Finishing Walnut

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Forum topic by Ben Kahmann posted 06-16-2009 01:59 AM 1467 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Ben Kahmann

231 posts in 3241 days

06-16-2009 01:59 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing walnut

Hello Everyone,

I was debating with an acquaintance at Wood Craft about finishing Walnut, specifically eveything BUT the top surface. The scenario is this…..Most of the time when I finish walnut on say a table top, I fill the pores because generally I like a glass finish. My friend happens to agree with me on this for most applications. However, I don’t or I guess I haven’t done so on the apron or legs before. I don’t see an advantage of taking the time to do all of the extra filling and sanding on the other parts if I am not rubbing out to a high gloss and he does. I don’t claim to be a “expert finisher” but I like to believe I am correct. I know finishing is a personal preference and I would appreciate a few opinions from some of you guys (and girls ;-). Fill the pores on the legs and apron?, or don’t? All replies are appreciated and taken with an open mind. Thanks!

-- Ben Kahmann Dayton, OH

11 replies so far

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3691 days

#1 posted 06-16-2009 02:23 AM

What is your technique for filling the pores on the table top? It sounds quite time and labor intensive for the “glass finish”, which I can understand why the legs and apron may recieve less attention.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3291 days

#2 posted 06-16-2009 02:30 AM

Like you said in your post, “finishing is a personal preference.” If you are building this for a customer, obviously see what they want and go from there.

I agree that the legs and apron probably don’t need the filler. However, if people look at the piece (and know what they are looking for) a fully filled and finished piece will up the “Oooooooh!” factor.

I haven’t done a full sized table so ultimately I will be paying attention to the more experience folks here on LJ.

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4187 days

#3 posted 06-16-2009 03:46 AM

I’m with you. On a table, I like that glass-smooth finish on top. But I actually think it would look a little odd to bring that same level of gloss to te legs and apron.

I’d be interested to see a piece where someone has done that.

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

View Ben Kahmann's profile

Ben Kahmann

231 posts in 3241 days

#4 posted 06-16-2009 04:32 AM

First off, thanks for the replies and I suppose I’ll respond to all in this post. mmh….. my finish starts with surface prep, sanding and scraping. Generally, I ROS with 150 or 180 grit and follow with 220 by hand to remove swirls. I have made the mistakes before, if you are using a pore filler and their are imperfections it shows up twice as much. But to not make this a novel, I then seal with shellac and follow it with a water based filler that has been thinned. After it dries I sand back to the shellac and repeat if necessary. I’ll follow with topcoats. I really like padding laquer. On my current project I want to try something new so if anybody has any great ways to sinish walnut and curly maple let me know ;-).
Durnik150….The table is actually for my Grandparents that are moving here to Dayton, OH from Florida and is a housewarming gift
CharlieM1958…...Who knows, maybe I’ll try the “glass look” on the whole thing, I’m curious myself to see

Thanks for the responses…any more are appreciated

-- Ben Kahmann Dayton, OH

View Chiefk's profile


163 posts in 3740 days

#5 posted 06-16-2009 02:17 PM

Ben, for what it’s worth, FWW has an article in this months magazine on such a finish. It was an interesting read. The author used a polishing compound used on automobiles. If you get a chance take a look. pkennedy

-- P Kennedy Crossville, TN

View johnpoole's profile


74 posts in 3435 days

#6 posted 06-16-2009 02:51 PM

i’m on the other side of the coin. if i was trying to make a living at this my thoughts would be along the same lines as yours. BUT since i am not a pro, i fill every inch. i also have the bad habit of hand sanding every thing to 2000 grit. i perfer a mirror finish on any darker wood and a light gloss on maple or antique pine. it’s not rare for me to spend more time with the finish then the woodwork. but i like to hand sand. your touch can feel the difference between the wood with each grit.

to me filling just the top would be the same as just painting the front of a home. looks good at a glance, but it is not the best i can do.

-- it's not a sickness, i can stop buying tools anytime i want

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4187 days

#7 posted 06-16-2009 03:28 PM

Hey, johnpoole…. I went to look for some project postings from you, but there’s nothing there. Let us see the results of all that hard work!

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

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3303 days

#8 posted 06-16-2009 08:25 PM

I have used the auto rubbing compound on small projects finished with poly. It really gives a special look and feel that I don’t believe can be obtained any other way. I guess the best description would be silky smooth and flawless. But don’t check my projects for this Charlie, as I haven’t used this technique on any of the items I’ve posted to date.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Ben Kahmann's profile

Ben Kahmann

231 posts in 3241 days

#9 posted 06-16-2009 11:51 PM

Chiefk….You know I have been buying FWW for years off the shelf on my trips to Wood Craft and haven’t picked up this months yet. Thanks for the tip and it gives me another reason to go back ;-) I forgot it a few days ago

Johnpoole….I am also a hobby woodworker, but I love to build. It seems every time I finish a piece It’s someone’s B-day, Anniversary, ect and it’s out the door. As you can see I am not a “production” wood worker, but I’m no slouch either. I suppose the only reason I never filled the pores and finished to a high gloss on an entire table is I have never seen it done. I agree with CharlieM1958 that it may look odd, but who knows. Maybe that’s a reason to give it a try. I can totally see having “the works” finish on a box or a smaller project, but a table?................Have you got any pics of a table like that, I would love to see one or two. Thanks for the comments, I appreciate it

Stefang…That sounds like a very interesting finish and I would love to see a pic of a piece finished with auto rubbing compound in the future. What kind of compound do you use?

-- Ben Kahmann Dayton, OH

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 3784 days

#10 posted 06-17-2009 12:40 AM

Since I make a living at this, my question would be…..why would you put two different levels of finish on the same product? I’m not talking about secondary wood and the insides of stuff, but, directly visible surfaces. (Of course I also have a quality control caveat that states if the only way you’ll see something is when you’re drunk, puking on the floor, and look up and say…”Oh, look, that’s not right”’s probably o.k.)

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View Ben Kahmann's profile

Ben Kahmann

231 posts in 3241 days

#11 posted 06-17-2009 01:07 AM

Catspaw…..Have you ever built a TABLE and finished the entire thing with a high gloss glass finish top to bottom? If you have I would love to see a pic if you have one available. This inquiry was more directed toward tables. Generally speaking, the reason I haven’t done that with a fine grained top is that I want to draw attention to it and adding a high gloss seems to do the trick for ME and that is one mans opinion. I agree with you that with most any other pieces having the same finish is the “norm”

-- Ben Kahmann Dayton, OH

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