Finishing air-dried Walnut table - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 2 Old 05-24-2014, 01:00 AM Thread Starter
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Finishing air-dried Walnut table

I am in the process of a very big build for a beginning woodworker. I am building a solid Walnut dining table for my brother that is 8' long by 43" wide. The lumber is all rough cut air-dried walnut and I think it is amazing wood. I am pretty sure it is because it is air dried but the wood has a lot more reds and purples than the stuff I can get at my local supplier.

I want to do the wood justice so I am here asking for help. I am probably a month or so off from actually getting to the finishing stage but I want to make sure there is time to order supplies if I need too.

1) What to do with the imperfections/knot holes in the wood. I have seen people like to dye epoxy and fill the holes. The other option that I think would be nice is to use a super clear epoxy (west systems, or similar) that would let you see "into" the imperfections. Ideas/suggestions?

2) Finishing. I don't have any sap wood to deal with so this will just be heartwood. Do I need to use any grain filler? What type of finish do I put on? As I mentioned I am a beginner so my experience mainly consists of water and oil based poly. My brother has 3 small children so it needs to be a tough finish whatever it is.

Here a shot of the wood I am working with:

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post #2 of 2 Old 05-24-2014, 08:47 AM
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You suspect the wood is air dried. Before you get too involved in the project you might get a moisture content meter to check the moisture content. If the wood has a too high moisture content you can expect more wood movement than you are accustom to. It would be a shame to use up some nice wood and have it warp and crack later on after the project was done and finished.

When I finish wood with knots I normally mix some bondo with burnt umber tinting color to the color the knot will finish and fill the imprefections with that. Bondo won't accept any color once dried so you have to mix the color before the hardener. The colorant is a universal tinting color like paint companies use to make paint. Sherwin Williams often sells it in bottles under the label Caltint. If they are nice you might ask them to put some in a empty can for you. Sherwin Williams doesn't have burnt umber in their machines though. There you would have to get raw umber and red oxide and mix it together to make burnt umber.

As far as finishing if you are building a formal piece of furniture then it's traditional to fill the grain so you don't see the texture of the wood in the finish especially on a table top. It's a personal choice thing. You might put some grain filler on one piece of scrap and some not filled to see if you like it. Also going with tradition if it's formal the knots should also be removed.

The finish if you don't have the means of spraying you would have better luck using a wipe on polyurethane. A table top shows every defect so you don't want to have a bunch of brush marks to work out. If you do have the means of spraying, I prefer to finish with pre-catalyzed lacquer. It's easy to work with and dries quick.
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