I am getting near completion on a stand alone walnut cabinet which
will sit in a corner of the kitchen and double as a TV stand. One door
will contain glass and the other one will be raised panel.
I need your help on the type of finish to use. I don't have spray
equipment. I have spent a lot of time on this project and don't want
to goof up the finish.
(Don't say paint)
Thanks in advance for your help.
My last walnut project was finished in dewaxed shellac and it is
beautiful... it's not something that will receive a lot of handling or
liquids so it should look good for a long time. I've used BLO and top coated
with poly and that looks good too. I've found that paint tends to obscure
the beauty of the walnut.
If you want the absolutely simplest, easiest to apply, YOU CAN'T SCREW UP,
Lawrence McFadden Clear Gel Top Coat
A little pricey but what is an extra $6-$7.
Direct it is $16.95 per quart, by the case almost half price in 4 quart
cases. I have 2 cases on order right now.
This product is about the consistency of and looks like Vaseline.
Simply apply the first coat with a rag or small brush, enough to coat the
surface and then immediately wipe the entire surface lightly with an old
t-shirt type material, lint free.
Dust is not a problem, generally the surface is dry enough to touch 15 or
minutes after wiping with the clean cloth. Thin coats is what you are after
as is the case with any product. Application with the brush or rag does not
have to be thin as you are going to wipe out thin with the thin cloth but
excess being wiped away is wasting the produce.
No need to buff the successive coats with sand paper for next coat prep
unless you have a spot that might have dried a little thick.
Play with a few scraps till you get the hang of it, I typically get a silky
smooth as a baby's but finish that you love to touch.
I have had a lot of good results with the GF oil based varnishes. I have
tried their gel varnish but was not impressed, for me it was way to thin and
needed way too many coats. I have been using GF products since about 1978.
I'd start with sanding and scraping, so the finish will bite evenly,
and apply boiled linseed oil or oil finish (to deepen the grain).
That will darken the wood somewhat. Allow several days to
cure, and rub vigorously afterward, in case there's residue
or dust on the surface.
Because it's in a kitchen, it will have to have a washable finish, so
I'd reluctantly suggest semigloss urethane varnish, oil-based,
as the surface coat. Spray lacquer is also acceptable, if
you have suitable apparatus + skill + paint booth.
It's been years since I've posted here, but I may come back and
visit for a bit.
For a project done with a fancy wood like walnut or cherry, I
don't think you can beat a finish like Homer Formby's modified
Tung Oil. The trick is in how you apply it. If done right, you
can get a piano-like finish without a spray booth or spray. The
trick is to apply and wipe off the finish multiple times. Each
application/removal leaves a tiny film that doesn't hold dust and
once any grain is submerged or sanded away, it's like polishing
For my projects, I would first sand, then scrape the surface to
get it as fine as possible. Then, I'd apply a coat of clear OIL
stain to bring out the grain. The oil would be applied generously
with a foam or boar hair brush in small areas, then as it would
soak into some places, I'd keep applying more- keeping the area
wet. Once it seemed that no more would soak into the wood, I'd
wipe the area as dry as I could, using cloth towels. The idea is
to saturate the wood with the clear oil stain, then wipe it
totally dry. The project would then be set aside to dry further
at least overnight.
The following day, I'd repeat the exercise using Homer Formby's in
either gloss or semi-gloss. Working in small areas, the first
coat (the most critical) is applied with a foam brush very
generously and then repeated to keep the area wet and saturated
until it would absorb no more. Then, it too was wiped as dry as I
could get it and left to dry overnight.
The first coat is most important, since further coats just sit on
top of the first, which is the one that penetrates the wood.
I'd then lightly buff the piece with 0000 steel wool the following
morning, blow it off with the air hose and then repeat the Homer
Formby application. The only difference would be that there'd be
virtually no dry absorbed areas. Before the applied oil got
tacky, I'd again wipe the piece dry and repeat every 3-6 hours,
depending on whether it was dry each time. In many instances,
this would be repeated 6-10 times before the residual would create
a uniform surface.
