re-finishing a walnut table

I am re-finishing a walnut table. The top coat was originally lacquer and had been badly damaged.
It was stripped and then I wiped it with mineral spirits. It looked great - no lacquer residue. The surface was obviously dyed with something like golden oak and the filled with a grain filler. I did a light sanding and sprayed a light coat of satin varnish on it. The table appears very dull with very muted color.
I am hesitant to put on more varnish to find out if the color will come back up. One thought is to first apply a walnut gel stain to enhance the color and follow that with a coat of dewaxed shellac. After that, go back to a couple of coats of varnish again.
Can I apply the gel stain over the varnish? Is it advisable or will added coats of the varnish alone bring up the color? Any other thoughts on the subject??
Thanks, Len
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snipped-for-privacy@uiuc.edu wrote:

If you wet the satin finish, does the dullness diminish? does the wood color improve? If yes, use a shinier varnish.
--

dadiOH
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Wetting the surface does not change the color at all.
Len
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What brand varnish? Poly?
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General Finishes satin water based top coat (acrylic resin). The only oil based varnish that I can find contains toluene. I won't spray that due to its carcinogenic capabilities.
Len
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Mineral spirits is the wrong cleaner to use as your final step when removing a lacquer finish. Lacquer thinner is your choice. You most likely left lacquer (a thin coat of residue) on top of your project.

Someone died walnut? Were they trying to brown it out with that awful color?
If you stripped and didn't brush/scrub the finish to get out the pore filler, you will need to start over. The filler will be wedged into the pores of the wood, and secured in place by finish. Careful putty knife work won't do it. Nor will good sanding unless you want to take off about 3 mil. Restrip and scrub off the finish.
Additionally, the pore filler would almost certainly explain the poor finish. Remaining artifacts of the finish in the pores that won't come out with rags will leach into your finish and contaminate it.

Adding another coat of finish will not enhance your color nor will it clarify your finish. You can adjust the sheen to a more even appearance, but the color and clarity are set with the first coat. More finish simply obscures the actual wood and coloring.

Learning refinishing can be painful. To correct a finish, you don't keep piling on more "cures". All it does is make things worse. I am still scratching my head over the fact that someone stained walnut with golden oak. Now you are saying that you might want to put on another coat of walnut (what was wrong with the unstained walnut that made you stain it?) then another primer to cover all that up, then two more coats of another finish.

None of that will work.
In these situations (which I have put myself in before) it is best to bite down hard, and strip and start over again, doing all the steps correctly.
YMMV.
Robert
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wrote:

--------------------------------- Robert,
I think you are misunderstanding the work already done.
1) The table had a badly damaged lacquer finish. Judging bye its age, it is not water based lacquer.
2) The table was stripped with lacquer thinner. It was then lightly sanded with 220 paper.
3) I used mineral spirits to look for left over lacquer residue and to look at what the color would be if it was refinished. The table had been DYED with a golden colored dye and then filled with walnut colored pore filler. To my knowledge, that is the usual manner of treating a dark walnut table.
New work
1) Since it had been dyed and filled I just sanded lightly again to be sure there was no old lacquer on the surface. I did not intend to pull out the old filler.
2) The first coat of satin varnish was duller than I expected. I again looked at a sample using the mineral spirits. Clear finish - but dull colors persist.
3) In cabinet work I thought they often applied a gel stain to enhance the colors after sealing with shellac. My thought was to apply the gel, wipe it off, and then start with the varnish again.
Does that explanation change your suggested remedy??
Len
4) Sometimes individuals seal with de-waxed shellac and then continue with finish - or use gel stain to
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snipped-for-privacy@uiuc.edu wrote:

I'm not in the biz but I've made numerous things of walnut. Never dyed or stained except sap wood if I wanted it dark. In my 76 years I don't recall ever seing *anything* of walnut that had been. Are you sure the "golden dye" isn't just sap wood? Are you sure it is walnut and not "white walnut" (butternut)?
--

dadiOH
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On 4/19/2010 2:28 PM, dadiOH wrote:

