LumberJocks

Walnut - grain vs pores. vs sanding marks. My first post!

  • Advertise with us

« back to Wood & Lumber forum

Forum topic by 67Cam posted 01-19-2022 03:47 PM 726 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 67Cam's profile

67Cam

21 posts in 125 days


01-19-2022 03:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut box danish oil grain pores question

Hello All,

I recently started woodworking again (last was high school – 35 years ago) when my other half decided she wanted a better-looking step stool than the aluminum one we have. She found a spiral staircase stepstool and wanted that. Trouble is, it was an antique costing several thousand dollars. Not in our budget. I have enough tools from remodeling, and we thought we’d give it a go. Before we got started a retired acquaintance volunteered his knowledge and garage shop. He has a lathe and a bandsaw, which I do not have.

So, my return to woodworking started there a few months ago. I did the majority of work on it but have yet to apply a finish. It’s walnut and poplar. I’ve done a ton of research on finishes, but the more I research the more complicated it gets. Lots of options and opinions!

In the meantime, I decided to build a small walnut box for him as a thank you. What I’ve found is the walnut I’m using for the box is slightly different than what I used for the stairs. This is my first experience with walnut and not sure what I’m seeing. The stair walnut, when I sanded it to 220, is pretty smooth and shows very little grain/pores. The box walnut has copious grain/pores. See the attached picture of the box and you can see the grain/pores I’m talking about. I assume these are not sanding marks.

In general, I want a more natural finish where you can feel the wood and not a thick, plasticky cover. What will that grain look like if I finish it with Danish oil then shellac (orange or clear), then topcoat with satin spray lacquer and no grain filler?

BTW – what’s the difference between grain and pores?

Thanks!

FYI – I manipulated the picture to make the grain more pronounced, it doesn’t have a finish on it yet.


10 replies so far

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

6945 posts in 2680 days


#1 posted 01-19-2022 04:24 PM

Nice looking box!

The marks appear to be sanding dust in the grain, I use compressed air to clear that out but a good rubbing with a towel or even a wool or synthetic scrub pad will work. Generally it will disappear when a finish is applied.

Walnut is an open grain wood (maple or cherry are closed grain, oak is very open). Meaning that no matter how much you sand, there will always be unevenness unless you use a filler to level it all out.
I’ll use fillers when I want a glass like finish which is nice for highly figured woods and burls, but walnut looks great when left more natural as you mention.

Oil makes walnut look great, but shellac will do the same all on its own. Test pieces are the preferred method to confirm 8^)

Pores are the “straws” where water travels through the tree and appear as round or oblong holes. The grain is typically the changes in wood over each growing season. Pine has the narrow dark areas during cold (winter) growth and wide lighter sections during summer growth.
Sanding will usually remove the softer summer wood faster than the winter wood, leaving an uneven surface.

this can be minimized by using a scraper or other cutting tool instead for the final surface prep before finishing.

View Andre's profile

Andre

5253 posts in 3264 days


#2 posted 01-19-2022 05:28 PM

The difference between a blade finish and sand paper can be very amazing, especially on woods like Walnut and many others. You can use sand paper after a blade but problems happen when process is reversed:)
A good wipe down with DNA will help appearance, then try some Shellac to make grain pop? Oil or Wax finish to finish. Box looks good so far.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View CaptainKlutz's profile (online now)

CaptainKlutz

5604 posts in 2952 days


#3 posted 01-19-2022 07:42 PM

Welcome to LumberJocks!

Finishing Walnut can be strange beast. Many methods can deliver similar look & feel. The choice depends on desired result?

Regarding the medium grain found in Walnut:

+1 Use vacuum and compressed air to help clean sanding dust from pores before finishing.
or
My preferred solution for natural finish on walnut is to wet sand the wood using a hardening Oil, such as BLO, or pure tung oil. I use Tried and True Varnish Oil on my kitchen items, to avoid using poisonous metallic driers found in big box store BLO. Nice thing about wet sanding the oil finish is it helps you see the difference between your sanding sanding scratches and natural grain, so scratches can be removed (sanding with grain). After 2 coats of wet sanded oil, the pores will be filled, with smooth and natural looking surface.

