Help Choosing Wood and Finish for Dining Table

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Forum topic by mstang1988 posted 02-04-2013 05:29 PM 3546 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 2139 days

02-04-2013 05:29 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finish

I’ve been planning on building a dining table and through accident found a wood and finish my Fiance and I really like. The problem is… it’s toasted birch and the wood is difficult to work with (splinters/cracks/splits easily). I’ve looked at black walnut but because it’s steamed at the vendors around here it looks much more washed out then the toasted birch. What wood and finish can I use to get close to the toasted birch? The dark wood in the picture linked is toasted birch in it’s natural color.

11 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3357 days

#1 posted 02-04-2013 06:01 PM

Use walnut. Trust me.

BTW, I could be wrong about this, but I think “toasted” birch is just a marketing term given to some engineered products or perhaps a stain color.

Walnut finishes to look exactly like that picture. I’d use maple and walnut.

-- jay,

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3012 days

#2 posted 02-04-2013 06:06 PM

Most hardwoods can be stained to that color. White oak is good for tables, especially when it is quartersawn.
A walnut gel stain should do the trick. Just steer clear of cherry if you plan to use an oil base stain.

Walnut is that color naturally.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3357 days

#3 posted 02-04-2013 06:10 PM

No doubt, Willie. But I wouldn’t stain it…that just leads to problems, especially since the two woods are adjacent to each other. You’d certainly want something naturally dark, hence the walnut recommendation.

It’s not so much of “Can I do this?” but rather one of “Should I do this?”

-- jay,

View mstang1988's profile


6 posts in 2139 days

#4 posted 02-04-2013 07:31 PM

In my experience Walnut hasn’t been as dark. I think this picture better shows the color. I’ll see if I can pickup some black walnut the next time I’m out and take a side-by-side snapshot. I would say the toasted birch is even darker then Peruvian Walnut (which is darker then American Walnut). If somebody has 8/4 Peruvian Walnut I would give it a try but haven’t seen reasonable prices.

View inchanga's profile


117 posts in 2311 days

#5 posted 02-04-2013 09:01 PM

A combination of black walnut and white oak or maple would give you the contrast you need and produce a supereb finish. I don’t understand why your wood vendor is steaming the walnut…

-- chris, north wales

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2713 days

#6 posted 02-04-2013 09:09 PM

First off, “toasted” is a method that some guitar builders are starting to do to their necks, especially maple necks. Toasting is an oven process where the wood is stabilized with high and dry heat. It actually “toasts” the wood, hence the term “toasted”. It is so hot, the wood darkens. Paul Reed Smith, the third largest builder in this country is using it a lot. The wood comes out as you describe, hard, brittle, not receptive to much of anything. But for a guitar neck already shaped, this is ideal, as it hardens the wood and allows the wood to better support the strong pull of the strings with the help of the truss rod inside. Also, over time, temp and humidity, much less movement.
This is the first time I have seen it applied to plank wood, but I guess it makes sense if you don’t want anything to move.
The big thing with toasted wood is it becomes really hard to stain it, since the wood has been pretty much hardened and tight. I think you might get away with a decent oil stain on the lighter wood, or a gel stain as suggested above.
One thing, you should not have to worry about movement of the the toasted wood.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2560 days

#7 posted 02-04-2013 09:10 PM

Most commercially kiln dried walnut is steamed as part of the process to make the color, especially sapwood, more uniform with the heartwood..

-- 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 mstang1988's profile


6 posts in 2139 days

#8 posted 02-05-2013 01:13 AM

Perhaps I confused you guys, re-reading my post I can understand why; I’m not looking to make that exact table. I’m looking to make something similar to but with wood and a finish close to the toasted birch. Walnut in the store isn’t nearly as dark and seems to have a less uniform color. I’m looking for the uniform color and the dark/richness. I’m sure it can be done with a stain, just trying to figure out exactly how to do it.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3483 days

#9 posted 02-05-2013 01:34 AM

If you like the look of walnut but would like it more even and darker then you could do a toner in the finish for the walnut part of the project.

Cosmicsniper can give you more information on that and I think that could be a good way to achieve the look you want from the walnut.

If you don’t want to stain, but want a darker contrast then walnut you could use Wenge. A couple tables built using Wenge and Curly Maple.

-- John @

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3357 days

#10 posted 02-05-2013 02:00 AM

Good point, Paul. I’d forgotten all about that in the context of guitars, but I’m fairly certain that the wood he was referring to isn’t actually toasted.

@Mstang1988 – Unfinished walnut is pretty dark when applying even the clearest of topcoat finishes. You can get it just about as dark as you want by adding oils, dyes, or stains. Color variation can vary from board to board. It’s not hard to pick a board quite uniform in that regard, even one that’s pretty dark to begin with. My favorite qualit of walnt is the depth of finish. Even straight lacquer topcoat can provide incredible chaytoyance, much more than any birch you can imagine.

-- jay,

View mstang1988's profile


6 posts in 2139 days

#11 posted 02-05-2013 05:19 PM

Thanks guys! I’ll make a few test runs with Walnut and see what i can do.

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