basket
Store Locations (Mon - Sat: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm)
Outside Arizona: 800-423-2450    |   Phoenix: 602-504-1931    |   Tempe: 480-355-5090   |   Tucson: 520-745-8301
email newsletter


Posts Tagged ‘walnut’

How to Get a Beautiful Wood Finish on Your Tropical Walnut Woodworking Projects

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Tropical walnut might be a new wood to you, and that’s okay. This is a type of walnut that grows in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, and happens to be a close relative of American black walnut. The two woods have similar color, hardness, and general working characteristics – they’re both rather nice hardwoods to machine with power tools and shape with hand tools.

They have their differences, too. More about Tropical Walnut >>>

Tropical walnut has much more straight grain and less curly/swirly and irregular character. And it also rarely includes any pale sapwood in the lumber, which is unlike American black walnut. It’s increasingly more common for American black walnut lumber to have a fair percentage of light sapwood. That’s not to say one is better than the other; it just depends on your tastes, so we’re here to empower you with some on-the-ground facts about the material. If you like the dark color found in walnut and prefer a consistent straight grain and no pale sapwood, Tropical Walnut might be a good wood for you to try.

The video above will show you a couple of machining operations to give you an idea of how nicely this wood works, but it also demonstrates in detail the specifics of applying two kinds of grain filler and top coat. But here’s a summary of the finishing techniques.

Basic Wood Finishes Are Fine, But . . .

Using the basic, simple wood finishes on Tropical Walnut is a piece of cake. You can apply your favorite polyurethane, lacquer, shellac, or water-based top coat and there’s a good chance you’ll be happy. The wood darkens nicely and you’ll see a bit of the natural contrast pop out a bit. But you can improve both of these by filling the wood grain first.

Of course, you’re the builder and it’s your project. You get to choose what you like best, and the glass-smooth finish you get with a well-filled grain isn’t always the look you want. But it’s a good idea to fill grain for projects like table tops and desk tops, or in any finish in which you’re going for a glossy sheen. Grain filler also adds a little bit of dark color to the wood pores, and that results in slightly greater contrast and visual depth in the wood.

So what is wood grain filler, where do you buy it, and how do you apply it? Well, filler can be as simple as the wood dust itself, and the video above shows you how do to that. There are also several kinds of solvent and water based fillers you can buy from a store. In all of these cases they’re pretty easy to apply but they do add more time to your finishing process. Good things come to those who put in the time. Take a look.

Click the images to zoom in.

tropical walnut finishes

Simple wood finishes look great on Tropical Walnut – frankly they all provide just about the same look, there’s no single best choice. Left to right: wipe-on gel polyurethane, satin lacquer, waterbased acrylic. The horizontal board on top is unfinished so you can see the comparison.

With a little side light, you can see how these basic finishes don't fill the grain. The dark spots you see are wood pores. Sometimes this kind of finish is just fine. Sometimes it's not.

Yes, there’s glare but that’s on purpose. With a little side light, you can see how these basic finishes don’t fill the grain. The dark spots you see are wood pores. Sometimes this kind of finish is just fine. Other times it’s not and filling the grain helps you achieve a very smooth finish.

Now compare. Both boards have 3 coats of satin lacquer. The difference should be obvious. The board on the left has not had the grain filled, whereas the grain in the board on the right was filled before the lacquer was applied.

Now compare. Both boards have 3 coats of satin lacquer. The difference should be obvious. The board on the left has not had the grain filled, whereas the grain in the board on the right was filled before the lacquer was applied.

This is Tropical Walnut with a nicely filled wood grain and a top finish of 3 coats of spray lacquer. But any film-forming finish can go on top. Shellac, wax, polyurethane, varnish, etc

This is Tropical Walnut with a nicely filled wood grain and a top finish of 3 coats of spray lacquer. But any film-forming finish can go on top. Shellac, wax, polyurethane, varnish, etc

 

 

3 Great Ways to Hide Sapwood in Walnut

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Even colored walnut lumber

Look close. This piece of walnut is not only finished with a clear lacquer but the light colored sapwood has been evened out to nearly match the heartwood. Woodworking with walnut today means dealing with the sapwood. Here are 3 ways.

Few people approve of pale sapwood in their walnut lumber,  but in the words of  Jim, a salesman at one of our faithful walnut suppliers back east, “When people ask me for a 100% heartwood face in walnut, I just tell them they’re dreaming.” You may be tired of hearing that sapwood isn’t considered a defect when it comes to grading lumber, however it is an industry fact. Lumber grade is a mathematical computation of the amount of clear wood in a board – so says the National Hardwood Lumber Association, the organization responsible for defining the rules of the lumber trade.

“But it’s a defect to me,” says the woodworker.

