Recommendations for finishing walnut?

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 01-10-2014 03:39 AM 1325 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2115 days

01-10-2014 03:39 AM

Cripes, it’s been a while since I posted….

I picked up some walnut today. It’s…. rustic (i.e. got more than a few knots, etc.) but it’s mostly dark heartwood and I think I can cut out most of the sapwood.

This is my first time working with walnut and I’d like some suggestions for a pleasing to the eye finish for walnut. I’m probably not going to fill the pores this time around.


14 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


7951 posts in 2172 days

#1 posted 01-10-2014 03:47 AM

After getting a recommendation from Bigknotredhead, I’m a fan of Arm-r-seal now. I used it for my coffee table project.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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2657 posts in 2299 days

#2 posted 01-10-2014 04:07 AM

Amber shellac gives walnut a warm and rich tone….

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View alohafromberkeley's profile


257 posts in 2427 days

#3 posted 01-10-2014 05:49 AM

I’ve always loved walnut with an oil finish. Just brings up the depth and the grain just pops….Danish oil works as does tung oil. Some projects I’ve done a sanding sealer coat to fill the pores first and other times I like the walnut to look less formal, so I just try to get as many coats of oil as time allows. Keep in mind that walnut gets lighter in color as it ages so you may want a coat of stain first. On one table I refinished I put at least 12 wipe on coats of a thinned tung oil finish. Kept looking better coat by coat and I wished I had another week to keep on applying more oil.

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2308 days

#4 posted 01-10-2014 06:01 AM

My favorite finish on walnut is polymerized tung oil.

-- John, BC, Canada

View Hartworks's profile


53 posts in 1620 days

#5 posted 01-10-2014 06:26 AM

New to the site so I will throw in my 2cents, I am currently working on a hope chest project and testing finishes on sample walnut. So far I have tried dark danish oil, BLO, both sealed with shellac and then top coated with General Finishes High Performance satin. So far I really like the contrast provided by the BLO combination. Does not even out the tones but I like the contrast it provides.

-- Gary, California

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915 posts in 2115 days

#6 posted 01-10-2014 10:58 AM

Doesn’t the oil screw up the shellac adhesion? I mean, I know shellac will stick to almost anything but getting it to stick to oil?

View generic's profile


105 posts in 1621 days

#7 posted 01-10-2014 11:31 AM

I am building a cabinet out of black walnut and have tested a mix of 3 parts gloss poly, 1 part BLO and 1part napthe. It is a wipe on finish and I am really pleased with the results of the first coat.

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Gerald Thompson

970 posts in 2257 days

#8 posted 01-10-2014 01:35 PM

I just did a test piece. I grain filled with Timbermate walnut and sanded it back with 220. I padded on two coats of garnet de-waxed 1 lb cut of shellac. I the lightly buffed it with 0000 steel wool. I came out beautiful.
This is the schedule I’ll use in an upcoming Shaker 1840 wall clock. My wife and I have made 5 from cherry with a tung oil finish that everyone raves about but I think walnut will be just as pretty.

-- Jerry

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2271 days

#9 posted 01-10-2014 03:42 PM

These suggestions are great, but the key question is missing. – What are you making out of it and what will it be used for?

Almost any finish looks great on walnut. It’s a super easy wood to finish. The level of protection you need should dictate how it’s finished.

If I were to just give blanket advice I would say pore fill with timbermate walnut, shoot either Target Coatings EM6000 or a solvent based cab acrylic lacquer then rub out with rottenstone.


View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2392 days

#10 posted 01-10-2014 03:47 PM

I got good results with :
- 2 coats BLO
- 4 coats Arm-R-Seal wiped on with blue shop paper towels (sanded with 320 between where necessary)
- Johnson’s paste wax rubbed on with 0000 steel wool, then buffed off with blue shop towel.

Sorry for the picture quality, but in real life, it’s the finishing job I’m most fond of so far. I like it because it isn’t really built up on top of the wood, so you can still see and feel the grain.

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

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915 posts in 2115 days

#11 posted 01-11-2014 06:34 AM

Good question. I’m not sure what I’m going to make out of it. Whatever it is will probably not get a lot of abuse.

When I do pore filling I’ve been using Aqua Coat pore filler. I’ve gone through an entire can so far and it hasn’t given me any problems with finishing. I tried some Timber Mate (kind of a neutral tan color). I wasn’t crazy about it. But mainly I’m concerned about filling the pores with a color different than the wood.

But I’m out of Aqua Coat and it’s too cold to use it now.

I’m leaning towards shellac. I currently have some blonde shellac. Would using a darker shellac make the wood too dark?

I’d do tests but I don’t want to have to buy a big bag of flakes just for testing. Though one can never have too many shellac flakes….

Thanks, folks. Please keep the suggestions coming, I love them.

View madts's profile


1862 posts in 2362 days

#12 posted 01-11-2014 08:23 AM

Just paint it white and you will not have to worry about filling. Just kidding. :)

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

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915 posts in 2115 days

#13 posted 01-11-2014 11:43 AM

Heh. That might work too :)

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2271 days

#14 posted 01-11-2014 11:54 PM

Amber shellac looks awesome on walnut. Instead of buying the flakes, try the zinnser stuff to see if you like it.

I like to mix a little blonde with a little amber.


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