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Thread: Best finish for black walnut?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    Maine
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    360

    Best finish for black walnut?

    In the process of making a small end table/bookcase out of black walnut. Picked this up in Maryland a couple of years ago. It had been air drying for several years at that point and it's been stickered and acclimating in my cellar since then.

    I normally just use varnish on my projects as I enjoy the natural appearance of the various species. Just curious what finish you would recommend to best show off the beauty in black walnut.

    Thanks in advance.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Jim Mackell
    Arundel, ME

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    So Cal
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    3,007
    Rubio monocoat. I recommend pure/oil.
    Its kinda pricey but very fool proof.
    Ive been using on a good variety of woods and find it excellent
    Good Luck
    Aj

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
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    9,724
    On walnut, varnish. Wipe-on is easier than brush-on.

  4. #4
    i do a loooooot of walnut work, and have migrated almost exclusively to Odie's Oil, applied with a rotex and red buffing pad. the results are just spectacular, in feel and appearance, and once the Odie's cures, it's quite durable (and easily fixable if needed). it's my go-to, with a second choice of GF seal-a-cell and arm-r-seal.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
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    11,155
    My favorite finish for black walnut woodturnings is some type of oil finish. I generally use Watco "danish" oil which is, I believe, BLO, poly, and solvant (can make your own). I use 6-10 coats, apply then wipe off and dry, occasionally using 0000 steel wool and/or wet sand with sandpaper (600-800 grit)

    I like the look of this finish - it's not glossy although it can be buffed. Has a soft sheen, brings out the color and figure of the wood, leaves a natural feel. Occasionally I'll use grain filler first but usually not.

    An example from 6-7 years ago:

    penta_plate_walnut_IMG_46.jpg

    penta_plates_comp_small.jpg

    JKJ

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
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    Northern California
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    439
    Tried & True varnish oil. Beautiful and very durable finish.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    8,082
    Prefinish with a walnut stain? Walnut has a tendency to lighten with time.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  8. #8
    very similar to odie's, in composition and results. an excellent choice. i prefer odie's for the ease of application, but it's like-like.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Rosenthal View Post
    Tried & True varnish oil. Beautiful and very durable finish.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Northern California
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    439
    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Cohen View Post
    Prefinish with a walnut stain? Walnut has a tendency to lighten with time.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Derek,

    There are many species of walnut, so Iím assuming your experience is with walnut native to your area of the planet. I donít find that to be the case with American black walnut. Itís been one of my most frequently used woods for decades and I havenít noticed any change in its color, even when exposed to direct sunlight on a daily basis.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Wayland, MA
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    2,777
    The stuff we get in the east lightens dramatically. I'm looking at a trim strip I put in the border around my hardwood floor and in our front window it is almost the same color as the maple flooring now. On the other side of the room where the sun doesn't shine it's still brown, though not nearly as contrasty as when it was installed. This may not be a fair test, as the cherry stripe in that area has also bleached out, while elsewhere in the room it's gotten darker.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Rosenthal View Post
    Derek,

    There are many species of walnut, so I’m assuming your experience is with walnut native to your area of the planet. I don’t find that to be the case with American black walnut. It’s been one of my most frequently used woods for decades and I haven’t noticed any change in its color, even when exposed to direct sunlight on a daily basis.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Northern California
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    439
    Quote Originally Posted by roger wiegand View Post
    The stuff we get in the east lightens dramatically. I'm looking at a trim strip I put in the border around my hardwood floor and in our front window it is almost the same color as the maple flooring now. On the other side of the room where the sun doesn't shine it's still brown, though not nearly as contrasty as when it was installed. This may not be a fair test, as the cherry stripe in that area has also bleached out, while elsewhere in the room it's gotten darker.
    This is really interesting. I did some research and discovered there are 5 species of North American Black Walnut, including 2 native to California. Iíve never inquired but since I live in California I assume that is what I get from my supplier. Apparently all have different characteristics. But Iíll reiterate, I have not noticed any color changes in the walnut I use.

  12. #12
    I've seen lightening of American black walnut that would make you all want to puke.
    Current client has an 8 year old solid walnut entry door that is now a very shocking amber-yellow (door specialty shop made them, not me). I made walnut kitchen cabinetry for them at the same time - both solid and veneered plywoods are ambering/going orange in there too. Plywood was Murphy, which I believe comes from the pacific northwest. Top coats are a "non-yellowing" CAB acrylic. No oils/dyes/pre-treatments. All walnut sourced from local hardwood supplier, but being in South Dakota, it could have come from anywhere in America.
    I cannot trust my source to get that fussy about which walnut tree the lumber was cut from.

    So, with a big gasp of shame, I'll now admit, I prepare samples for all my clients by staining with
    (insert big gasp here) Minwax Dark Walnut stain #2716.
    Ouch. That hurt.

    What else can you do - client sure isn't expecting this color shift, and it's a very rude and embarrassing discovery a few years later to see that beautiful, dark walnut turn into a pumpkin-orange nightmare. Clients are fully informed of what I'm doing and why, and that even this is simply mitigation, not elimination of the big fade.

    I'd love to know what source can guarantee that from happening, based solely on what exact variant of the species is stable enough to hold it's color. I'm skeptical that one actually exists, given my years of experience. Heck- even a 1970's credenza I've got in the house (factory made from that period) is faded in exactly the same way.

    I just wonder how this craze of extravagantly priced live edge walnut tables will play out, once the color shifts on all those gorgeous slabs....

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Kansas City
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    1,951
    For this, I like to use the dark walnut version of watco danish oil. Since its a tinted blend of oil and varnish, it evens out colors, enhances the grain, and has the varnish component to add protection.
    Hobbyist

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Michiana
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    2,241
    I use Watco Danish Oil, usually in natural. After a couple of coats and a few days to cure I wipe on a sealer that will vary based on required duty. I finish with wax and a good rubdown. I generally prefer a satin finish that emulates a simple oil and wax process.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Rochester, Minn
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    169
    My son has three adirondack chairs on his front stoop, facing south (made by me) two of cypress and one of walnut. After two summers they all now look nearly alike, in another the walnut will still be apparent by weight but not by eye. The walnut chair had one coat of Wadkins outdoor oil when built, the cypress is unfinished. On the other hand, the 28 year old walnut mantel in my living room, with windows facing north, looks much the same as when I installed it; and closely matches an adjacent cabinet made 5 years ago. The latter is finished with Arm-R-Seal, I have no memory of what I used on the mantel.

    So my vote is to start with a sunlight assessment and proceed accordingly.

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