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How should I finish walnut furniture without oil based products?

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Forum topic by StoopidMonkey81 posted 08-30-2016 08:45 PM 2402 views 0 times favorited 48 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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StoopidMonkey81

5 posts in 101 days


08-30-2016 08:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut furniture dresser nursery

Hi Everybody,

I’m an amateur woodworker and would like some advise on a project I’m working my way up to, a nursery dresser that I will probably build with walnut boards & walnut ply for the carcass. One thing I’m having a hard time with is deciding how to finish it. Here are the properties I’m after:

1) Smooth, non-sticky surface without wood grain texture, like you would find at a furniture store
2) Enough film for protection and smoothness but not so much that it looks like the wood itself is “behind” the finish
3) Satin or semigloss finish. I don’t want it to have a high gloss plastic look that you see on restaurant tables, but not so matte that it looks like a weathered antique. Again, a “new from the store” kind of look.
4) I want a uniform dark finish that doesn’t vary much from dark to light spots, but still shows the grain and color of the walnut. A little warmth perhaps, but nothing that looks “yellow”. More of a deep brown but not as dark as the espresso stained wood that’s popular now.
5) Durable enough to withstand the variety of liquids that a nursery/changing table is likely to come in contact with.

Limitations: This will be assembled in a smallish town house basement with little to no ventilation and subsequently placed in a nursery. I want to avoid finishing products with high VOCs, high odor, and flammable vapor (especially given the close proximity of the gas water heater near my work area), so I’d like to stick to water based products if at all possible (though I’m not sure how products like shellac fit into the mix). I’m also a very green newbie so finicky products requiring an experienced hand aren’t preferable.

Attached below is an example of the kind of finish I’m after, with the color being a touch lighter than what I’m going for:

The site the image came from says the piece was finished with lacquer and I’m pretty sure that’s not going to work for me due to the reasons I mentioned above. Is something like this possible with a water based poly, like General Finish’s clear High Performance or their amber tinted Enduro-Var? Thanks!


48 replies so far

View JADobson's profile

JADobson

682 posts in 1576 days


#1 posted 08-30-2016 09:25 PM

I’d use shellac. Its simple and it meets all of your requirements. If the finish starts to wear from contact with “liquids” just reapply.

-- James

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CharlesNeil

1610 posts in 3335 days


#2 posted 08-30-2016 09:28 PM

I agree with Ja, on the shellac, you need a oil or solvent to “warm” the walnut , but from there you can use a water base from there, a straight water base wil leave walnut “bland” .

View gargey's profile

gargey

479 posts in 241 days


#3 posted 08-30-2016 09:35 PM

use oil based products. done.

View StoopidMonkey81's profile

StoopidMonkey81

5 posts in 101 days


#4 posted 08-30-2016 10:14 PM

So, why just shellac instead of shellac topped with water based poly, or just said poly? What differences will I notice in the application or end result? Also, should I consider using a stain or dye?

View chrisstef's profile

chrisstef

15671 posts in 2471 days


#5 posted 08-30-2016 10:20 PM

Ill third the shellac recomendation. Id go with ruby button lac. Itll give you a bit of color and a little more protection being a waxed shellac. Bit of a learning curve to applying shellac however.

Also agree with charles on an oil if you want to blend yellowish sapwood and the darker heartwood. I like medium walnut danish oil. Top coated with gf high performance youll have a nice easy finish schedule with easily workable finishes.

-- rock, chalk, jayhawk

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chrisstef

15671 posts in 2471 days


#6 posted 08-30-2016 10:29 PM

Poly over shellac would work. It may be a little redundant though. Shellac may “pop” the finish a little more but im not sure its a ton different than straight poly.

You can certainly use water based dye if you want to change the color.

Play around on some samples and see what ya like. You got time so see what works for ya.

-- rock, chalk, jayhawk

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gargey

479 posts in 241 days


#7 posted 08-30-2016 10:31 PM

Use oil based poly. Don’t not use oil based poly. The results you’re looking for will come with oil based poly. Use oil based poly.

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nightguy

213 posts in 127 days


#8 posted 08-30-2016 10:32 PM



I agree with Ja, on the shellac, you need a oil or solvent to “warm” the walnut , but from there you can use a water base from there, a straight water base wil leave walnut “bland” .

- CharlesNeil

If you use an Amber or darker Shellac for at least the first coat that will do your warming.
http://www.shellacshack.com/colors.html

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nightguy

213 posts in 127 days


#9 posted 08-30-2016 10:38 PM

chrisstef, >“Ill third the shellac recomendation. Id go with ruby button lac. Itll give you a bit of color and a little more protection being a waxed shellac. Bit of a learning curve to applying shellac however.”

Wrong, Waxed Shellac is not as durable as dewaxed, it is softer and if you top coat it with another type of finish will not adhere as well.

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3022 posts in 1263 days


#10 posted 08-30-2016 11:54 PM

I love how garnet shellac looks on walnut. I top with GF high performance, water based poly, but any clear finish would work.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Neil's profile

Neil

18 posts in 114 days


#11 posted 08-31-2016 12:07 AM

I’ve used dye stain and water based lacquer in the past with good results, the advantage is you can start with a dark stain and dilute until you find the color your after, the lacquer wont change it and leaves a super smooth finish.

With that said, like others say, Oil based poly will give you all the results your looking for straight outta the can.

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Snipes

97 posts in 1710 days


#12 posted 08-31-2016 12:23 AM

well there, you have the answer it’s unanimous!

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View jwmalone's profile

jwmalone

769 posts in 167 days


#13 posted 08-31-2016 12:59 AM

Shellac (not dewaxed ) sealer, durability is not an issue, then polly. been using it for over 20 years never had a finish fail with it. As long as you only use the shellac as a sealer and don’t build it up you can put pollycrylic over it no issues. I know a cabinet guy that switched to water based finishes for health reasons years ago he does it all the time.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View nightguy's profile

nightguy

213 posts in 127 days


#14 posted 08-31-2016 01:40 AM



Shellac (not dewaxed ) sealer, durability is not an issue, then polly. been using it for over 20 years never had a finish fail with it. As long as you only use the shellac as a sealer and don t build it up you can put pollycrylic over it no issues. I know a cabinet guy that switched to water based finishes for health reasons years ago he does it all the time.

- jwmalone

I dont know where you all get this waxed Shellac knowledge from? Zinsser Seal Coat is a 2lb cut for sealing and is dewaxed, look at the lower part of the can Dewaxed!!
http://www.rustoleum.com/product-catalog/consumer-brands/zinsser/interior-wood-finishes/sealcoat-universal-sanding-sealer/

Then there is this video from one of the leading finishers that uses Shellac, watch and listen!!
http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/video/can-the-can.aspx?&lookup=auto&V18=&V19=&V20=&V21=&V22=&V23=&V24=&V25=&V26=&V53=&V54=&Taun_Per_Flag=true&utm_source=eletter&utm_medium=eletter&utm_content=fw_eletter&utm_campaign=fine-woodworking-eletter

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jwmalone

769 posts in 167 days


#15 posted 08-31-2016 02:48 AM

Nightguy where in that post did I say any thing about Zinsser seal coat, I said shellac as a sealer. If you do not agree with some ones post just post you’re opinion and be done with it. Maybe even say, I do not agree with some of the previous post. No one else on this site post with such child like bs as you. . I assume you enjoy it so ill never respond to your post again. And like I said been doing it for 20 years and learned from some of the best in the business, that’s were I get my knowledge. That and books. Now go google yourself a personality and have a wonderful life.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

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