Walnut wood is one of my favorite woods to work with. The primary reason is that it is a wood that, when composed primarily of heartwood, does not require any stain. In fact, I am of the opinion that stain only muddles up the beauty of natural Walnut wood. When I first began working with walnut, my preference was simply a clear, satin sheen finish. After a couple of years, I stumbled upon a different method of finishing for walnut that has quickly become my new preference.
During this time, I was trying to achieve a “warm” hue for walnut wood, but I did not want to resort to using stain. I simply wanted minor coloration to add a slight red/orange cast which would give the wood a warmer appearance. I discovered the solution to my yearning with a ready-mixed, 3 pound, de-waxed, orange shellac (a product which I thinned to create my own “tinted” sanding sealer). Note that de-waxed shellac is extremely important, as it will ensure adhesion of the finish coating when applied after sealing.
This sanding sealer mixture will provide two main features: #1.) It will fill the natural cracks and crevices of the walnut wood to promote a smooth surface for finish to be applied to as well as promote depth of the final finish coating, and #2.) It will give the walnut wood a warm, but subtle, orange/red hue. Note that it is important to experiment on a scrap piece of wood initially, just as you would your finished wood piece, to get a feel for the product and provide an example of the final finish.
I began by thinning the shellac solution. I mixed two parts denatured alcohol for every one part of shellac. The resulting solution was brushed onto the wood surface with a standard soft bristle brush, and allowed to dry (about 1 hour or so). Once dry, the wood surface was sanded with #220 grit sandpaper in preparation for finishing. Note: I always make certain to wipe away all excess sanding residue once sanding is complete. If need be, a second coating of the sealer solution could be applied thereafter (followed by another session of sanding once dry). Enough coatings of the sealer solution should be used to fill all of those natural cracks and crevices, and promote a smooth, flat wood surface. Once I had achieved a flat surface, I was able to proceed with finish application (which I proceeded with as per the manufacturer’s instructions). As a side note: Pre-mixed sanding sealer is available, in a clear coloration, at local hardware and paint retailers if you should not wish to mix your own sealer solution.