Then, after a day or two of drying, I'd use 0000 steel wool again
with a generous amount of Johnson's Paste Wax to lightly, lightly,
lightly remove an dust, then buff with a dry, soft cloth.
Heeeeyyy Nonny. So you're back, eh?
Good to see you over here. After all, life can't just be about good
(OK... maybe a good portion of it, but still, you can woodwork and
barbecue at the same time!)
Hang around and post!
P.S. - I hit you back on the other thread. Answer requested.
A couple of options to consider.
One of the most beautiful finishes for walnut is a hand rubbed oil/poly,
followed up with an oil/poly/wax.
Otherwise known as a "Sam Maloof" finish, and available under that name,
it hard to beat for showcasing the sheer beauty of walnut. You can
also make it in the shop.
Here is a cherry/walnut hope chest I did a few years ago that is simply
getting more beautiful with each passing day:
Some will maintain that oil/poly is not a durable finish. While I
wouldn't use it on a kitchen/dining table top, I have used it on a few
well used coffee tables, and occasional tables and cabinets in kitchens,
and have found that durability is simply not an issue in that environment.
Another option is shellac ... padded, brushed or sprayed. Here is
another simple cherry walnut combination with nothing but 3 coats of
sprayed on amber shellac ... no stain whatsoever,:
Leon's suggestion of his favorite Lawrence McFadden product is also an
excellent choice for walnut.
Walnut is an open-grained wood, so for a silky smooth finish you'll
need to fill the grain. A dark-colored grain filler or wet-sanding
with dewaxed blond shellac should get you started. Then you can top-coat
with orange shellac or your choice of wiping varnish.
Really Virgile, it depends on what kind of use you will get from your
new piece, and what it is intended to do for you.
As a TV stand, you may or may not want to worry about a water
resistant finish. If you need something that can be cleaned, you
might want a finish that could stand mild detergents. If you want a
finish that will look more like sealed wood than a traditional oiled
finish, you will need to look at that aspect as well. Should the
piece be exposed to hard wear and need to be touched up, that would
introduce another aspect to the equation. If you simply want to
finish the piece and let it go until it is time to refinish, that's
Since finishing is part of my business, that's the questions I ask my
If it is to hold a TV, you probably won't have much need for constant
or deep cleaning since the TV will be the focus of the top compared to
a dining room table.
I used to have a lot of problems with polyurethane as I thought it
looked ugly when it cured. Many of the older polys were an ugly shade
of yellow that made the woods look bizarre and strangely colored.
They were hard to apply (for me) and back then I like a good varnish
much better, although varnish and poly are kissin' cousins by today's
Now I like some of the polyurethanes and my clients really like them.
I like them because they are easy to spray, but as in your case, they
are also quite easy to pad. When I do tabletops with urethane, I
ALWAYS pad now. I spray out legs and rails, etc., but always hit the
pad for a perfect finish on the tops. Most oil based urethanes have
about a 4-5 hour layout, so they are very forgiving.
Recoat in 8 hours. Urethanes/varnishes give an immediate warm glow to
your project, but when using it with walnut I have found it darkens it
too much on some pieces.
Personally I prefer lacquer for finishing, particularly these "long
chain polyurethane" conversion lacquers. However, this is just a
comment as I know you don't have spray equipment, and all the hybrid
stuff must be sprayed.
Shellac is a very good traditional finish, and the good news is that
if you don't wax the piece you can put another finish over it if you
don't like it. It is also easy to repair as long as it isn't a
colored shellac. Since the wood reacts to the shellac differently on
every piece and contrary to popular belief ambers as well, matching an
older shellac finish isn't easy. It is easy to apply, very forgiving,
and give a really pretty finish. I am sure you know, but remember
that shellac has very poor water resistance and a sweaty glass sitting
on it for just a short while can damage the finished product.
