Finishing Walnut?

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Forum topic by Mark posted 01-14-2012 06:13 AM 34149 views 2 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3272 days

01-14-2012 06:13 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Okay so I am working on my first project with walnut and I need some info. My question for you folks is “what is a good finish for walnut and is there anything I should specifically know about it?” oil? BLO? poly? What do you think?

-- M.K.

32 replies so far

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4398 days

#1 posted 01-14-2012 06:40 AM

I like to use Danish Oil to penetrate the wood and then top coat it with a wipe-on poly.

I wet sand the the project with danish oil and a ROS. That makes a slurry that fills the pores. I then use a sharpened putty knife to cut off the slurry after it has dried. I also used a scraper.

Here’s a blog that has some of the activities

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View RBWoodworker's profile


441 posts in 3350 days

#2 posted 01-14-2012 07:40 AM

well.. it depends on just what your project is and what look you are trying to achieve..if you want natural but have the grain pop..I would spray some Shellac sealcoat, scuff sand it lightly then spray lacquer if you want to protect it after the sealcoat.. spray General Finishes Endurovar or High Performance.. it really depends on just what your trying to accomplish

you can see some of the pieces I have finished on my website

-- Randall Child

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2574 days

#3 posted 01-14-2012 09:03 AM

My go to finish is zinsser sealcoat followed by crystalac super premium.
Fast drying, durable, water based for low voc (I spray mine in the kitchen with a box fan facing out the window) and it looks great.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Woodknack's profile


11626 posts in 2378 days

#4 posted 01-14-2012 09:47 AM

Oil and wax for a natural finish. Anything else would start with a coat of garnet or amber shellac (I prefer walnut with a warmer hue) then an appropriate topcoat (lacquer, varnish, or shellac).

-- Rick M,

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3272 days

#5 posted 01-14-2012 03:36 PM

Well my idea is to leave it as natural as possible with something to protect it like an oil. I prefer not to have the “plastic” feel of poly or shellac on top

-- M.K.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2950 days

#6 posted 01-14-2012 04:00 PM

I agree it depends on what the project is. I made two walnut bedside tables and I used tongue oil and applied regular old Johnson’s wax and buffed it. I also like wood to look as natural as possible. The tables are two years old now and could use some more wax, but they are ok as is.

-- Mike

View bcwoodworking's profile


31 posts in 2342 days

#7 posted 01-14-2012 04:07 PM

I work with walnut alot and love this wood. I use tung oil and hand applied poly depending on the look I am after. Tung oil really beings out the Character in the wood.

-- Patrick Craven (BCWoodworking of NC)

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2359 days

#8 posted 01-14-2012 05:05 PM

I think walnut looks best under a film finish that gives it some sheen and depth. On the project below I used a thinned coat of brush-on oil poly over a light wash coat of red mahogany stain.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2848 days

#9 posted 01-14-2012 05:31 PM

Long time passing I got to using Watco Black Walnut or Dark Walnut on walnut. The enhancement is subtle but pleasing to my eye.

After that, one could add any of the topcoats mentioned here.

I am told that the walnut we get from the yards is kiln dried and that air dried walnut yields the more reddish tones. Can anyone confirm that? I’ve worked with both, and I’d prefer the latter but don’t have a good local source.

I really like the results Clint got. What stain product and shade, Clint?



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2949 days

#10 posted 01-14-2012 05:38 PM

I love to finish walnut with BLO. I have done poly once or twice for items that would suffer a lot of use, and that wasn’t so bad either, but if BLO will work, I’d go with it.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2359 days

#11 posted 01-14-2012 06:01 PM

@Lee – That was Minwax Red Mahogany that I really thinned out so as not to overwhelm the walnut, which was a pretty dark chocolate to begin with. Air dried, BTW.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View rowdy's profile


375 posts in 3440 days

#12 posted 01-14-2012 06:07 PM

What Brandon said.

-- Rowdy in Kechi, Kansas

View RBWoodworker's profile


441 posts in 3350 days

#13 posted 01-14-2012 06:20 PM

the problem with BLO finishes is that they offer no protection properties..I mean none really.. they do however, enhance the wood and make any figure pop and make the piece look nice..In the beginning I used to use a mixture of 1/3 polyurethane varnish, 1/3 raw tung oil, and 1/3 boiled linseed oil, and apply 6 coats and that gave it a nice sheen can and will wear off and dull over time if used a lot..and re-coating is necessary after awhile..if you want something that gives the look of BLO but offers more protection..I would go with Arm-R-Seal.. that will give you better protection and you don’t have to re-coat it as much if any. If durability and maximum protection is warranted.. I would spray a post cat. conversion varnish or the General Finishes High Performance with an added crosslinker..

My Rockers and Maloof chairs are made using the 1/3rd mixtures mentioned above they give it the non plastic look but Arm-R-Seal does that also but with better protection

-- Randall Child

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3478 days

#14 posted 01-14-2012 06:50 PM

I like the Watco oil look on walnut too. I usually use the walnut colored oil and top coat it with poly.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3891 days

#15 posted 01-14-2012 08:19 PM

Fail safe, best finish I have used to date that doesn’t require expensive equipment comes from Don Kondra. Its water resistant, easy to apply, contains oil that keeps the wood from going brittle,…….lots of depth. Love it

If memory serves me right

a 1 qt jar.

1/4 high end (marine stores NOT big box stores) marine varnish
1/4 tongue oil
1/2 paint thinner

1 capful/teaspoon of Japan Dryer

mix well, apply a liberal amount to surface and use a lint free rag to spread evenly. When the finish starts to dry (starts to loose the shiney wet look) remove excess with a dampened lint free rag. Repeat every 8 to 12 hours with a light scuff between coats

takes about 6 to 12 applications but all of a sudden the finish pops and leaves a rich deep professional look. I love it and its so easy to maintain


-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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