiping varnish by itself would really pop that grain and might be all you want. I like adding a couple coats of dewaxed amber or garnet shellac. For coffee tables I favor a topcoat of water based poly in satin finish, to protect against spilled drinks water stains.

View LittleShaver's profile


677 posts in 1398 days

#4 posted 12-17-2017 01:16 PM

Beautiful grain! +1 on a wipe on mix of varnish or poly and mineral spirits.

-- Sawdust Maker

View msinc's profile


567 posts in 1282 days

#5 posted 12-17-2017 01:22 PM

That is some very nice wood….way too nice to let it get beat all to he77. I would suggest you give some thought to having a tempered plate glass top made for it to keep it from getting destroyed. If you ever have some formal event you can always remove the glass top and set it in a closet somewhere.
I will be odd man out again here and suggest that you use some sort of clear finish. I have worked with a lot of walnut in my time and I will say that anytime you have pretty, figured, dark wood like that and finish it with a product that is not clear it could and probably will get way darker than you want. Darkening an already dark wood like that might hide or kill the beauty. I think I would cut some clear polyurethane {Minwax, Deft, etc. } with thinner and give it a try. If it’s clear and it’s thin {in the wood, not on it} and you have glass to protect it I think you have covered all the bases. It would be a shame to see such a nice table all gunched up.

View bondogaposis's profile


5791 posts in 3129 days

#6 posted 12-17-2017 01:38 PM

Oil based poly. It is the toughest finish you can get. You can control the look a feel of it by how many coats you apply.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 3293 days

#7 posted 12-17-2017 01:51 PM

+1 on the oil based poly. I used a semi-gloss version of that finish as my main go-to spray finish for 12 years back in the 80’s when I ran my refinishing shop. Tough, waxable, and repairs easily. Takes a while to totally set up, but once fully dried, it is great and brings out grain well.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 2713 days

#8 posted 12-17-2017 05:40 PM

I’ve done oil based poly alone and I’ve done oil/varnish blend. In my opinion the oil/varnish blend gives it a little bit richer tones.

For my oil/varnish blend I have used 1/3 Linseed, 1/3 Oil-based poly, 1/3 Mineral spirits. Or you could just buy a premixed product like waterlox. Wipe it on pretty heavily, then wipe it off til it feels dry. Do that 3-5 times. It’ll give you a very thin coat that doesn’t look plasticy in the least and looks beautiful. This won’t give nearly as good of protection against water or other liquids, but it is super easy to do another coat when ever you want.

You could just do 100% wipe on oil based poly to get a little heftier finish, but it won’t look quite as good.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4426 days

#9 posted 12-17-2017 07:04 PM

I find orange shellac looks great on walnut
and brings out the figure without the excessive
darkening Mminc mentions. Of course shellac
is no topcoat but it’s good for color. Then on
top water or oil based poly and topcoat with
paste wax.

Some folks adore the look of darkened walnut
though. I can only get steamed, kiln-dried
walnut easily where I live and that can affect
the color in some odd ways. Sometimes a
board has a purple cast to it which is hard to
match with normal walnut-brown pieces.

View LesB's profile


2559 posts in 4221 days

#10 posted 12-17-2017 09:46 PM

Unless you kids are using hammers and saws on the table I would go with one of the Poly floor finishes, either water base (easier to use) or oil. They are quite hard and resistant to scratches. Put on at least 3 coats and more if desired. be sure to sand lightly between coats with 320 or 400 sandpaper or 0000 steel wool. Choose the gloss to suit your own needs. Hi gloss can be dulled down with 0000 steel wool and some paste wax is necessary.

-- Les B, Oregon

View CaptainSkully's profile


1613 posts in 4337 days

#11 posted 12-17-2017 11:18 PM

I’d go with just plain tung oil on a piece that nice.

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

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