So what’s a woodworker to do? Fortunately, lumber producers separate their walnut inventory not just by grade but also by color. The good news is 100% heartwood walnut can be had; the bad news is few can afford it. For the most part, about the best balance between color, cost, availability is called 90/70 heart: that means 90% heartwood on the face, 70% heartwood on the back. Remember, lumber has two broad sides, a face and a back, and when building furniture and cabinetry, only one side is displayed in the final product.

Sure, it’s possible to find some 100% heartwood boards from time to time, but on a consistent basis and in large quantities? Not really. And therefore, when you visit your nearest lumber supplier, you’ll never have a perfect pile of full brown walnut to select from. Full heartwood boards are the exception to the rule, so it’s time to look at how woodworkers are using walnut in today’s woodworking.

You’ll find a number of discussions and blogs about this topic, and a good one in particular is this found at Lumber Jocks, www.lumberjocks.com/topics/10565, which discusses three ways woodworkers overcome sapwood.

3 Ways to Deal with Sapwood in Walnut:

  1. Cut sapwood off, and/or hide the sapwood on parts that will not be seen frequently
  2. Live with sapwood in your finished project
  3. Use a dyeing and staining process to make the color even

Those first two are straightforward.

Dyeing and staining needs some explanation, though. Since you’re not going to be able to go the woodworking store and buy a bottle of Sapwood Hider right off the shelf – alas, no such miracle exists – there are a couple of steps involved, but they’re easy.

Walnut board

Walnut board clearly shows a sapwood edge until the piece is dyed, sealed, stained, and finished. A saw kerf line separates the two sections.

For this method, we’re specifically talking about dye and there are a number of dyes on the market, usually mixed with water or denatured alcohol. Dye is different from stain, as dye doesn’t obscure the grain, which is pretty important when using walnut.

The basics:

1. Apply a very diluted dye in a color of your choice to the entire piece, heartwood and sapwood. The dye used in the pictures here is Behlen Solar-Lux™ medium brown walnut color. Solar-Lux™ is UV resistant and fade resistant, which is great because when walnut is left natural, it eventually turns very tan. Walnut ought to be dyed or stained anyway to retain a pleasing color. Note: Medium brown walnut Solar-Lux™ dye will appear orange when you apply it, but that’s okay. The next steps will bring the color back to dark brown.

2. Seal the wood with a light coat of sanding sealer or shellac. This needs to be thin to allow for the next step to have some effect.

3. Apply an oil-based stain on top of the sealer. Wipe it on, wipe it off. This adds a touch of pigment to the pores equally to you get a consistent color across the board.

4. Apply your clear finish of choice. Varnish, lacquer, etc.

It should go without saying that you should always test your dye process on a few test pieces before committing the dye to your final product. You’ll need to test different dilution ratios of your dye before you get the color you want.

Dyeing walnut is not very difficult, but it will take some time. However, you’ll greatly increase your yield of wood and you’ll make the beautiful walnut color last much, much longer than you would if if were to leave the wood natural.

Sapwood stripe along the edge of a walnut board

This part of the board is finished with just a clear coat of Zinsser Sealcoat and lacquer. The sapwood strip stands out. Eventually the color of this board will lighten.

Closer, showing the change in sapwood color

Closer, you can make out where the sapwood is nicely colored and very nearly matches the heartwood color thanks to the dye process

Even colored walnut lumber

The end result is a pleasing walnut color that will last a lifetime.

How to Make Walnut Woodworking Projects Look Great with Dye & Stain

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

It’s a simple reality that walnut used in woodworking projects has two troublesome traits. First, the natural dark color of walnut will fade over time due to UV light exposure. The process is slow, but it happens. Second, walnut lumber contains some pale sapwood, depending on your tastes, you either like it or not. However, there is a very easy way to make the color last a long time, make the heartwood and sapwood blend, and still maintain a nice, dark, chocolatey walnut color that’ll make your projects look beautiful.

We’ve written up the process on how to do this in 3 Great Ways to Hide Sapwood, but we decided it was time to show how it’s done with a video. The video just shows the process, and that’s where the magic is. It’s not really in the specific brands or products I’ve used here. You can use different colors of dye and stain to come up with a final appearance that suits your taste.

Post your questions at the bottom.

Walnut board dyed and stained

Two walnut boards compared. Bottom is raw, top is dyed, stained, and finished to hide the sapwood. Can you tell where the sapwood and heartwood meet? Look closely, scroll down.

Get a little closer to that finished piece, and you’ll see how well that the sapwood blends right into the dark heartwood while keeping a beautiful dark walnut color:

Walnut wood dyed to blend sapwood and heartwood

Yellow highlighter lines show the delineation between heartwood and sapwood