How to darken American black walnut (and get a good sheen)?

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sploo

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I'm in the process of putting together a new kitchen, and I've finished a set of solid oak worktops using Osmo Wood Protector, followed by their TopOil clear matt. I'm more than happy with the result.

One of the door options we're looking at is a simple rail and panel style, in American black walnut.

I've made a prototype door, and finished it using the same Wood Protector, but this time followed by their satin TopOil (for a bit more sheen).

It looks OK, but there are two main problems:

1. Once dry, it doesn't really have that "greasy paper bag translucent pop" (technically: "Chatoyancy" I believe)
2. It's still a bit too light to fit in with the oak worktops, and I understand it lightens over time too

As the doors won't be directly in contact with food I'm less concerned about product choice, so are there better finishing options for more depth? I've had good results with Danish oil on Bubinga, but maybe something else?

I assume there are dyes or stains available that would take the walnut down a notch to a darker black/brown, but would they kill any chance of getting depth in the finish, and if not, what products would be suitable (that are available in the UK)?
 
I bang on about it but again would recommend Liberon Finishing oil. It just has a depth of colour Osmo cant match IME.
 
I just put BLO on a piece of American Black Walnut and it looks amazing.
 
Darken: stain. Dye stain ideally
Enhance chatoyance: BLO.

After BLO you can use Danish oil or wipe on some varnish to good effect, neither will interfere with a wood's optical qualities the way a cloudy finish does. For best results though you need to end up with a gloss or at least semi-gloss surface since a matter finish scatters light somewhat.

sploo":1ahzbuax said:
As the doors won't be directly in contact with food I'm less concerned about product choice...
Doesn't matter anyway, everything is probably safe enough after fully curing.
 
Garnet shellac works well on ABW. Darkens the wood and definitely pops the grain. After a coat or two you can then put what you like on top of it.
 
Thanks for the replies. After discussion of the above with Liberon, I've just taken delivery of tins of their Ebony and Walnut spirit dyes, and their BLO and Finishing oil (I already have their Danish Oil).

I've prepped some walnut this evening and applied strips of the dye (Walnut, Ebony, 50:50 Walnut:Ebony, and a couple of mixes of mostly Walnut with a little Ebony). Over the next few days I'll apply the various oil combinations across the dyes and see what I get.

I will try to get photos in order to post here.
 
You know sometimes when the world gives you the hint that it's not going to be your day...

This evening I started applying some of the various oils on the board, and left it outside while I finished up some other jobs in the garage, with headphones on.

Headphones on.... which meant I didn't hear the rainstorm starting.

Needless to say, the finish is more messed than David Davis in a room full of EU negotiators.

In trying to wipe off and reapply some of the BLO I then knocked the tin over, which put oil all over the garage floor, and a fair bit on the test piece (obviously in places where I didn't want BLO).

So, I now have a test board that looks like sh*te, half a tin of BLO, and a garage that stinks.

Despite that epic bout of f*ckuppery I think it might just still be eventually usable in terms of helping me chose a stain and finish, but I've taken the hint and stopped for the evening.
 
Right, I finished the test piece a while ago, but only just got around to getting a photo.

IMG_7240.jpg

In the image above there are effectively 7 vertical columns with different treatment, and four horizontal rows with different finishes.

For the dye treatments I used Liberon's walnut and ebony products. The finishing was a mixture of Liberon's Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO), their Danish Oil (DO), their Finishing Oil (FO), and Osmo's Wood Protector (WP) followed by Top Oil Clear Satin (TO).

From left to right, the seven columns of dye treatments were:

1. Walnut & Ebony (80%:20%)
2. Walnut
3. Walnut & Ebony (50%:50%)
4. Ebony
5. Walnut & Ebony (90%:10%)
6. No dye (just bare walnut)
7. No dye and no finish treatment (literally the bare wood)

From top to bottom, the four rows of finishing treatments were:

3 coats of BLO
1 coat of BLO + 3 coats of DO
3 coats of FO
1 coat of WP + 3 coats of TO

Ignoring my shoddy hand planing job (and the fact I didn't plane at all as far as the bare area of wood), my observations:

1. The dyes are really nice to use - on their own or mixed together
2. A little bit of ebony dye has a big effect on the walnut dye
3. BLO on its own has a lovely soft/matt "traditional" finish that I think would look great on a suitable period piece of furniture
4. DO on the BLO adds a good sheen. Whether DO on its own would have the same depth I don't know (I will maybe try that if I get time)
5. FO (for the first coat) seems unimpressive - very thin compared to the others. Once 3 coats are on however it seems good, and there's a decent sheen
6. Osmo WP+TO Satin has less sheen than the DO or FO, but more than BLO on its own
7. In terms of "depth" - oddly the biggest difference is the dye. I sanded the undyed area to the same grit, and because the dye doesn't seem to raise the grain it only got a very light extra sanding after drying, and yet it's the dyed areas (regardless of finish coat) that have more depth to the grain than the bare walnut timber. I guess the dye is possibly accentuating the differences in density in the timber
 

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Nice thorough trial. I'd still recommend trying garnet shellac as a useful means of adding darkness, warmth and depth to ABW. Easy peasy to apply and quick to dry as well.
 
memzey":jzg2go2z said:
Nice thorough trial. I'd still recommend trying garnet shellac as a useful means of adding darkness, warmth and depth to ABW. Easy peasy to apply and quick to dry as well.
Thanks.

