Finishing walnut - Your favorite oil + wax combination?

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Forum topic by BTimmons posted 02-14-2013 07:34 PM 27056 views 5 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2303 posts in 2629 days

02-14-2013 07:34 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut finishing wax oil

I’ve seen plenty of projects here that incorporate walnut that apparently have an oil base coat topped with a coat or two of wax. I really dig the natural look, without the glossy covered-in-plastic-slime look of polyurethane. So those of you that have followed that way of doing it, what specific products have you had the best luck with, and are there any tricks or caveats to be wary of?

I have some scrap walnut to experiment with. So far I’ve tried good ol’ boiled linseed oil first, as it really deepens the color of the wood and brings the grain out. After that I used Minwax paste wax, since it’s the only kind I have on hand. However, the Minwax product has a pinkish color to it, which definitely doesn’t seem to darken or dry clear. Because after I buffed it off, all the pores in the wood were filled with bright pink-white flecks of wax. So either I need to use a darker wax, or I need to try filling the pores beforehand? All I used to buff off the wax was a cotton rag. Should I perhaps use something with fine bristles like a toothbrush that will actually dig into those pores too?

While trying to educate myself on wax finished I also came across this fascinating contribution from The Schwarz. Just check out the video and see if you think it’s as neat as I do.

So what works for you guys and gals?

-- Brian Timmons -

19 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3302 days

#1 posted 02-14-2013 07:42 PM

Danish oils. I normally use the Watco natural on walnut (cheap at Lowes). For wax, I use Johnson’s paste wax or Briwax.

I also like shellac on walnut, rubbed out for a natural look or applied akin to French polish for high gloss.

To remove the wax, definitely scrub out the pores with a solvent in the direction of the grain.

-- jay,

View Alster's profile


101 posts in 3358 days

#2 posted 02-14-2013 08:07 PM

Minwax antique oil finish looks just fine on walnut, and feels great followed with Johnson’s paste wax.

View Kazooman's profile


1144 posts in 2096 days

#3 posted 02-14-2013 08:16 PM

Tung oil / Briwax.

View Chris Peroni's profile

Chris Peroni

101 posts in 2082 days

#4 posted 02-14-2013 09:45 PM

I can’t speak for the effect on walnut (but you can try on your scrap piece of course), but I have had great results with a pure beeswax and mineral oil blend. After trying just a small quarter sized test piece of this wax sealer/finisher I was so pleased with it I made enough to fill a large to keep on hand.
I used:
-stainless steel bowl from the dollar store
-spoon (both the spoon and bowl are now just kept for mixing this finish)
-butane torch
-pliers (to hold the wax as you melt it)
-100% pure beeswax. I used 1lb. My block was off white, not the yellow stuff (so filtered wax I guess)
I pour mineral oil in the bowl and melt beeswax into it, stirring and folding the wax into the oil often. The consistency once cooled should end up like soft clay. I don’t have a ratio of parts to go by- I just kinda winged it.
To apply I cut a piece off and roll it in my hand to soften it, then rub it in the wood by hand. Let it sit for a few minutes and then buff it out with a clean cotton rag (old t shirt). Repeat. (lots of buffing)
I found this to give a nice low gloss shine, smooth surface, and very little change to the colour of the wood. The more oil in the blend the darker the wood can get.

Beeswax has been found intact in wood furnishings 1000’s of years old- it’s a tried and true product.
Also, this finish is wicked great for leather.

-- Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. -Plato

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3463 days

#5 posted 02-14-2013 10:19 PM

Wax = trouble down the road, IMHO.

eh’ like I said, its just me, but if something goes wrong with the finish, wax can yuck it up to fix.

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2392 days

#6 posted 02-14-2013 11:53 PM

Practice on scraps. All of these are great suggestions. I prefer natural danish oil on walnut followed by Briwax (several days later).

I personally think amber shellac look awesome on dark walnut as well.


