finishing walnut

OK, not a boat question, but a wood question.  I have a solid walnut coffee table, basically country primitive, made by a family member some 50 years ago.  It's never been finished, so has acquired a number of stains, water marks, etc.  I'm thinking of working on it this winter, sand it out, get some kind of finish on it to make it a bit nicer and protected.  Opinions:  oil finish, varnish of some kind, polyurethane? Oil finishes need reapplication. Satin varnish might do well, but will require more surface prep.  My style is not glossy piano-finished furniture.  It's mostly a mix of American country antique and euro contemporary.  Yeah, I know, but it works for me.


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RE: finishing walnut

Hand rubbed oil gets my vote.

Merry Christmas,

Laszlo

   

RE: finishing walnut

   When I'm not building, or sailing, my boats, I'm a professional woodworker.  My favorite finish for walnut is the same as Laszlo's:  hand rubbed oil.  I like Watco Natural, usually three coats.  For more protection, wait 72 hours after the last application of the oil and put on some Minwax Wipe-On Poly.  I usually use one or two coats of the Watco, putting on the second coat with 0000 steel wool and wiping dry.  Then, after the 72 hours, I wipe on a coat of the poly every 4 - 8 hours with a clean cloth and wipe it almost dry.   6 coats, thinly applied, will still give you that close to the wood appearance but with the ability to withstand spilled liquids and other abuse.

RE: finishing walnut

   Agreed.  That's the same way Ive finished a few gun stocks.  Works out really well.

RE: finishing walnut

 

You realize you could easily set off a religious war with this question right?

My personal favorite is shellac and wax. Shellac will darken the wood less than oil. It is sold as Sanding Sealer by Zinsser. The Amber stuff will darken and warm the walnut in a way I don’t find particularly attractive. It’s available at hardware and big box stores.
Thin it out of the can with denatured alcohol 1:1. I soak a wad of t-shirt and wipe it on. Because it’s alcohol based it drys very fast. in a few minutes hit it with 400 grit to knock the nibs down and wipe it again. Repeat until you get the build you want. I stop around 4 or 5. You can get this completely finished in a couple of hours. The new layer will soften the earlier layer and kind of melt together. I find it pretty fool proof, important for me.
Follow with wax applied with 0000 steel wool and rubbed out quickly. Don't use floor wax, that stuff is too hard to rub out by hand very well.
Oil and wipe on poly will give more protection from water spots and rings but shellac is easy to refresh. I like the warm satin sheen. I love the feel under my fingers. And I believe it complements your furniture style nicely.

Good luck,
e

 

  

RE: finishing walnut

These are all great suggestions and spot on in my experience.  Walnut is the only wood I don't tint while finishing.  I've used boiled linseed oil with decent results too, but that was a picture frame that won't see any wear and tear.  Polycrylic is a water-based polyurethane that's easy to apply and gets a good, tough finish after several coats.  I've also used General Finishes Arm-R-Seal and am very happy with that as a finish for tables that will have glasses set on it (nobody but you will use a coaster).  I'd go with the latter as it's been on my dining table for years and my family is very tough on the furniture I've made.

RE: finishing walnut

I'm going w/ Peter's solution of Watco and Minwax poly.  I had to look around for the natural.  The first couple places only had the colored ones, not the Natural.  The table is sanded, just got to warm up the garage enough to do the finishing.  I like the look and feel of a nicely finished walnut stock, though I've never finished one myself, so I'm taking his recommendation.   

RE: finishing walnut

Thanks for the follow-up.  I love Watco and use it all the time.  Make sure you visit the table every few minutes after you apply to wipe up any additional oil that weeps out of the wood pores.

RE: finishing walnut

I wiped on two coats of the oil last night.  I'll do one more with the 0000, then let it cure for the poly.  It is bringing out some great highlights and depth of grain.  This was old, well seasoned walnut that must have been years seasoning.  

RE: finishing walnut

Sounds like the die is cast, but I can't help myself.

I love a "hand rubbed" finish on walnut, but a coffee table (at least in my world) has high durability requirements. 

I have heard/seen great things (but have not used) a product called Osmo "hardwax." The idea is to preserve the look and feel of an oil finish, but with more stain and wear protection than these products typically afford. Worth checking out to another time.

Good luck,

Patrick

RE: finishing walnut

The table is coming out nicely.  It was dirty, stained, dark before.  Just got the poly on.  

   

 

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