Walnut Table Top Finish

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Forum topic by Frazeran posted 04-03-2018 05:51 PM 1253 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 1086 days

04-03-2018 05:51 PM

Hello Fellow Sawdust Makers,

I am in the planning process of building a farmhouse table for my wife and I with a walnut table top. I have been doing a good bit of research on finishing… turns out there 1000 answers to the same question. I would like to make sure 1. It is durable 2. Has a natural hand rubbed finish and feel (light sheen) and 3. If possible will protect the walnut from lightening over time. The three that have come to the top of my list are Waterlox, Rubio Monocoat and Old Masters Tung Oil Varnish. Any help is much appreciated! Thanks,

8 replies so far

View LesB's profile


2315 posts in 4050 days

#1 posted 04-03-2018 07:29 PM

You are going to get 1001 answers here.

My experience is that walnut darkens over time (unless exposed to a lot of sun light which bleaches it) but sealing it with a top coat or varnish, lacquer, shellac, or poly will slow that down a lot. Those top coat finishes will also protect the surface with poly probably being the hardest…..especially the ones made for floor finishes.
Oil will bring out the grain and color of the wood but does not produce a protective finish….against dents and wear. So I would apply an oil (I like processed, heat treated, walnut oil) and then one of the top coats which can be hand rubbed with wax and 0000 steel wool or one of the fine 3M pads (white is non abrasive) to the gloss you prefer.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Frazeran's profile


18 posts in 1086 days

#2 posted 04-03-2018 07:59 PM

Good to know. Thank you. Old Master’s Tung Oil and Varnish is supposed to be an oil/varnish blend that has a durable and water resistant finish. That’s the one I am leaning towards most right now

View WyattCo's profile


93 posts in 712 days

#3 posted 04-03-2018 08:09 PM

I’m a Tung oil guy. I buy it in pure form and mix my own finish. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and restore furniture for a living.

View Frazeran's profile


18 posts in 1086 days

#4 posted 04-03-2018 08:11 PM

What’s your secret sauce combo?

View ArtMann's profile


1462 posts in 1424 days

#5 posted 04-03-2018 09:56 PM

I have been working walnut for over 40 years and I have never seen it get darker. It will, however, get lighter in the sunshine no matter what you put on it.

View Rich's profile


5145 posts in 1197 days

#6 posted 04-03-2018 10:03 PM

Good to know. Thank you. Old Master s Tung Oil and Varnish is supposed to be an oil/varnish blend that has a durable and water resistant finish. That s the one I am leaning towards most right now

- Frazeran

The same is true of Waterlox. Waterlox goes on with about a 75 sheen. They say it mellows to around 50 after a few months, but I’ve got a test board from last September that’s still pretty glossy. Any of the oil/varnish blends are going to tend to be glossy, unless they add flatteners to lower the sheen.

I’d add Arm-R-Seal to your list of options. It’s a oil/varnish blend that’s durable and comes in different sheens. The satin will give you a nice finish. Another way to get a low luster finish that begs to be touched is to go over any of the topcoats discussed with 0000 steel wool and a good wax like Renaissance, then buff.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View TheTurtleCarpenter's profile


1053 posts in 1673 days

#7 posted 04-03-2018 11:42 PM

I haven’t used the monocoat but from all I have seen I will use it in the future, especially on walnut. Low VOC, plant based 3-1 mix with catalyst or use without catalyst, fills the grain, easy applied and a floral smell that’s easy on the nose. There are several videos on YouTube.

-- "Tying shoelaces was way harder than learning to Whistle"

View msinc's profile


567 posts in 1111 days

#8 posted 04-04-2018 01:27 AM

English walnut, AKA circassian, french, turkish, royal and and host of other names absolutely, positively, without a doubt get darker over time. But, it does take a considerable amount of it. American black walnut, not so much. For keeping the natural wood colors and having the toughest finish, I prefer marine type clear epoxy. Used to use it on boats with teak trim and it holds up well in the sun too. Lots of finishes will keep the natural colors of the wood, but many are not what I would consider tough enough for use as a kitchen or dining room table. Any finish that builds up a thickness and gets hard can be shined up or dulled down depending on the look you want. One thing I always did for black walnut furniture is to make a filler out of the same kind of woods fine sawdust and the finish you intend to use and fill the pores. You would think this would make the wood darker, but it does not. It just fills the pores and helps to speed up the finishing process. Best of luck with the table.

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