Walnut--to stain or not to stain

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Forum topic by Billy E posted 06-30-2014 12:44 PM 1505 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Billy E

162 posts in 2108 days

06-30-2014 12:44 PM

This is my first project with walnut. I have read mixed feelings about stain on walnut. I like the way it looks without stain. On the small test pieces, “dark walnut” danish oil doesn’t really darken it that much, assuming I first filled the pores. I have not tried it yet with actual 100% stain. Anyway, I guess I am ok with it either way. What I’m not sure of is how walnut will keep its color after UV exposure, like through a window. I have read that it fades significantly. This would be my reason for stain. Is this legit, or am I worrying about nothing? The finish will be Tung oil/varnish, with essentially no film. If not for the worry about fading, I’d prefer to keep it natural. Thanks for your input.


-- Billy, Florence SC

16 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile


2943 posts in 2201 days

#1 posted 06-30-2014 01:22 PM

I believe walnut is to beautiful a wood to stain. It, like cherry does darken over time.Try stain on a scrap piece and see how you like it.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View rrww's profile


263 posts in 2141 days

#2 posted 06-30-2014 01:46 PM

Walnut tends to lighten over time…

I prefer Walnut to be natural, I havn’t noticed that much fade from the uv light. In may option it is not enough to worry about.

Golden oak does look nice on walnut.

Good luck.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1963 days

#3 posted 06-30-2014 01:51 PM

I like walnut natural, and I don’t think it is worth adding stain to. Maybe plain oil, but not stain.

Can’t help with whether or not it lightens up over time. I’ve only had my walnut creations for a year or so.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5912 posts in 3222 days

#4 posted 06-30-2014 01:55 PM

Personally…..I would never put stain on walnut…..The beauty of the wood is the wood…..I use about 2-3 coats of Natural Danish Oil (depending on the look I’m after), and then maybe topcoat it, once it’s dry, with a clear varnish (polyurethane) with 3-4 coats…..When you put the Danish Oil on, watch that grain “pop”....then you’ll know why you don’t need stain…...Walnut fading bad is urban legand….........

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2427 days

#5 posted 06-30-2014 02:18 PM

While I love walnut I often put a golden oak (Minwax) stain on it that gives it a warm gold color. Some walnut has a cold blue cast to it and the golden oak stain eliminates this.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View knotscott's profile


8057 posts in 3404 days

#6 posted 06-30-2014 02:23 PM

I wouldn’t typically stain nice looking black walnut, but not all walnut has the same color, and sometimes you need to match the boards. In a case where I had a mismatch, I might use stain.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4246 days

#7 posted 06-30-2014 02:32 PM

If you are really looking for a particular color, go ahead and stain it. but if all you want is a pretty result, leave it natural.

The only time I’ve stained walnut is when I was trying to match some dark cherry commercial furniture, and it worked out well.

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

View NoThanks's profile


798 posts in 1557 days

#8 posted 06-30-2014 02:43 PM

Stain away, No Rules. Make it the color that makes you feel good.

I’ve stained lots of walnut. I’ve left it natural just as many times.

Sometimes natural is boring depending on what the project is.
Sometimes natural is the best for what it is.

I’m not a purist that believes it’s a sin to stain wood,
Walnut stained: pics do no justice (Beautiful in person)

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

View Woodknack's profile (online now)


11823 posts in 2408 days

#9 posted 06-30-2014 05:24 PM

I’ve stained walnut sapwood to match heartwood but otherwise I don’t see any point. But walnut is one of my favorite woods, I like it as-is.

-- Rick M,

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 2108 days

#10 posted 06-30-2014 05:36 PM

I want to thank everyone so much for their feedback. I plan to skip the stain this time. I’m not trying to match anything and I like the bit of sapwood in the project. By the way, it’s a pair of nightstands. I’ll post the project when I’m done.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3013 days

#11 posted 06-30-2014 05:59 PM

I have always left walnut natural, but after seeing a couple people put a coat or two of garnet shellac on it, I really want to try it, as the way it deepened the color was astounding.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 2699 days

#12 posted 06-30-2014 06:01 PM

Personally I like wood to look as natural as possible, so I’m anti stain, but it’s your project, so who am I to tell you what to do…

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1549 days

#13 posted 06-30-2014 07:23 PM

Billy, if this piece will be flooded regularly with direct sunlight, it will fade. My recommendation would be to close the curtain or put in some kind of sun filter when the sun shines in or relocate the piece, if possible. Stain won’t prevent the bleaching or, really, repair it after the damage is done.

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 2108 days

#14 posted 06-30-2014 07:30 PM

Thank you everyone for your input. I will probably not stain, provided I don’t see a significant mismatch between boards as knotscott mentioned. So far, everything looks well-matched even though the boards were not all bought together. Thank you also, Yonak, for your recommendation. I believe I can keep the stands out of direct light, plus the windows are newer and should block some UV by themselves. I plan to finish using varnish/oil blend and keep them out of light. I appreciate all the responses.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2389 days

#15 posted 06-30-2014 08:39 PM

See my project ”Stickley Sideboard” for an example of stained walnut.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

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