Highlighting figure in walnut

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Forum topic by Twdmar posted 05-29-2020 12:07 AM 438 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Twdmar's profile


10 posts in 846 days

05-29-2020 12:07 AM

I am preparing to finish some walnut that I filled a knot with black epoxy. There are also some nice black streaks in the wood. I would like to highlight the black streaks a bit more and am thinking of dyeing it black or dark brown and sanding the dye black like is common with maple. Is there a particular dye sequence that would work? I plan to go over the dye with shellac, then perhaps a gel stain that would largely be wiped off and then finished with an oil-poly. Is this doable? Thanks in advance.

6 replies so far

View avsmusic1's profile


682 posts in 1807 days

#1 posted 05-29-2020 01:17 AM

Is the streaking you want to amplify softer wood or something you believe will absorb the dye disproportionately to the rest? If not, dying and sanding as is commonly done w/ figured maple won’t accomplish much

Truthfully I’d not mess w/ the color- an good oil finish is likely to make it plenty beautiful

View Axis39's profile


496 posts in 719 days

#2 posted 05-29-2020 01:28 AM

Oil and shellac….

I agree, dye won’t do you any favors in Walnut.

Many clear coats will amplify the grain and streaky colors. But, I think shellac and oil seem to work the best of things I’ve tried so far.

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

View Lazyman's profile


7139 posts in 2509 days

#3 posted 05-29-2020 01:49 AM

Just wipe some mineral spirits or even water on it to preview what finish will do.

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

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4557 posts in 2616 days

#4 posted 05-29-2020 08:53 AM

One method I like to use for walnut grain/color enhancement is to start with 1-2lb cut of de-waxed ruby (or garnet) shellac, sand lightly, then top coat with an amber tone top coat like; spray pre-cat lacquer or polyurethane (Arm-R-Seal).
The red tone shellac darkens the wood slightly, draws out more purple hues hiding inside the black stains, and enhances the grain.

As Lazyman mentioned: Wipe some MS on it after applying the garnet shellac to help you decide you want more color.

If you don’t need serious wood protection for project, garnet shellac alone makes a beautiful walnut finish. This project is prefect example:

One other ‘tip’?
Walnut tends to lighten over time with UV exposure. If you prefer to keep it as dark as possible, and it will be exposed to sunlight; must apply a UV protection top coat (polyurethane or spar vanish) to slow the color change. If you absolutely can not tolerate a lighter color in a dozen years, then you might want to apply a walnut dye stain to help lock on darkness.

Best Luck.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View HokieKen's profile


17940 posts in 2260 days

#5 posted 05-29-2020 12:16 PM

Dye and/or stain will just diminish the appearance of Walnut IMO. Use oil to highlight the existing color/figure and put an oil based poly on top if you need some film protection.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View OSU55's profile


2796 posts in 3111 days

#6 posted 05-29-2020 01:03 PM

Never tried the sandback method with walnut. What you describe will work to some degree but how much depends on the particular piece of wood. You need some test pieces. Its always best to try a new to you finish schedule on test pieces. As for color, what works is in the eye of the beholder – others may not like what I like, etc. I prefer to color walnut to darken lighter/sapwood areas. I find a dark brown with a little red works best but thats my eye. The finish schedule/finish type depends on the project size and expected use which you dont state.

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