• Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by RussellAP posted 08-28-2012 02:23 AM 3130 views 2 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View RussellAP's profile


3105 posts in 2847 days

08-28-2012 02:23 AM

I’ve never worked with walnut before, but I have some nice 15/16 boards about 8’ long.
I keep hearing people say they want to finish walnut and I’m scratching my head. Protect walnut, but how can one stain, or use some color on it? This I don’t understand. Walnut is too dark to take anything that would be noticeable and if it did, why even use walnut to begin with.

So when you say, ‘finish’ on walnut, you’re referring to protection….right?

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

22 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


7084 posts in 3159 days

#1 posted 08-28-2012 02:28 AM

I use pure tung oil/mineral spirits on walnut all the time Russ. Deepens the color, pops the grain. Then, once dry a clear coat of poly or lacquer on top of that.

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2671 days

#2 posted 08-28-2012 02:40 AM

There are color variations between heartwood and sapwood. Sometimes you need stain to make everything match.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4779 days

#3 posted 08-28-2012 02:41 AM

Russell, walnut is a tricky wood that should only be finished by those having experience with it. Give me your address and I will have it taken off your hands immediately. :-)

Seriously, no…. you don’t really want to stain it. There are any number of clear finishes that will work wonderfully to bring out the beauty of walnut. Danish oil, boiled linseed oil, oil based polyurethane, water based polyurethane…. just to name a few.

You will hear strong opinions for and against various finishes for walnut. I highly recommend you experiment and find what you like best

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

View hhhopks's profile


659 posts in 2938 days

#4 posted 08-28-2012 03:26 AM

Wake up. How can you possibly not know about walnut?
You need to start working with it.
Walnut is one of the exotic wood that is highly valued (from worldwide perspective). Perhaps we may over looked it. It is very common in your area and often is available dirt cheap. You can easily find walnut for less than $4.00/bft. CL often show people selling if for $2.50 or less.


-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 3426 days

#5 posted 08-28-2012 03:44 AM

Since this is the internet, somebody has to have an opposing opinion!

I followed the advice that you shouldn’t use any stain on walnut. I made a coffee table using just danish oil, and it looks fantastic. However, I took a chair-making class with a local pro woodworker and he recommends using a stain on walnut because it will bleach out some of its color over time (sort of the opposite of cherry which gets darker with age). The sun here in CO is intense, so it can accelerate the process so I used “special walnut” stain on the chair, and this bookmatched walnut slab I’m working on right now. The stain does add a little color, but I don’t think it diminishes the amazing grain in these slabs. The finish on top of the stain is 2 parts varnish, 1 part tung oil, 1 part BLO applied with steel wool. The finish is durable and almost feels soft to the touch. (sorry for the poor camera-phone pics in bad shop lighting)

After experimenting with this stain/finish combination, I don’t know that I will try anything else for walnut.

View Gary's profile


9410 posts in 3993 days

#6 posted 08-28-2012 03:58 AM

Your question….. yes, finish = what you call protection. Stain gives color. Finish is the last thing you do. It “finishes” your project. Most of us don’t stain walnut. Some do. Like Charlie and some others, I use oil as the finish. It will change the color too. Try it on a piece of scrap wood and you’ll understand

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View SteviePete's profile


226 posts in 3863 days

#7 posted 08-28-2012 04:05 AM

Shellac, man!! Shellac and wax—that’s the ticket. s

-- Steve, 'Sconie Great White North

View shampeon's profile


1900 posts in 2744 days

#8 posted 08-28-2012 05:54 AM

I personally like walnut finishes with a bit of red tone in it. So for me that means garnet shellac, or aniline/TransTint dye in the finish—oil, lacquer, etc.—to act as a toner. By spraying the toner, you have more control over the final color.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Woodknack's profile


12945 posts in 2940 days

#9 posted 08-28-2012 08:52 AM

Walnut has a wide variety of color from deep chocolate, light brown, tan, to a baby poop yellowish-green. When it comes to sapwood it’s perfectly acceptable to use a stain. Overall walnut is a wonderful wood, beautiful, lots of figure, hard but still easy to work.

-- Rick M,

View Don W's profile

Don W

19381 posts in 3128 days

#10 posted 08-28-2012 10:59 AM

just don’t paint it! Walnut looks good no matter what you do.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3797 days

#11 posted 08-28-2012 11:41 AM

You’ve got some great advice. I worked out a secret formula to finish walnut years ago. Gunstocks (I carve a lot of them) have been made from walnut since before dirt. The finish that’s been used forever is an oil finish. There are several on the market made to both add oil and varnish in one step. But, an 4 oz bottle costs as much as a quart of either varnish or oil. So, I mix pure tung oil in a 50-50 ratio with thinner for the first few coats. After I sand to 220 grit, I start wet sanding using my 50-50 mixture with wet/dry sandpaper from 320 grit up. Walnut has pores that will show as pin holes if they aren’t filled and the wetsanding forces the microscopic sawdust into the pores with the tung oil which hardens to make a pretty good finish. The goal at this point isn’t to build up a coat of finish, but to fill the pores and smooth the wood. After I get to 400 grit or slightly higher if I’ve laminated maple or cherry to the walnut. Then I mix the thinned tung oil in another 50-50 mixture using exterior spar varnish. The varnish leaves a hard surface, but if it gets scratched, a few minutes with some fine sandpaper will remove the scratch and more tung oil, thinner and varnish will restore the surface and the fix won’t show. Good luck finishing your walnut. If you are still nervous about finishing your project, practice on some small scrap pieces.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View RussellAP's profile


3105 posts in 2847 days

#12 posted 08-28-2012 11:48 AM

Hal, I’m not nervous about it at all. The walnut I have is beautiful with some crotch pieces that will make great sides to a rather large bookshelf. After cutting this wood and seeing how beautiful it was with nothing on it, I will likely try and keep it that way after sanding it down smooth. I plan to use mainly wax on it without any oil, then buff it out with some 320/600 then rewax and buff with buffer. I will of course take some pieces and try some different finishes, but I don’t really see the need to get fancy with it.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3251 days

#13 posted 08-29-2012 01:36 AM

The only thing I have to add is that stain WILL NOT work to make sapwood match heartwood!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Charlie's profile


1101 posts in 2847 days

#14 posted 08-29-2012 01:58 AM

Funny you should mention walnut….

Lighting isn’t the greatest. This is our island counter top in the garage getting a finish applied. I’m using Waterlox. It’s a counter top. I wanted durable and repairable, but not a “furniture finish”. This fits in with our kitchen remodel as it’s kinda taken on a theme of like a beach cottage. :) Walnut is beautiful and the waterlox lets those iridescent portions really shine through. You could not PAY me to put poly on this stuff. :)

View Woodknack's profile


12945 posts in 2940 days

#15 posted 08-29-2012 07:33 AM

The only thing I have to add is that stain WILL NOT work to make sapwood match heartwood!

Why not? Has worked well enough for me.

-- Rick M,

showing 1 through 15 of 22 replies

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