The biggest challenge with walnut comes from commercially steamed and kiln dried lumber. The stream process pulls the dark heart wood colors out, and allows it leach into the sap wood. The net result is washed out center, and with pale brown edges. It also creates a plethora of purple/yellow/burgundy colors in heartwood. Your box pictures are perfect example of colors found. While the steamed color range is interesting, it is not typical dark walnut people naturally expect/desire when using walnut. The common solutions are to use colored fillers, oils, and/or dye to bring back the classic dark tones and keep a natural (not plastic) finish.

PS – The finish options you mention are complicated, and not needed for a walnut box. You don’t need shellac or lacquer top coat unless the box will be handled extensively. When using wet sanded oil as grain filler, a coat of wax provides plenty of protection to sit on dresser and store trinkets. If you want protection, spray on 2 light coats of satin lacquer to keep it natural looking.

Hope this helps.

-- 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 bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

6183 posts in 3809 days


#4 posted 01-19-2022 07:57 PM

Forget the shellac and lacquer, just Danish oil is more than adequate for a box. You know the saying, KISS.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View 67Cam's profile

67Cam

21 posts in 125 days


#5 posted 01-19-2022 08:05 PM



Nice looking box!

The marks appear to be sanding dust in the grain, I use compressed air to clear that out but a good rubbing with a towel or even a wool or synthetic scrub pad will work. Generally it will disappear when a finish is applied….

...Oil makes walnut look great, but shellac will do the same all on its own. Test pieces are the preferred method to confirm 8^)

Pores are the “straws” where water travels through the tree and appear as round or oblong holes. The grain is typically the changes in wood over each growing season. Pine has the narrow dark areas during cold (winter) growth and wide lighter sections during summer growth.
Sanding will usually remove the softer summer wood faster than the winter wood, leaving an uneven surface.

this can be minimized by using a scraper or other cutting tool instead for the final surface prep before finishing.

- splintergroup

Thanks! While not technically my first box it’s been a learning experience. I built a pine box first from scrap so I could learn on that vs the walnut. Glad I did. So there would be no difference in the end result if I just used shellac and skipped the Danish oil? I’d like to have the grain “pop” and thought the oil would help with that.

Regarding the scraper – I saw a post on this forum yesterday and started going down that rabbit hole. There have been so many rabbit holes since I started this project! Before I even started the pine test box I ended up building a bevel cut sled, a corner miter key jig, a sanding board, a jig for installing hidden barrel hinges, etc.


The difference between a blade finish and sand paper can be very amazing, especially on woods like Walnut and many others. You can use sand paper after a blade but problems happen when process is reversed:)
A good wipe down with DNA will help appearance, then try some Shellac to make grain pop? Oil or Wax finish to finish. Box looks good so far.

- Andre

I just started looking at scrapers and will likely give them a try on my next project. DNA in California is a tough thing to find. Apparently, it was banned some time ago. After a lot of research I found the boating industry was able to carve out an exemption. They sell it as stove fuel and you can buy it at marine supply stores. I picked up a can and have used it to periodically check out the color of the wood. I’ll use it to clean up the pores as well.


Welcome to LumberJocks!

Finishing Walnut can be strange beast. Many methods can deliver similar look & feel. The choice depends on desired result?

Regarding the medium grain found in Walnut:

+1 Use vacuum and compressed air to help clean sanding dust from pores before finishing.
or
My preferred solution for natural finish on walnut is to wet sand the wood using a hardening Oil, such as BLO, or pure tung oil. I use Tried and True Varnish Oil on my kitchen items, to avoid using poisonous metallic driers found in big box store BLO. Nice thing about wet sanding the oil finish is it helps you see the difference between your sanding sanding scratches and natural grain, so scratches can be removed (sanding with grain). After 2 coats of wet sanded oil, the pores will be filled, with smooth and natural looking surface.

