Bleaching walnut

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Forum topic by Loren posted 01-04-2014 05:46 PM 2410 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3670 days

01-04-2014 05:46 PM

I’ve ordered the material to do some bleaching to even
out the color on an already assembled walnut piece.

Any suggestions on how to avoid lightening the lighter
parts excessively while getting the darker parts lighter
in an already assembled furniture piece (a chair in this
case where some frame parts are a lot darker)?

I’ve never bleached wood before. This may be easier
than expected. I’m familiar with the safety concerns.
I’m wondering how to get the bleaching into corners

16 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2309 days

#1 posted 01-04-2014 06:58 PM

Practice on some sample scraps.

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

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1872 days

#2 posted 01-08-2014 05:56 PM

Two part wood bleaches will turn the wood the colour of a “sun-bleached bone.” In other words, they will remove most, if not all of the natural colour. This is how the blonde look that was popular in the 1950s was created. Mask off the dark parts of the project that you don’t want bleached. As Russell suggested, practice your procedure on scrap.

If you’re trying to even out the colour of your project, I suggest that you experiment with dyes, stains, toners and/or glazes before reaching for the wood bleach. Those harsh, caustic chemicals should be considered as a last resort.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3670 days

#3 posted 01-08-2014 07:23 PM


In researching this I’ve actually become intrigued by the
aesthetic of bleached walnut. I did some tests and
it seems to me that it’s close to an all-or-nothing
thing with bleaching this wood. I don’t think selective
bleaching will get me the effect I am looking for.

I’m going to bleach the whole piece.

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2309 days

#4 posted 01-08-2014 07:28 PM

If you want bleached walnut, get some pecan wood.

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

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3670 days

#5 posted 01-08-2014 07:32 PM

Thanks Russel. That timber is unlikely to be available
in my area. I have never seen it for sale here. I live
on the West Coast and domestic hardwood selection
is limited.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2510 days

#6 posted 01-08-2014 07:33 PM

The only bleaching of walnut I ever did was to acidize it, neutralize the acid, (Citric acid neutralized with baking soda and distilled water), then a watered down solution of English Walnut dye.

It all came out pretty nicely, and my ex wife really liked it.

Until I told her it was her Urn.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3765 days

#7 posted 01-08-2014 07:37 PM

A lot of the big furniture houses – would bleach the walnut, of course the white sapwood, isn’t going to get whiter.

When they have a even color, they go to dyes to make the whole piece a consistent repeatable color – - so that if you order the end tables to match your dresser, in “Dark Aspenglow-juniper etc…” two years later – it will still all match.

Is the goal to have “lighter” overall color? or to get the color even?

Have fun with it – but practice first.

It is hard to get bleaching reproducible in our garages, because how long we leave it on, how quickly we neutralize with vinegar all affects the final result.

Bleaching/staining/dyeing is easy to do a piece – but harder to do exactly the same over again.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3608 days

#8 posted 01-08-2014 09:02 PM

I bought some wood bleach on ebay it is worthless as it doesn’t seem to do anything does bleach for wood have a short shelf life? sorry din’t mean to gatecrash your post. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View CharlesNeil's profile


2410 posts in 3893 days

#9 posted 01-08-2014 09:17 PM

You don’t want to bleach it, you want to dye it, I will give you a recipe tomorrow .. does the walnut have lighter edges ?

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1978 days

#10 posted 01-08-2014 09:47 PM

Loren, do you have pictures of the Walnut you’re trying to match?

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3670 days

#11 posted 01-08-2014 11:41 PM

Here are some pictures. Variations in color in walnut I can
live with, but the horizontal lower frame of the chair
is so dark it will look like a different species when finished.

Angle of light affects perception of color, so I turned the
chair sideways so you can see. I have wiped it down
with mineral spirits to pop the color (here is is dry),
and the contrast is just too much to be acceptable
to me in a piece like this, it undermines the form.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2410 posts in 3893 days

#12 posted 01-09-2014 06:15 PM

These 2 recipes … have served me well for many years can also buy the color from Mohawk in what they call “Ultra Penetratin” stain.. Its actually an Alcohol dye named “Light Walnut” .

I matched the color in Transtint as well as W.D. Lockwood dyes .

The base I used was taking the Transtint 2 oz and adding 2oz of water (4 oz total)
The Lockwood , all the dyes are their Metal complex dyes in powder form , I added these to 1 pint of water . All the formulas below are using the concentrations noted above .
Transtint :

1 part med brown
1/4 part orange
1/4 part amber
2 parts water


3/4 part Honduras brown Mahogany
1 part Standard brown Walnut
1/2 part pilgram amber
2 parts water.

This color matches old growth ,unsteamed walnut, it gives a nice gold/brown .

Golden oak is also a good stain for a natural looking walnut .

Most walnut is steamed, it leaches the tannins from the heart wood into the sap wood and colors it. Walnut is one of the few woods that sap is considered a defect , the steaming is used to give a higher yield. Unfortunately the sap never colors fully , and in general it makes the walnut darker with a dark purple cast. We ALWAYS dye our walnut to achieve a uniform color and to kill the darker/purple look. Typically we use the Mohawk dye.

Another option is Asphaltum here is an article I wrote on it for Apollo
may sounds a little unusual , but it works quite well and you can control the color , same as with the dyes above .

The best I can do for a picture is here .. The walnut high boys have the dye on them ..not the best photos , sorry

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1872 days

#13 posted 01-09-2014 06:59 PM

I can vouch for those ultra-penetrating stains from Mohawk. They’re somewhat expensive, but worth every penny. When I want a dye stain, they’re generally my first choice.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2410 posts in 3893 days

#14 posted 01-09-2014 07:29 PM

It may actually be cheaper to get the Mohawk, than to have to buy all the various dyes. But the Asphaltum does pretty nice. What many don’t know is its the base for most all the brown oil base stains on the market, its certainly not new and has been around for centuries. I like to use a little mineral spirits to thin it, this way it drys fastbut not super fast and doesn’t seal the wood from taking more color, like stains do. They use BLO . You can use about any solvent, lacquer thinner works but is super fast to dry .One caution this stuff is gooey, messy .. use a dipper /spoon or something to get it out of the can , pouring it out is about like pouring mud… .

you add more Asphalt or thin it to get the color and intensity you want .. and for the most part , its pretty cheap .

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2392 days

#15 posted 01-09-2014 07:35 PM

Loren, I can’t comment on the coloring, but hey, nice lookin’ chair!

Question : Are the back legs doweled or screwed into the lower frame? I see 3 brighter dots on the second pic, but they don’t show up in the first pic.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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