Walnut Box - Would appreciate some advice on finish, stain and sanding.


I have a display case made of walnut ( I'm pretty sure, may be pecan.) I've had it for about 10 years unfinished and it looks a little rough in places. Not beat up, but where it has gotten wet a few times over the years and dried. I have a mini-wax cherry stain that I'd like to put on the wood and then finish with a polyurethane gloss ( I think the poly satin looks too much like dull wax.)
The problem is I really suck when using poly. I either put it on too thin and get areas where I miss or I put on too much and I get areas of varying thickness. I've tried to let it set up a few days and then sand, but the sandpaper gets all gummy. Maybe it needs a few weeks to cure, I don't know. I was thinking of using the stain/poly combo. If all I have to do it brush it on and then wipe it off I don't see how I can mess that up. Advice/remarks/suggestions?
Also, I am thinking I should sand the wood first. What grit should I use? Does it matter if I sand with the grain or not? I treated a white pine board with the stain and it came out pretty light after several applications, but when I tested a small area on the Walnut, it was pretty dark. Is this common?
So, Advice/remarks/suggestions?
Thanks Eric
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Eric Kent wrote:

You always sand with the grain. For a smooth finish use a very fine grit/. Possibly a #400. If you wax stain it then just wax it,.thats all the finish you need if it is walnut or cherry.
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Eric Kent wrote:

Well, it sure ain't walnut if you're thinking of staining it; walnut is as dark as the inside of a cow.
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Ok Heybub, I looked at some pics of Walnut on the net and I guess it is not walnut. I'm not good at ID'ing cut woods. Trees, I can do. A piece of wood, other then pine or oak, not a chance. Well, maybe balboa and rosewood. And ebony. But that is it. E
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HeyBub wrote:

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You need to find out and not wreck a potentially nice piece of wood with a goofy stain choice for that particular wood.

How old is your poly? I've had this problem with very old poly. I have much improved my results by cutting the poly about 30% with mineral spirits and applying it with a padded rag. It takes a few coats but with some 220 wet sanding between (use a wet/dry paper or you will have a mess) coats.

Personal preference. Most feel that separating the processes allows the stain to penetrate better and makes a better display of the grain.

Yep, you should do just that. The grit of the paper depends on the condition of the wood. If it has a lot of deep scratches in it from machine marks and handling you may want to sart with 100 grit, move to 150, 180 - most stop here but I like to finish at 220. I use to get into the 300's but found that it was wasted effort for the result that I liked. Some processes make good use of highly polished sanding.

Heck yea. They are different woods with different characteristics with regard to penetration, hardness and the natural color which all affect the final result. Always run a sample of your wood using the intended sanding grits, stain and poly (or whatever) to be sure you like what you will finally get.

Suggestions. Have fun, take your time, go to some of the online woodworking sites and read up. Finally, whatever the result just remember, it's a learning experience and the next one will be better.

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Cut your poly with 1/3 thinner and STIR. do not shake the can, adds bubbles. Use a foam brush if you want it thick, use a rag and wipe it in if you don't. Always let the stain dry thoroughly (at least a few days) before you apply the poly.
Walnut is a dark wood. you may want to consider taking a few pictures, posting on photos.yahoo.com or something and giving us the address... someone can probably tell you what it is...or you could google "wood species" or somethign and see if you can find a grain similar to it.
Best of luck, sounds like a really neat project that you can pass down through through the next few generations...if you take the time and do it right (which you are as you're educating yourself rather than just doing it, my most common mistake)
I'm jealous that you have such a cool blank canvas to make a great piece of woodworking art.
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KellyJ00,
Any chance you live in the south east? You are welcome to come over and help me.

I do not know about art work. It would be nice, but I'd truly settle for "It doesn't suck." I guess anything I do with my hands is a result of skill, because I truly Iack any talent.
But I like the idea of something I can pass down to my kids. I'll have to give that some serious thought.
Is your gmail a valid address? Could I send you a picture of it to see if you know the wood? It not, it is ok. I'll look at google and try to figure it out. Eric
On 5 Dec 2006 07:18:32 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com"

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Chizzard52,
Oddly enough I cleaned the brush with mineral spirits..well actually I dipped it into the MS and the thought may as well do something with the remaining stuff on the brush and used it to "paint" a wood handle for an outdoor tool. It worked great for that. But the I used it to recoat something else I had polyed the day before. When I checked it the next day it was still tacky and I figured I had messed up. But now, several days latter I rechecked and it looks good. I did not think to cut the poly though. Thanks for the idea.

So, if I can ID the wood, you can give me a suggestion as far as stain and/or finish?
Would it be possible to "oversand" the wood and seal the pores so it will not take a good stain? I have sand paper from 60 to 2000 ( I've been refinishing knives to a mirror finish.) Some of the different brands of sand paper I have for a given grit seem to have more "Bite". For example both may be 500, but one feels much rougher then the other.
Thanks for your help Chizzard52
Eric
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Yes, actually. When staining, don't sand past 220 grit.
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Latex poly. Minwax makes a good version.
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I just re-finished a chest with poly using a method from Wood Magazine.
Sand wood to 220 grit. Apply a light coat of poly. Let dry Sand lightly with 220
Apply a second coat. Let it dry for 2 full weeks.
Wet sand with 320 grit
Polish with pumice
Polish with rottenstone (it will look kind of dull)
Wax with paste wax
This is the best finished piece I've ever made. It has a satin sheen, is very smooth.
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Eric Kent wrote:

Stearated no-load paper is best for rubbing out. Be sure your poly is less than 1 yr old, or it'll never cure.

220 is as fine as you'll ever need to go prior to finishing.
Instead of poly, use shellac. Looks SO much better on walnut. Amber (orange) shellac can add a bit of warmth to newer wood.
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