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Help with oil finish on walnut

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Greetings,

I want to finish a small table with Danish Oil, and I have been reading online how to do it.

First, after the piece is nice and smooth from sanding it with 320 sand paper, I apply some Danish oil and wet sand it to seal the pores.

Then I let it sit for about 10 min, and remove the excess oil.

Next day (and here is where I'm having problems) I want to apply another coat or oil. The pores seem nice and sealed, but then I mess it up.

Fist time I rubbed some more oil with 0000 steel wool. When I removed the excess oil, I realized I had removed the filling from the pores. Started all over.

Next time, after drying overnight, I only dry sanded softly with 320 to remove any dried up slurry, and applied another coat of oil with 0000 steel wool, just barely applying any pressure at all.

After letting it sit for 10 min, I removed the excess oil with a clean cloth, and noticed that some of the pores were visible again!

So what am I doing wrong? I just want to keep those pores sealed and build up the finish, but every time I seem to remove the material covering the pores.

Thanks for you advice.

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Yep, the problem you're having is that you can't seal pores without a good film finish. Danish oil just won't do the trick, since it really won't build up and fill the pores. Secondly, a Danish Oil finish is typically used when you're looking for more of a "close to the wood" finish, rather than a thicker, higher polish result. Typically it's much more important to fill those pores with a film finish, since that's where it really looks odd. However, don't sweat the pore filling too much if you are going with a simpler oil or oil and varnish mix since the lower sheen won't expose the pores nearly as much.

That being said, my personal treatment for walnut (with more of a film finish) is as follows: I start with several coats of BLO, allowing about a day or so between coats (wiping on with a rag and then wiping off the excess an hour or so later - no sanding needed). I'll then hit it with a wash coat of 1 lb. cut shellac. Then, to fill the pores I've had good success with a product called CrystaLac. This is a pore filler that dries completely clear, so it's useful for both a natural or dyed finish. I've found that three to four applications will fill even the deepest pores. It's a simple process of brushing the product on, squeegeeing off the excess, letting it dry, and then sanding (I think I used 400 grit). I then finish the piece off with several good coats of 2 lb. cut shellac, and then hand rub the finish up to whatever sheen I want (I usually go through two grits of pumice stone but stop short of rottenstone).

This technique will get you a good grain-filled surface, and allows you to fine-tune the luster of your final finish. I personally think walnut looks a lot better with a film finish than an oil finish due to the pores (conversely I almost always use just oil on closed-pore species like cherry and maple).

I did record a video on my blog not too long ago demonstrating some of this finish process on butternut (which has almost identical grain characteristics to walnut). You can check that out here: To see an example of my finish process on walnut, you can view my walnut writing desk.

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If you have the time you can get great results with just a BLO, tung poly mix. It will take alot of coats and days to finish but will turn out very nice. You can mix your own or just buy Sam Maloof from rockler. I prefer to just buy it by the gallon and personally dont think you can get a nicer finish on walnut.

Don

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Thanks for all the comments. What I want is just a not glossy finish that still has a nice sheen. My original idea was to just use Danish oild, sealing the pores with the slurry you get when you wet sand it with the oil, and after a few applications of the oil just finish it with a coat or wax. I don't know if that sounds good or not. I don't have a lot of experience with finishes, and I'm a little afraid of brushed finishes, since I can't seem to not leave streaks. I guess I'll try different things on small scrap pieces and see what works best.

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Thanks for all the comments. What I want is just a not glossy finish that still has a nice sheen. My original idea was to just use Danish oild, sealing the pores with the slurry you get when you wet sand it with the oil, and after a few applications of the oil just finish it with a coat or wax. I don't know if that sounds good or not. I don't have a lot of experience with finishes, and I'm a little afraid of brushed finishes, since I can't seem to not leave streaks. I guess I'll try different things on small scrap pieces and see what works best.

You will get that with the poly, blo tung finish. The poly is the binder that will fill the pores. Go to Sam Maloof .com Take a look at his furniture. In real life its glass smooth without any real build. Its probably the easiest finish there is.

Don

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Using a film finish to fill the pores in walnut will work, but the downside to that approach is that it's extremely slow and labor intensive. You have to wait for the finish to fully cure (not just dry) before sanding. Then you would have to repeat the finish & sand cycle at least five or more times until you would really fill in the pores. Again, unless you are going for a satin or glossier sheen, that's not really necessary. But I've tried filling pores even with many many coats of shellac and it's simply a lot more work than it's worth. A good pore filler dries very quickly and doesn't shrink as it dries, making it a much faster and effective way of filling pores.

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You have to wait for the finish to fully cure (not just dry) before sanding.

Overnight in a warm shop is plenty. I think it takes a month for finish to actually cure. You should get five coats in five days and it will be glass smooth with nothing more than 3m pads.

Don

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Thank for all the ideas. I think I am going to be doing some experimenting before I decide. The problem with letting it dry overnight is that here In Washington state there is not such things as warm and dry nights. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll try that Crystalac, but that stuff is pricey. Are there any other options that work as well? I really don't like staining wood, since I prefer each wood's natural colors, so I would need something that looks good and natural.

Thanks!

Jaime

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Thank for all the ideas. I think I am going to be doing some experimenting before I decide. The problem with letting it dry overnight is that here In Washington state there is not such things as warm and dry nights. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll try that Crystalac, but that stuff is pricey. Are there any other options that work as well? I really don't like staining wood, since I prefer each wood's natural colors, so I would need something that looks good and natural. Thanks! Jaime

I live in WA there is no problem as long as your shop is not fozen.

Don

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I may be reading this incorrectly but couldn't you do your pore fill like you had, let it dry then do the thin coat (1lb cut) of shellac to seal it in? Then whatever finish goes over it would bind to the shellac?

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Tage Frid taught me to use a mixture of danish oil and shellac. He referred to it as Frid's Fast F---ing Finish. Can't remember the ratio but it worked kinda like a french polish. I think you started with mostly oil and a little shellac and increased the shellac a bit with each coat. Dried faster and built up the pore fill nicely.

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