Just to explain why I chose a non-toxic finish: My policy is, when I have to choose b/w something that's potentially harmful to the environment and something that's not, if convenient, I choose the low impact path. In this case, walnut oil was convenient: It is cheap (I've used about $1 worth of oil thus far); it will seal the wood for some period of time; it's fun to use--I don't have to leave my tiny apartment to apply it; it has a nice smell; there will be no toxic can lying around the house for the next decade until I am forced to figure out how to dispose of it--in fact, I can eat the remainder when I'm done...I enjoy "the fruits of the earth", that's why I got interested in wood in the first place.
I'm not going to start a flame war about who did what and who said what. I find flame wars to be of no interest to anyone except the participants and quite boring for everyone else.
....Walnut oil is not many peoples choice of finish for a side table. A mixture of beeswax and walnut oil is liked by some but mostly I thought for utensils and bowls. I've used it on bowls but it has to be refreshed often and is generally a "dull" finish. Walnut oil does polymerize with oxygen and will provide some protection with minimal yellowing.
Thanks for your comment. If someone had posted with instructions on how to apply beeswax and assurances that it would not darken the wood (or would darken it less), I would've gone that route. But it's nice to be assured walnut oil will
eventually polymerize. It's pretty slow to dry. I'd say it took about 48 hours (maybe more) b/f the first areas did not rub off oily.
I'm also glad to hear about walnut oil not yellowing. That's why I wouldn't use linseed oil. (I read somewhere that a version of linseed oil called 'stand oil' does not yellow. But I have not yet seem a confirmation of that elsewhere.) I could've used tung oil and maybe should've used it. We'll see after a few more coats how protective the coating is.
I've applied the walnut oil on about 70% of the surfaces, thus far. Yeah, the finish is so dull, I wouldn't even call it a finish. It basically just looks wet. But it definitely 'pops' the grain, which is nice. One thing I've learned, though: It also heightened the contrast in color b/w the top shelf and the bottom shelf. The bottom shelf was darker b/c I didn't have to sand so deeply into it to get rid of stains. (I will post a picture, if people request one.) If I were to do it over again, I would sand the bottom more deeply to match the color shades.
One thing that I liked a lot about using the oil: Since the table was already assembled, I couldn't reach some end grain surfaces directly. Pouring the oil into the cracks b/w pieces seemed to work pretty well in soaking those inaccessible areas. I'm hoping hitting all
the surfaces will stop the splitting that had already started in one or two spots.
Originally Posted by sgtrunningfool
If you do some research on method used by Amish you will find some all-natural options.
Thanks for the suggestion. If you happen to know of some sites that describe Amish methods, I would definitely love to check them out.