The biggest challenge with walnut comes from commercially steamed and kiln dried lumber. The stream process pulls the dark heart wood colors out, and allows it leach into the sap wood. The net result is washed out center, and with pale brown edges. It also creates a plethora of purple/yellow/burgundy colors in heartwood. Your box pictures are perfect example of colors found. While the steamed color range is interesting, it is not typical dark walnut people naturally expect/desire when using walnut. The common solutions are to use colored fillers, oils, and/or dye to bring back the classic dark tones and keep a natural (not plastic) finish.

PS – The finish options you mention are complicated, and not needed for a walnut box. You don t need shellac or lacquer top coat unless the box will be handled extensively. When using wet sanded oil as grain filler, a coat of wax provides plenty of protection to sit on dresser and store trinkets. If you want protection, spray on 2 light coats of satin lacquer to keep it natural looking.

Hope this helps.

- CaptainKlutz

Appreciate it CK! I’ve learned about steamed walnut and thought the use of orange shellac would help. I bought some flakes and DNA for that purpose. From your comments and those above, Danish oil then shellac is redundant? I have read many articles on wet sanding the oil to act as a grain filler and was planning on doing that.

View CaptainKlutz's profile (online now)

CaptainKlutz

5604 posts in 2952 days


#6 posted 01-19-2022 11:22 PM

thought the use of orange shellac would help. – 67Cam
Good idea, wrong shellac IMHO.
On dark wood like Walnut (or cherry) try some ruby or garnet shellac. You will be amazed how it enhances the color and grain. Below is a walnut project finished in ONLY garnet shellac from another LJ that is stunning example of a simple garnet shellac finish :

Click for details

-- 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 67Cam's profile

67Cam

21 posts in 125 days


#7 posted 01-19-2022 11:39 PM

Bondo – appreciate the advice! I’m all for KISS. The work on this walnut box is preparatory experience for me for finishing the spiral staircase step stool, which will need a bit more than just oil. But not much, as my other half is the only one who will use it, infrequently, and we are a no-shoes-in-the-house household.

Thanks for the info Cap, I’ll find some ruby or garnet flakes. We have a Rockler’s and Woodcraft store reasonably close. If not, I can order them on-line as I did for the orange.

View 67Cam's profile

67Cam

21 posts in 125 days


#8 posted 01-19-2022 11:55 PM

I’ve mentioned the spiral staircase step stool a few times and thought I should post it so you can see what I’m talking about. I did most of the work, including turning the post segments and tread supports. It was the first time using a lathe, so there’s very little consistency. We like to say it looks more natural!

Edit to add – our host also did a lot, from the layout (and math), to teaching me how to use the lathe, donating the poplar and bending the horizontal support bands (after soaking them in his pool!).

The inspiration

My better half working on the layout

Getting glued up and just about done with assembly in this pic.

View Rich's profile

Rich

8114 posts in 2047 days


#9 posted 01-20-2022 12:56 AM

thought the use of orange shellac would help. – 67Cam

Good idea, wrong shellac IMHO.

- CaptainKlutz

That’s absurd. The “wrong shellac?” It depends on what the person likes.

Walnut is a cool brown. If you want to warm it up, amber hues will do that. It can be shellac, or even amber dye. I was hired to match some walnut to existing cabinets and amber dye did the trick. Walnut is also beautiful all by itself. I’ve sprayed untinted walnut with lacquer and it looked great.

Do test boards with various tinting schedules, and no tint at all. See what appeals to you the most. Consider the environment it will be displayed in. Do warm or cool colors dominate? Projects don’t exist in a vacuum. What looks good in one setting might not in another.

Lacquer is always an easy to apply topcoat. Waterlox has a warm hue and will enhance the walnut beautifully. Check out something like Osmo Polyx for a really natural feel.

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

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

8526 posts in 3178 days


#10 posted 01-20-2022 01:42 AM

Here’s some walnut I was playing around with earlier today, it’s 1/3 of a decent sized stumps. Not sure what it’s going to be yet but I sanded through 150G and tossed some alcohol on it to give me an idea of what it’ll look like with a finish. I’ve air dried this for over 5 years now and I just need to figure out what project is waiting inside.

-- “I never in my life thought I would have to say this, but the proper role of government is not to fund the distribution of crack pipes,” Lauren Boebert

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com