View Matt Rogers's profile

Matt Rogers

110 posts in 2114 days

#7 posted 02-15-2013 12:11 AM

Someone said the words tried and true and that is what I use – Tried and True finishes. That is the brand name and they make three completely non-toxic finishes from straight Danish Oil, to a Varnish Oil, and then an oil/wax called Original Wood Finish. I love the fact that they are totally non-toxic and Zero VOC and therefore I don’t have to worry about putting on gloves or accidently ingesting a toxic substance on those days where I end up covered in oil after finishing a large project all day long. The Danish Oil is what they recommend you use first as a base coat because it is cheaper, then topcoat with any of the three products for a satin, or semi-gloss hand-rubbed look. No films and I can even apply it in cold temps since there is no drying process so to say. It takes longer to cure, but at least I can apply a coat, give it a longer time to soak in and rub it off and then give it a few more days to cure. Very easy in hot weather, but there are few finishes that work well in freeing temps.

Plus they are made in NY state close to where I am located as a bonus.

-- Matt Rogers, and

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2505 days

#8 posted 02-15-2013 12:26 AM

IMO, oil and wax is not a finish; it’s just a way to avoid applying a finish while emphasizing the grain and masking any harsh appearance of raw wood, only suitable for something that won’t be handled. I admit that I’ve done oil-only on a couple things, but I’d never go that route on a piece of furniture. Furniture deserves a finish commensurate with the pride one has in the design and build quality of the piece.

Contrary to an earlier comment, oil or waterborne poly can be manipulated to achieve any desired appearance, from a close to the wood oiled look to a high gloss, and prejudice against it is simply irrational.

-- 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 camps764's profile


867 posts in 2504 days

#9 posted 02-15-2013 01:37 AM

Take a look at how Canadian WoodWorks finishes his chairs/furniture. He works a lot with Walnut and gets beautiful results – like what you are describing.

That being said, I have to agree with some of what Clint said…you can manipulate Poly to get any appearance you want – it comes in a several flavors and you can cut it/blend it to get the appearance you are after.

-- Steve

View Woodknack's profile


12369 posts in 2524 days

#10 posted 02-15-2013 02:04 AM

BLO & Johnson’s because that’s what I have. I bought a bottle of mineral oil but haven’t opened it yet. When the BLO is gone I might buy a bottle of tung oil. Occasionally I use Watco but rarely with wax.

-- Rick M,

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2505 days

#11 posted 02-15-2013 02:22 AM

Mineral oil is best relegated to relieving constipation. And that’s no s**t.

-- 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 BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2629 days

#12 posted 02-15-2013 02:29 AM

I knew I’d get a lot of answers, but wow. There’s a lot of info to process here. Thanks to everyone for their input.

I have done a poly mix with BLO and mineral spirits and got good results. Haven’t tried shellac yet, but I love the look so that may be on the horizon soon. And lots of experimentation based on advice here!

-- Brian Timmons -

View Donowoodworks's profile


14 posts in 2354 days

#13 posted 02-15-2013 05:08 AM

I have used a “3-part” oil to nice effect on a number of projects

It is equal parts Boiled Linseed oil, Tung oil, and varnish. Wipe on, let sit until it is just before gelling (around 10 minutes) and wipe it off. Let dry overnight and add another coat. 5 coats or so and rub it out with wax and a steel wool pad or just some mineral oil. Natural look with some awesome lustre to it.

You can thin the first coat by using more varnish so it is drawn deeper into the wood, if you want.

Let us know what you do and post some pictures!


-- -Mark Donovan,

View Gary's profile


9352 posts in 3576 days

#14 posted 02-15-2013 05:13 AM

I use pure tung with a beeswax/carnuba mix over it

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View LOWI's profile


10 posts in 2071 days

#15 posted 02-15-2013 05:15 AM

Shellac adds some extra work, but in many cases it brings out the wood like nothing else. Maybe a dark wax over all might give nicer results than a plain wax. So many choices… it is endless.

showing 1 through 15 of 19 replies

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