I do like a shellac finish, and I've used coloured (and dyed) shellac mixes quite a bit (especially for restoring old plane handles). However, I'm not sure it'd be the best choice for kitchen doors, as it's not the most robust against damage. I wouldn't be planning to throw alcohol over them, but it's probably not quite the right choice (for me anyway).
 
Ah yes. Sorry I somehow managed not to pick up on the point about this being for a kitchen. I have used clear poly over shellac in the past and it has worked quite well (for a coffee table so also needed to be durable) but if it's not for you then fair enough. Watching with interest as I'm also keen on learning new finishing techniques. Please post a photo when you're done!
 
Good for you, running proper trials to objectively evaluate finishes is the smart and craftsmanlike thing to do.

=D>

In terms of "depth" - oddly the biggest difference is the dye. I sanded the undyed area to the same grit, and because the dye doesn't seem to raise the grain it only got a very light extra sanding after drying, and yet it's the dyed areas (regardless of finish coat) that have more depth to the grain than the bare walnut timber. I guess the dye is possibly accentuating the differences in density in the timber

Most of your top coat finishes are pretty closely related, so it shouldn't be a surprise that there's not a substantial visual difference. You would see more of a difference with Memzey's Garnett Shellac, but for practical use in a kitchen you've whittled it down to the best contenders.

The other things you want to think about are spillage resistance and fade resistance. In terms of spillage I find Osmo has the edge, it's not bomb proof (for that you need a two pack finish, a reasonable amount of skill, and a lot of time) but Osmo buys you a critical few more minutes to mop up red wine and fruit juice, that's probably why it's becoming so popular in professional workshops, it reduces the whingeing from careless clients. As to fade resistance, if you have a south facing kitchen that'll be a real issue with Black Walnut. I've posted recently on a fairly new dye called Transtint, versus traditional Analine, you might find that interesting.

Good luck!
 
custard":1noi860z said:
Good for you, running proper trials to objectively evaluate finishes is the smart and craftsmanlike thing to do.
Thanks. Though those are two words I wouldn't usually use about myself ;)

TBH With the prospect of having to make 20+ kitchen doors, I really didn't want to finish them and think "I wish I'd gone for a different colour". There's still even the possibility we'll go for a painted poplar door, but I need to discuss with "the boss".

I am rather fascinated by finishes though; so many possibilities. I'm in the process of making a workbench (for my lathe) and I've always just finished those sorts of projects with clear floor varnish (fast to apply, fast to dry, tough under use), but part of me is wanting to experiment a bit.


custard":1noi860z said:
Most of your top coat finishes are pretty closely related, so it shouldn't be a surprise that there's not a substantial visual difference. You would see more of a difference with Memzey's Garnett Shellac, but for practical use in a kitchen you've whittled it down to the best contenders.

The other things you want to think about are spillage resistance and fade resistance. In terms of spillage I find Osmo has the edge, it's not bomb proof (for that you need a two pack finish, a reasonable amount of skill, and a lot of time) but Osmo buys you a critical few more minutes to mop up red wine and fruit juice, that's probably why it's becoming so popular in professional workshops, it reduces the whingeing from careless clients. As to fade resistance, if you have a south facing kitchen that'll be a real issue with Black Walnut. I've posted recently on a fairly new dye called Transtint, versus traditional Analine, you might find that interesting.

Good luck!
Two pack (sprayed) finishes just require holding your breath, the ability to run fast... and a lack of common sense to carry out my preceding statements :wink:

I've used Osmo's Wood Protector and their matt finish Top Oil Clear for our oak worktops and I'm pretty happy with the results. I think a more shiny finish might have looked good, but I do like the understated result of the matt, and it certainly seems to reject spills well.

Partly for that reason (and also now with the experience of knowing it's pretty easy to apply) I'd happily use their satin finish on the doors - but it's really going to come down to whether we decide we'd like the extra gloss of the BLO+DO or FO.

I understood that using the Liberon Spirit Wood Dye would protect fairly well against fading? I don't know if that product would be classed as Analine. The kitchen shouldn't get too much direct sunlight - it's in an east-facing open plan kitchen/living room area, and it's the living room that has the windows (so the kitchen tends to get more diffuse rather than direct light).
 
