Help with Walnut/Varathane finish

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Forum topic by OttoJ posted 08-14-2018 02:01 PM 474 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 730 days

08-14-2018 02:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut finish oil blotch problems

I’ve been building tables and cabinets for quite some time. My most recent project is a new walnut pantry for my wife – I’ve got an issue that I have not encountered before – any help appreciated.
Solid walnut drawer fronts and doors – “natural” Minwax stain; 3 coats of semi-gloss, water based Varathane.
Some canola oil (dirty fingers after making popcorn) got on the finish – it somehow worked through the layers of Varathane and created a dark, oily blotch underneath the finish? Couldn’t believe it – so, tested on the inside of a drawer front – the canola oil literally soaks through the finish and creates a blotch (overnight).
I’m going to create some test pieces – “natural” vs “Am. Walnut” stain; oil vs water Varathane – to try and recreate and fix. But, if someone has run into this issue before and can tell me what went wrong I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks – Otto.

3 replies so far

View Lazyman's profile


5673 posts in 2196 days

#1 posted 08-14-2018 02:07 PM

Did it just discolor the Varathane or actually get all the way through to the wood? I suspect that it has just discolored the finish so in your test, you can try just scraping the Varathane off to see if that is the case.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View OttoJ's profile


2 posts in 730 days

#2 posted 08-14-2018 06:03 PM

Lazyman – nope – it soaked through the varathane and discolored the wood. I think if I had used a stain like “American Walnut”, instead of just “Natural”, the discoloration would be hardly visible. I built up a sample board – some “Natural”, some “American Walnut”, 2 types of water based urethane, and 1 type of oil based urethane. It’s in the final drying stage – I’m going to test it tomorrow morning – in the meantime, I’m stripping/sanding to see if I can sand the blotch out. If not, I’m going to see if a stain will ‘hide’ it – failing that, I’ll be rebuilding the doors and drawer fronts. Very frustrating – this is the first time I’ve worked with walnut – most of my previous projects have been oak and I’ve never had a problem with water based urethane before.

View EarlS's profile


3784 posts in 3156 days

#3 posted 08-14-2018 07:06 PM

I’ve never been impressed with the water-based poly. I’ve not had any problems with oily fingers making stains on the top of the 3 computer desks (walnut tops), and the laundry counter top (maple) that are finished with with Seal-A-Coat, followed by a couple coats of Arm-R-Seal and some wax.

You might try some wiping acetone or alcohol on the sanded wood to remove any oil residue that might still be soaked in the wood fibers.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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