I haven't done all that much work in walnut and I've never stained any of it (nor do I think I'd be so inclined...) but it's my understanding that it's not all that uncommon for walnut to be stained because it tends to look rather gray and drab with simple clear finishes (particularly the water-based varieties, which tend to be _crystal_ clear). What's always worked well for me is a few good healthy coats of garnet shellac; that really gives walnut a deep rich color.
--
See Nad. See Nad go. Go Nad!
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Len, I want to be careful here, and not step on anyone's toes. The written word is easily misinterpreted so don't take any of this the wrong way.
First, in my time finishing and working on projects for myself and others, I haven't ever seen anyone use a dye on walnut. A colored finish, yes. A toner in finish, yes. A gel stain glaze, (me!) yes. Yellow dye, no.
There may be a crossed wire here. If it is an older finish you are probably quite right that it is just a run of the mill lacquer. If it came off fairly easily with lacquer thinner, then you know it was. If your color came off with he lacquer, it was a toner/colorant of some sort added to the finish.
If it was dyed or toned "golden oak" or any of that family, it most likely wasn't walnut. Whether by a factory or a craftsman, a traditional finish for walnut is something clear. As newer growth came along, as we lost so many of the beautiful California walnut trees, black walnut became a substitute for "walnut". However, that stuff goes from gray to black so it presents a different challenge when looking for a uniform finish over many different boards. Still, no one adds yellow.
I am inclined to agree with Steve's comment above that it may not be walnut at all. I have seen boards of hickory, walnut, chestnut, butternut, etc., that came from different stands of trees from around the country that you couldn't tell much of a difference between them. Older, tighter grains on old pieces of furniture can fool the best of us. I have seen hickory so fine it looked like CA walnut. I have seen black walnut grain so coarse it looked like a colored red oak.
That being said, during the "Colonial" or "Early American" rage that swept the manufactured furniture world, they used colorants to give the hardwoods used (almost all of these were nutwoods for their grain) an off brownish green color. In my personal experience, these pieces were everything BUT walnut.
The tops of certain pieces received special treatment. They were sanded, then filled with a colored pore filler (sometimes almost black to accent the tubules), then sanded smooth. A finish with toner/ colorant was sprayed on them after that. These were air dried finishes, and were almost without exception (think 40's, 50's 60's without doubt and into the 70's and 80's off and on) built up with multiple coats.
The multiple coats of built up finish allowed the manufacturer to come back with to wet sand and finish with a large compound loaded buffer to cut down the finish to glass smooth.
Again, NOT with walnut. Walnut has dark tubules, and will suck in any finish and show the as dark. A yellow family dye like Golden Oak turns walnut a greenish color, which has never been popular.
******************************
Without reiterating my earlier post, I will say this to punch up the highlights I feel may be sabotaging your finish.
Lacquer thinner is just that. A thinner. A stripper works differently. Rather than to dissolve the finish as a thinner will, a stripper will degrade and destroy it. This allows for removal. When you strip with a thinner, you WILL leave residue behind. You will simply be taking off as much finish as your rag can hold, and to the point where you will be dissolving the finish further into the wood.
When you strip, you degrade the finish to the point where it can no longer adhere. You break down the resins (at least with the good stuff!) where they no longer have the ability to bind to themselves.
Use a stripper, not a thinner to remove finish. You can't strip off half the finish anyway, so there is no point in trying to save some of it. Take it off, start fresh when refinishing.
In your case, you need to strip and start again. After stripping, clean off all residue with lacquer thinner. Use a lot of thinner and a lot of towels to clean it. When I am removing a finish that has a pore filler my experience has been that half stays in, and half comes out. So that means it all has to come out. That means scrub it off; remaining finish trapped in the filled pores may be contaminating your new finish.
Advice: don't screw with it anymore, strip it.
I use stripper, then throw on a heavy coat of coarse sawdust as my cutting medium and scrub the finish off with a stiff brush. It cleans deep and fast, and the sawdust will pick up a lot of the old finish and residue.
Advice: scrub off ALL the finish.
I let the project dry, then wash it off with lacquer thinner. For me, I only use mineral spirits to clean my brushes and guns and it has no place for me in refinishing. It isn't hot enough for me, and I actually only use it on occasion to thin paint.
NEXT to final cleaning: lacquer thinner.
Sand your project now, and inspect. There will be small amounts of finish left, no matter how careful you are, and sanding should pick up the last bits of that. Clean one more time with lacquer thinner.
If you want to pore fill, do it now. Follow the instructions exactly. Pore-o-pac is good stuff if you don't have one picked out. They make colored fillers, so you can get a black or brown to mimic the old filled finishes.
When I finish something expensive, I will sometimes flip over the piece and strip/sand/stain/color/finish a small area to test. This determines whether or not I need to apply a conditioner before staining, if I need to spray a dye, and how well I can color match. If you have this opportunity, I highly suggest it.
As far as the use of shellac goes, it has its place. Guys here are nuts about it. However, nothing sticks to a finish like itself. When I strip a door, counter top, table, etc., they are naked as a jaybird when I get finished. I only use shellac if I am unable to completely pull off the old finish, or it is contaminated.
An example of a contaminated finish would be a set of double mahogany doors I did a couple of years ago that were at a club. The maintenance man applied liberal shots of lube to the hinges and locks. This made the finish degrade to gum, and the oil penetrated the wood. After stripping, I applied my finish and it had more fisheyes than a school of herring.
So you guessed it; I stripped off my new finish and started over. Applied the shellac and I was on my way.
If you have any finish on your table now, take it all off. Do yourself a favor and start completely over as it will give much better results. Don't try to put any kind of stains or dyes over your coat of varnish. Dried varnish is simply cure resin, or a type of plastic. It will never look right because your colorant will simply sit on the plastic resins. Since it won't bite into the varnish, your stain will just make a bigger mess on top of everything, and will most likely lift when you put on your top coat.
The CLEAREST, most natural color you will get will be to do the following:
- strip - fill pores if needed - finish all surface prep - spray dye - spray shellac if needed - spray top coats
Poor brush work can easily lift stains and some dyes, so that's why I spray.
Hey... how about some pictures when finished?
Robert
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Same subject, different project.
The current NYW rerun has Norm building a walnut drop leaf table.
When it comes time to finish, Norm brings in a refinishing expect from Georgia who offers the following schedule:
Wipe on BLO cut with mineral spirits.
Allow to absorb then wipe off excess.
Allow to cure for a couple of days.
Apply a couple of seal coats of orange shellac allowing at least 24 hours between coats.
Apply 10-12 additional coats of full strength orange shellac, again allowing at least 24 hours between coats.
Rub out with 0000 steel wool, then apply wax and buff out.
Seems simple enough and finished table sure looked pretty.
Notice that any imperfections that might happen during shellac application were basically ignored until it was 0000 time.
Lew
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snipped-for-privacy@uiuc.edu wrote:

A question: what kind of varnish did you spray? Was it water based? If so, that may help account for the different appearance between it and when you wiped it down with mineral spirits. Water base finishes are good if you want to *minimize* the overall and differential colors in wood. OTOH, oil based ones increase it - pop the grain - because the wood retains the wet look, the same look given it by mineral spirits..
--

dadiOH
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