Sanding Black walnut

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Forum topic by bhorschel posted 01-14-2013 11:18 AM 6005 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 1921 days

01-14-2013 11:18 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sanding walnut black walnut grit paper finishing question table

I am working on a large walnut slab it has various marks from when it went through the saw. I want to keep it fairly rustic but still smooth. I started sanding with 60 grit on a orbital sander and it does not seem to be doing anything to the wood other than polishing it. I was expecting to have to be very careful with this grit so that I would not create more work when I switch to the 120 grit. However now I am wondering why the 60 grit is not making a dent, and if there is a better way. As it is I will spend a week or more of evenings trying to get the check marks out and smooth the slab. Thank you in advance for any advice.

18 replies so far

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3199 days

#1 posted 01-14-2013 11:46 AM

The answer is “Router Sled” and several examples can be found by searching here on Lumberjocks. A sled can be as elaborate as a few 2×4’s and a plywood board with some braces to support it so it doesn’t flex or one as elaborate as I made a few years ago.

Click for details

Here’s a simple design by SASmith.

Click for details

The router marks left will sand off in a few minutes instead of hours. Use wedges to get your slab as flat as possible, then set your router to just take off the top of the lowest part. I use a 1” straight bit and take off a 1/2” of wood per pass. Just slide down the slab and take off the waste. Sometimes I flatten both sides, sometimes I just flatten the top, it depends on how warped the slab is and how much wood I have to work with. It never takes very long to have a slab ready for sanding.

Good luck with your slab. After you get it smooth and build something from it, all that hard work will be worth it.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2073 days

#2 posted 01-14-2013 04:32 PM

Be careful, some people are allergic to walnut dust.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2447 days

#3 posted 01-14-2013 06:41 PM

Allergic or not, use whatever dust collection, respirators, or masks you have. Walnut dust is severely nasty stuff that you don’t want in your lungs!

-- Brian Timmons -

View bandit571's profile


19712 posts in 2645 days

#4 posted 01-14-2013 06:49 PM

Find and tune up one of these..

No dust raised. Then find out about using a scraper….

or a hand held card scraper.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4181 days

#5 posted 01-14-2013 06:55 PM

I wonder if there is a problem with either the sandpaper or your technique. I’ve worked with walnut quite a bit, and 60-grit should cut through it pretty well. Is the paper new? Are you possibly applying too much pressure and preventing the orbital action from doing its job?

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

View bhorschel's profile


5 posts in 1921 days

#6 posted 01-14-2013 07:58 PM

As far as the Sanding goes, I tried various pressures and different speeds. The caper is brand new. Seemed awfully strange to me also. But after reading all the reply’s I am thinking I should just take the piece to a large plainer and have it taken down a touch. That way I am starting from a better place and will have a lot less dust in my garage/house. I noticed that the dust was nasty, but didn’t realize it was such a concern. Thank you for all the help. I will post if I figure out why the 60 grit will not cut.

View Tennessee's profile


2860 posts in 2477 days

#7 posted 01-14-2013 08:33 PM

One thing to check is the dust collection on the sander. If it is clogging in seconds, any effort will be in vain. Also, I’d think about a belt sander moving it very quick in a figure 8 pattern, running top to bottom as you go, then come back with the orbital.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View bhorschel's profile


5 posts in 1921 days

#8 posted 01-14-2013 09:31 PM!!

As you can see the paper is not clogging, and the wood is not scratch as I would expect from 60 grit. I also wanted people to see the Check marks I am dealing with. Maybe the paper is of low quality. I may go to the specialty store and get some good paper. Thank you again!!

View bhorschel's profile


5 posts in 1921 days

#9 posted 01-14-2013 09:32 PM

View Wiltjason's profile


56 posts in 1924 days

#10 posted 01-14-2013 09:36 PM

That don’t look like walnut to me ???

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2652 days

#11 posted 01-15-2013 03:40 AM

Running that through a drum sander would work well as I’m concerned that the planer will create significant tear out in those knotty and figured areas. I’d look for a local cabinet shop with a wide belt or drum sander.

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

View bhorschel's profile


5 posts in 1921 days

#12 posted 01-15-2013 04:29 AM

Great comments. Thank you very much!

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2317 days

#13 posted 01-15-2013 04:50 AM

Ok, sanding is going to polish the surface. I would not recomend jumping directly from sixty grit to 120 grit however going this route, instead I would start at 80, then go to 100 then to 120. As for trying for a roustic feel, I’d go with planes and scrapers instead. While some are really good with these tools and provide perfectly flat smooth surface, others will not have these results. I would recomend if going the later route, that you learn how to sharpen you planes and scrapers really well, this piece of walnut will tear out around the burl rather easily.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View bryson's profile


18 posts in 1924 days

#14 posted 01-30-2013 11:54 AM

I have never had any luck doing big sanding work like that with an orbital sander—try using a handheld belt sander (one with decent power) and see how that works for you.

Also I have found that a simple (cheap) hand plane cuts HOURS off of my sanding time for a big slab like that—just be sure it’s tuned up or else you will put even more marks in your surface (not that I’ve EVER done that, of course… I just heard that it could happen to other people).

Good luck!

View RussellAP's profile


3103 posts in 2249 days

#15 posted 01-30-2013 12:54 PM

If you have a HF near by, try one of the Chicago belt sanders with some 60grit. Just clamp the work on a good sturdy horse and keep the sander moving and check often to make sure you don’t cut deeper than you want. You can get it to where you ROS will work on it faster.

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

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