Water borne finishes are great if you buy a quality coating. <<SEE
LEON'S POST ABOVE>>. If you buy a cheap one, you will be punished
with poor abrasion resistance, chromatic coloring, and an ugly
texture. A good one will look like you sealed the wood, almost with
water. No ambering, so no appearance of an oil finish, although some
of them are no doing a pretty good job in mimicking an oil finish.
If you are good with a brush, you might want to find old reliable on
the shelf, DEFT brand lacquer. It dries slower than a commercial
grade lacquer, gives little ambering, and is easy to apply.
If you think your brushwork might be lacking, try poly, oil or water
based. Brush out the parts you can't pad and pad everything else. I
have brushed out many a cove and other details on a raised panel and
padded the panel and door frame afterwards to give it that smooth
BTW - when I say "pad", don't make your own. Resist the temptation to
save .69 cents. Buy a professional, disposable pad. Use it once, and
toss it. If you pad a clear coat finish of any type, make sure you
pad in such a way that the fibers go along with the application
stroke, and not against it.
Whatever you do, do NOT use a water base top coat material as the only
finish as they won't augment - or even show - the inherent beauty of walnut.
Depending on what you need, you could...
1. Oil only, either tung or boiled linseed. Either can make a nice, glowing
finish with numerous coats, rubbing down when finished coating and dry with
#0000 steel wool and applying paste wax. Not as durable as a hard top coat
but should be sufficient. Either oil will pop the grain nicely; with time,
BLO will also darken and redden some, tung won't. Walnut can handle the
darkening and reddening of the BLO nicely and the wood itself will lighten
some with time and light exposure.
2. Oil (to add grain pop) then Deft brushing lacquer for durability when the
oil is totally dry/cured. Walnut with Deft alone won't have the same depth
of color. Deft is easy to brush, easy to sand and it is entirely possible
to get an excellent result with brushes. You need at least 3-4 heavy coats,
then sand smooth and flat and lightly brush on a very thin coat just to put
back the gloss. By "thin" I mean to thin the Deft with lacquer thinner so
it is about like water.
3. Regular alkyd varnish can give a beautiful finish by itself but it too
requires numerous coats, each of which dries slowly.
4. Oil base polyurethane will give good color and maximum protection.
Harder to apply evenly (IME) than alkyd.
5. Shellac should work well too, haven't used it in years so can't comment.
You said no-goof finish.
Seal and stain with a good oil-based stain (if stain is needed/
desired). Finish with several (3-5) coats of wiping poly in
accordance with can directions (1-2 coats, sand, finish coat(s)). If
you really want to perk it up top off with a light coat of paste wax.
Idiot proof..............I use it a lot :^}
If it's in a kitchen you want something that's easy care in addition to
everything else. Stuff _is_ going to get splashed on it and there _is_
going to be humidity.
You don't have spray equipment, so that lets out quite a lot of really good
finishes--a cheap compressor and a "critter" sprayer, or even the 90 buck
Harbor Fright HVLP set will open up a whole range of options for you, but
that's neither here nor there.
All that being the case, you've got the choice of brushing or wiping.
For brushing ML Campbell Magnamax is really good stuff if you can find it
(if by any chance you're in the Hartford/Springfield area Clark Paint
Factory in Springfield has it for less than Home Despot charges for
Minwax)--stands up to abuse and brushes well. Only real downsides are that
it's a precatalyzed lacquer so it has a short shelf life (like about 3
months after activation--they'll activate it in the store just before they
hand it to you) and the smallest is comes is gallons. Does smell like
lacquer thinner for a week or so after application though.
For wiping, Minwax wipe-on polyurethane is about as close to idiot proof as
you are going to get, gives a very nice finish if you've done the surface
prep right, and so far one piece of bathroom furniture I used it on still
looks fine after three years, which is more than I can say for the
store-bought prefinished medicine cabinet that went in at the same time (and
that' I'm going to have to take down at some point and finish properly).
Whatever you pick try it on a scrap first and get used to it.
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