Making a fireplace


I have it in mind to make a fireplace surround/mantle. I've been looking at different woods and black walnut seems a good prospect, perhaps with some accents/trim in a lighter wood like chestnut or oak. (I toyed with zebrano for a while but that's just TOO quirky!)
The fireplace is non-functional so heat shouldn't be a concern. But does anyone have any views on working with walnut or its properties from a finishing or stability standpoint?
FoggyTown
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foggytown wrote:

Walnut is one of the premier U.S. furniture hardwoods. It's stable when dry, finishes exceptionally well (may need slight pore filling), glues well, works beautifully.
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Walnut is a great wood. Very stable & pretty. I was at a luncheon at the Engineer's Club in Baltimore a year or two ago & they have a room all done in Walnut paneling with a fireplace. Absolutely gorgeous. It's common at the local mills around here so I've used it most of my life. I do recommend a dust mask with it. I've noticed that my sinuses are getting pretty sensitive to it & you can't use the sawdust for horse bedding. Fairly toxic stuff in it.
Jim
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Walnut, even the American walnut, is one of the top end timbers to use, with a pricetag to match. It also has historical connotations of fine furniture, rather than house trim.
You could certainly use it. It'll work, it has no bad habits and it's lovely stuff to work with - particularly if you're thinking of mouldings or carvings. However it'll cost you serious money. IMHO, walnut is a timber one shouldn't dive straight into unless your skills are at the stage where you _know_ you can make a good job of any project you take on, not just improve as you do them.
There's also the finished product. It may well look a little "overdressed" for many rooms. Personally I'd be using oak, which gives a lovely finish on mantelpieces when flat sawn and ammonia fumed.
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Thanks for the responses. I just had a notion that walnut would make an interesting choice for a surround. My wife wants a dark wood and teak, oak and mahogany etc are overdone. If anyone has any recommendations I'd be happy to know them. Maybe purpleheart if I can convince her to change the color scheme of the entire room! (Nah!)
FoggyTown
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Walnut is an absolute pleasure to work with. I'm a beginning "woodie" but have spent time making gunstocks from walnut blanks and semi-inletted stocks. If you want to see what wlanut can look like, I put a few pics at
http://web2.airmail.net/xleanone/index.html/Gunstock.htm
Maybe I'll learn to build stuff too!
Regards.
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Nice work on the gunstock! What kind of oil finish did you used? I worked with walnut on the previous project. But if I use clear finish on it, the tone would be too "cool". I have to add a tint of red dye to it to warm it up a bit. Do you have to do that?
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wrote:

Thanks for the compliment.
The oil finish I used is a commercial finish made for gunstocks called Pilkington's Classic. It can be ordered from Brownells and a few other specialty suppliers. This stock was done with the "Red Brown" finish, so I assume it has some red dye in it. I know that the "Gold & Brown" version is much cooler, leaving walnut almost an aged maple colour. The red die, in my mind, highlights really nice grain patterns in high grade walnut (this stock is Grade 4, one step beloe Exhibition Grade), while the yellow makes less attractive wood sort of soothing - the eye doesn't pick up on the less than striking grain patterns as quickly.
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