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Thread: Walnut sapwood finising

  1. #1

    Walnut sapwood finising

    The lumber yard I go to only had #1 common left, no FAS walnut. I picked up an extra 100 bf, but now that it's been surfaced, I'm in a pickle. What I'm looking at is 40% sapwood. I can go to another lumber yard and get FAS, but that's half a day each way and it's over priced. I'll do it if I have to, but I don't want to.

    Has anyone had any real success dying walnut sapwood to match the heatwood? I have about 40 doors and drawer fronts to make, all with plywood panels, so I'm looking at about 300 linear feet of rails and stiles that need to be evenly toned.

    What would you do? Bite the bullet, lose a day and $ and get more walnut, or play alchemist and try dying/staining/blending sapwood

  2. #2
    You know what the right choice is. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

  3. #3
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    Any attempt will look like hell. Even with FAS unless your buying boutique prices you have to buy 3x what you need and you'll barely get all heartwood at 30% yield
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  4. #4
    Sap wood is not a grading defect when grading walnut, or cherry. In fact one is likely to encounter less sap wood in #1 common than FAS. Walnut is in tight supply now. Small logs are being sawed yielding lots of sap wood. The sap wood can be stained with a NGR dye stain with spray gun or air brush. I have had poor success staining it with pigment stain.

    The walnut should have been steamed. While steaming does not make the sap wood equal to the heart it makes staining the sap to be similar much easier.

    The reason sap wood is not a grading defect is because the furniture factories are adept at staining it in the furniture they make. It presents no problem to their operations. Look close and you will see sap wood in both cherry and walnut furniture.

  5. #5
    Some can make the sap wood look good. But I wouldn't try to learn on a real project. I think it's mainly full time
    employed finishers who do it by Boss decree. I worked in a shop that had just one finisher ,he was best Ive seen at odd
    finish problem. He brushed everything and rubbed it down, had no helper.
    Last edited by Mel Fulks; 10-14-2020 at 8:38 PM.

  6. #6
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    Try minwax Special Walnut stain. It isnít bad. If youíre really finicky you might be able to apply the stain to only the sapwood, but it sounds like you have a lot to deal with. So stain everything - sapwood, heartwood and all. The stain changes the sapwood more than the heartwood.

  7. #7
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    My recommendation...either embrace the sapwood (which is what I do) or eliminate it. The only way to mitigate it somewhat is by kiln drying with steam but that makes for a "boring" ruddy brown color rather than the far more interesting and variable coloration that comes with non-steamed KD or air dried black walnut. The problem with dying is that it's temporary. Why? Walnut gets lighter over time, not darker like cherry, so if you darken the sap to what the wood looks like now using dye or stain, in a year or two, it's going to be darker than the heartwood.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
    depends on the type of the stain, some change change as well. Seen the stuff that looks fake, think even some injected or dyed. You can do stuff with NGR but its not great. No substitute for good material.
    Last edited by Warren Lake; 10-14-2020 at 10:04 PM.

  9. #9
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    I think you are sensing a theme here. If it's worth making, it's worth making out of (good) walnut. There is always the customer who wants perfectly beautiful material stained some Crate and Barrel color that hides nearly everything. To hide the sapwood you would have to move into this arena and I don't think you spent walnut money to end up with what may look like dyed red gum.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  10. #10
    I guess I was just hoping someone would open my eyes to something I'd missed. I'll call the lumber yard tomorrow and have them set aside some FAS walnut. This sucks. This is expensive.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    ... The problem with dying is that it's temporary. Why? Walnut gets lighter over time, not darker like cherry, so if you darken the sap to what the wood looks like now using dye or stain, in a year or two, it's going to be darker than the heartwood.
    Jim, I've seen you make this point, agreed to by others, several times here. Working almost exclusively in native Western North Carolina Walnut these 12 years, I've yet to see any heartwood lighten, let alone turn white. That goes for finished pieces as well as some boards that for one reason or another just have remained in the stack for years. Is it a regional thing?
    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bill epstein View Post
    Jim, I've seen you make this point, agreed to by others, several times here. Working almost exclusively in native Western North Carolina Walnut these 12 years, I've yet to see any heartwood lighten, let alone turn white. That goes for finished pieces as well as some boards that for one reason or another just have remained in the stack for years. Is it a regional thing?
    I never said "turn white" for sure. But Black Walnut does get lighter over time naturally to a nice golden brown. Here are three examples...all with black walnut milled off my own property and air dried before use:

    Black walnut Shaker style table (Moser design) made in the mid-200s. Finish was oil and shellac. Aprons and legs are the same color, but I only caught this morning's sunlight on the top.

    IMG_E8334.jpg

    Art frame...cherry and black walnut. Oil and wax. Made in the late 2000s. Notice minimal contrast between the walnut and the cherry

    IMG_E8332.jpg

    Mirror frame in our guest bath. The piece at the top is black walnut. The rest is cherry. Oil, shellac and waterborne top coat. Made in 2008. In this instance, there's almost no difference between the two species after aging. (not a lot of natural light in this bathroom)

    IMG_E8333.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 10-15-2020 at 10:46 AM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #13
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    I can't argue with your photos, Jim, but I've never seen any lightening in color of the walnut pieces I've built from local black walnut that I milled/dried myself. I have a clock and a large bowl in my living room that are at least 10 years old. They are as dark now as when I made them. I can't remember if the bowl has any finish on it. The clock was finished with Arm-R-Seal, I think.

    As built:




    5 minutes ago:



    John

  14. #14
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    2009:
    walnut change-2.jpg


    2019 - You can see the dark strip where the frame sat:
    walnut change-1.jpg

    This black walnut and curly maple frame and stand stood on a sofa table but, got indirect sunlight every day for years. Makes me wonder where my walnut comes from; I'll have to ask.

    Since I do not know where clients will put pieces I now color the walnut before the top coat. Some experimentation is required to get a coloration that looks like freshly oiled walnut and no more.

    GnG Low CoD (263).jpg

    I saw one of these pieces after several years in a bedroom (again, daily indirect light) and was still happy.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 10-15-2020 at 4:15 PM.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  15. #15
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    Years ago, my father had a can of stain that was specifically walnut sapwood stain. When applied you could no longer tell the sap wood from the heart wood by color. I've seen some of those stained pieces and the sapwood still looks just like the heartwood in terms of color.

    My Grandfather, who was a carpenter, said you could crush black walnut husks and create a stain that would make sapwood look like heartwood. There are recipes out there for doing this. Making stain from walnut husks
    Lee Schierer
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