Finishing walnut (ANOTHER ONE!) also, Scraper vs. "smoothing plane"

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Forum topic by AaronK posted 06-17-2009 05:12 PM 1319 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View AaronK's profile


1436 posts in 2883 days

06-17-2009 05:12 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut

Alright, I know, yet another post about finishing walnut.

From what I’ve been reading, it seems like lots of folks are into filling the pores to get a super smooth surface. My project is a lamp, which will neither get a high level of touching/wear or require a glassy finish. The lampshade is nice mulberry paper, so this is all about texture. I’m planning on using miwax antique oil, which will leave the slightest film on the surface and I think will make the wood glow quite nicely.

I’m interested in hearing people’s opinions on filled vs unfilled walnut, as well as any recommendations for direction. The pores aren’t as huge as oak – will it really detract from the finished product quality?

And if I do go with a filler, what’s the best method? On one hand i like the idea of sanding in the oil finish to get a perfect tone match, but OTOH, no sandpaper has touched this wood yet – it’s been all handplaning – which i’m proud of, and which is a first. I would hate to disrupt that.

Finally, in terms of smoothness: the last metal that touched the wood was my lowly stanley block plane which i tuned to take off the thinnest most beautiful wispy shavings and has left a wonderfully smooth surface behind (other than the pores of course). I was originally expecting to have to go over this with the scraper, but (1) I dont think my scraper could leave it smoother, and (2) I was just reading in an old book that the smoothing plane should be used to prepare the wood surface and that the scraper is only used to get where the plane cannot or on tough grain. so what are your thoughts on that?

The trivial answers to all these questions is “do whatever you want,” but i’m hoping for some more insights from all you LJs. ;-)

4 replies so far

View lew's profile


11263 posts in 3174 days

#1 posted 06-17-2009 05:18 PM

OK, my $.02-

I think wood was meant to be touched and felt. The pores and grain, to me, add to the beauty of the experience. If I wanted to touch flat, smooth, glass-like surfaces, I’d make things out of plastic.

Finish it will oil or poly, just don’t get carried away. Leave something to experience!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3637 days

#2 posted 06-17-2009 05:51 PM

Trivial answers are free. For insight, we bill you. :-)

First, on the plane/scraper question. It’s probably fine as it is. But you can find out by going over a little bit of the planed surface with a scraper, and see for yourself if there is a significant difference in feel. I doubt there will be, based on your description.

On the filler: I only use grain filler on walnut when I am trying to get a mirror finish (which definitely is not all the time). If you are not going for that type of finish, there is absolutely no reason to fill pores. (My $.02)

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

View AaronK's profile


1436 posts in 2883 days

#3 posted 06-17-2009 06:56 PM

thanks for the reinforcement. i was leaning this way, but well, what do I know?

i have to say, this planing business beats the hell out of sanding.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3241 days

#4 posted 06-17-2009 07:26 PM

I have to agree with Charlie and Lew. I rarely ever try for a mirror smooth finish with walnut, oak or any other open grain wood. This is largely a personal preference. If you want a mirror finish or simply want to highlight the pores then filling is necessary. But for routine work I leave the wood in its natural state.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

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