I see no visual gain or value in applying boiled linseed oil underneath any oil based varnish or under a Danish or Teak oil type formulation, and never have done. A component of all these latter types of finish is boiled linseed oil so any boiled linseed oil colour imparted will be achieved through the application of the latter finishes. Where boiled linseed oil comes in useful for imparting a richer colour is under finishes that have a lesser tendency to impart that darkening effect, e.g., under things like pre-catalysed lacquer and other clear finishes such as blonde shellac that can be applied over boiled linseed oil. Water borne finishes, for example, generally won't adhere to boiled linseed oil so different strategies are required to bring out a warming effect, e.g., tinting the finish or dying and/or staining. Slainte.
 
Sgian Dubh":13mwkso5 said:
I see no visual gain or value in applying boiled linseed oil underneath any oil based varnish or under a Danish or Teak oil type formulation, and never have done. A component of all these latter types of finish is boiled linseed oil so any boiled linseed oil colour imparted will be achieved through the application of the latter finishes.
FWIW I've done some direct comparisons, as has a friend, and we do see a slight difference under varnish in some cases. The enhancement varies and is usually slight, but where you're trying to eek out as much contrast as possible without resorting to staining tricks it does appear to offer some benefit and neither of us mind the added day/two days to the finishing schedule.

Although my BLO is particularly dark I don't think it's down to the oil being darker than varnishes typically are, I ascribe it to the superior wetting effect of pure oil versus varnish since I get almost exactly the same effect with pre-polymerised walnut oil which is very much paler.
 
sploo":22gtzjw7 said:
I understood that using the Liberon Spirit Wood Dye would protect fairly well against fading? I don't know if that product would be classed as Analine.

Yes it's aniline, no it's not particularly lightfast. I know many manufacturers claim lightfast for spirit dye, but having used water and spirit based dye on many different types of timber in many different situations I can honestly say the fade resistant advantage of spirit over water is pretty trivial, the bottom line is that neither holds up well for long in a south facing room.
 
ED65":1ak1gvn0 said:
FWIW I've done some direct comparisons, as has a friend, and we do see a slight difference under varnish in some cases. The enhancement varies and is usually slight ...
I guess my eyesight can't compete with yours, and nowadays I wear glasses so I suspect my vision isn't going to improve much as I age. That "slight" you mention is too slight for me to have ever been able to pick out, and probably never will be able to now, ha, ha. Slainte.
 
Sgian Dubh":3el765t9 said:
I see no visual gain or value in applying boiled linseed oil underneath any oil based varnish or under a Danish or Teak oil type formulation, and never have done. A component of all these latter types of finish is boiled linseed oil so any boiled linseed oil colour imparted will be achieved through the application of the latter finishes. Where boiled linseed oil comes in useful for imparting a richer colour is under finishes that have a lesser tendency to impart that darkening effect, e.g., under things like pre-catalysed lacquer and other clear finishes such as blonde shellac that can be applied over boiled linseed oil. Water borne finishes, for example, generally won't adhere to boiled linseed oil so different strategies are required to bring out a warming effect, e.g., tinting the finish or dying and/or staining. Slainte.
It did occur to me that DO on it's own may be OK. Liberon told me that their DO has some BLO, so DO over BLO would be OK - but not to try FO over the BLO. Given that the dyed areas showed more depth in all cases (vs the undyed area) I suspect that'll be enough for me.

I have previously used oil underneath blond shellac, and, as you say, it's a worthwhile thing to bring out more depth. Particularly good on Bubinga; in my admittedly limited experience.


custard":3el765t9 said:
Yes it's aniline, no it's not particularly lightfast. I know many manufacturers claim lightfast for spirit dye, but having used water and spirit based dye on many different types of timber in many different situations I can honestly say the fade resistant advantage of spirit over water is pretty trivial, the bottom line is that neither holds up well for long in a south facing room.

Interesting, thanks.

Given this room is east facing, and the kitchen doors would be unlikely to ever get direct sunlight through a window am I likely to get away with an aniline dye? If I started with something slightly darker than desired would that help - i.e. would it reach a settled state that was slightly darker (vs starting with a lighter dye), or does it all eventually go pretty light regardless?
 
sploo":1ueaqb4s said:
Given this room is east facing, and the kitchen doors would be unlikely to ever get direct sunlight through a window am I likely to get away with an aniline dye? If I started with something slightly darker than desired would that help - i.e. would it reach a settled state that was slightly darker (vs starting with a lighter dye), or does it all eventually go pretty light regardless?

You'll be fine as long as there's no direct sunlight. You still get the slow oxidation of the timber and finish over time, but that's nothing compared to the aggressive bleaching and the colour shifts that you get in south facing rooms.

Good luck with your project!
 
custard":382y2unp said:
You'll be fine as long as there's no direct sunlight. You still get the slow oxidation of the timber and finish over time, but that's nothing compared to the aggressive bleaching and the colour shifts that you get in south facing rooms.

Good luck with your project!
Thanks! I can certainly live with that.

We currently have cheap white IKEA doors on the cabinets as a stop-gap, but with so many other jobs to do (recent house move), "the boss" is talking about putting the doors on the back-burner. That might give me chance to leave some samples in the kitchen and see how they fare over the next few months. I've certainly learned plenty getting this far, so it's been well worth the time.
 

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