Finishing is not my strong suit

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Forum topic by Mikeyf56 posted 09-05-2011 03:08 AM 1545 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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171 posts in 3822 days

09-05-2011 03:08 AM

I need advice so i can learn to be a better finisher. I will be building a walnut chest (lined with cedar to store keepsakes) and want to do a good job with the exterior finish. Here is how I think I should proceed?

1) would you use a grain filler, or won’t that be necessary?

2) sanding sealer after grain filler?

3) stain

4) wipe on varnish

Of course, appropriate sanding as needed while progressing.

Advice? Thoughts?

THANK you in advance!


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10 replies so far

View Bigrock's profile


292 posts in 3563 days

#1 posted 09-05-2011 03:47 AM

Look at some of Charles Neil Video’s.

View Mikeyf56's profile


171 posts in 3822 days

#2 posted 09-05-2011 04:08 AM

Will do, thanks.

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View a1Jim's profile


117901 posts in 4178 days

#3 posted 09-05-2011 04:10 AM

View Mikeyf56's profile


171 posts in 3822 days

#4 posted 09-05-2011 04:17 AM

Thanks Jim.

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View Camper's profile


232 posts in 3457 days

#5 posted 09-05-2011 04:49 AM

Not that finishing is my strong suit but if you are using walnut, I think it already has beautiful color so I would not stain it. As for a finish, I would wipe on some watco danish oil on it (see instructions on the can) and wet sand it with the oil to fill the pores. Finally a coat of wax and I think that would turn out pretty nice. I made some picture frames with walnut and used this finish. It is very easy to apply and forgiving, and IMHO it turned out real nice.

-- Tampa-FL

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4819 days

#6 posted 09-05-2011 05:07 AM

1) No grain filler unless you are going for a glass-smooth finish (which would be highly unusual for a chest).
2) No sanding sealer
3) Stain on walnut? You could if you wanted to change the color, but it’s already beautiful just like it is.
4) Satin wipe-on polyurethane would be a perfectly appropriate finish. There are lots of other possibilities of course, but wipe-on poly is pretty foolproof. If you are interested in expanding your horizons, the Charles Neil videos are great.

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

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4589 days

#7 posted 09-05-2011 05:26 AM



Very little, if you really want to


As stated above .. Charles Neil is your friend, as is Bob Flexner …

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3759 days

#8 posted 09-05-2011 05:42 AM

Flexner’s book, “Understanding Wood Finishing,” is the single greatest resource I’ve ever read on this topic.

That said, you have to learn why you would do such steps, and what wood best lends itself to those techniques. As the guys have said, coloring walnut is somewhat of a sacrilege. Oils would do the best job, and a Danish oil mixture is my favorite for this. The reason for this is that walnut has a chatoyance that really shines when using oil, and you will see the variety on hues in heartwood vs. the sapwood. After the oil dries in several days, you could hit it with a film finish for extra durability if you’d like. I like one of the water-borne satin urethanes from General Finishes, but a good wipe-on poly would suffice.

A blonde shellac is also a good option, which is great if you don’t want the walnut to get too pretty. ;)

-- jay,

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 4471 days

#9 posted 09-05-2011 03:25 PM

Lets walk thru it, like stated walnut is beautiful as is, and its grain is not really porus enough to need a grain filler, but its close, that means if you want a nice slick finish, it will require working the finish a little more, meaning a couple extra coats, and some sanding back to let the finish fill the grain, Walnut is often steamed, they do this to cause the tannins in the walnut to bleed into the white sap wood and color it, because sap in walnut is considered a defect and it reduces the yield, but the steaming colors it and thus a better yield, HOWEVER , it also causes walnut to often have a very dark purpleish look to it, which I am not a fan of, also walnut as with any wood that has the word “NUT” in it, lightens as it ages, opposite of red woods like mahogany or cherry , all of this said to say, a picture of the walnut would be nice, , if you have the purple cast or the boards are not consistent in color, then we can look at a dye to bring it all together and give it a nice color, the first step is to sand to 220, I usually never go beyond 180, but the 220 on walnut helps to close the grain a little, if you have any end grain go to 320 if you think your going to dye it, go to 600 as well on the end grain and burnish it well, ( helps to seal it) , but pictures would help us guide you’‘

View Mikeyf56's profile


171 posts in 3822 days

#10 posted 09-06-2011 02:31 AM

Cripes, you guys have spent a lot of time helping, and I appreciate that. I now feel like I may have wasted your time…..

The chest I have been asked to build is made of walnut, (daughter liked one of them in a book I have) but after asking some questions about what color my daughter wants the finished piece to be, it would be a waste to use walnut. (thanks for reminding me that staining walnut might be crazy) She wants the piece to be very dark, so I may build out of some nice sugar pine that I have on the shelves.

I’ll watch the videos and check out the book too. More to follow once we finalize the wood for this project.

THANK you all.

-- Powered by Smith & Wilson~~~

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