Hi, I'm making a jewelry box of american walnut, and wondering what finish to use. I was thinking of putting a few coats of oil finish, like tung oil, but last time I used tung oil on a small cupboard, it stank for months (it was the Circa tung oil with dark stain in it), but maybe the clear tung oil would not smell? Anyone has experienced a good finish for black walnut?
P.S: I'm a hobbyist trying to minimise mistakes, learning the hard way sometimes becomes really irritating...
Oil ... either polymerized tung oil or boiled linseed oil (BLO) ... is one of the nicest ways to finish walnut. The oil gives it a deep rich color and if you have the patience you can apply a few coats and buff it up to a nice soft lustre. Or you can use hard paste wax over just a coat or two of oil and buff the paste wax up.
Or you can use a wipe-on poly over just a coat or two of oil and select the shininess you want. Two or three light coats of wipe-on satin poly will give you a nice natural look without looking like plastic and it will be so thin a film that your piece will still feel like wood.
Only time and air will get rid of the smell of any oil based product.
Or you can cover it up with something that doesn't smell. Clear shellac, water-borne poly or spray-on lacquer will all do the trick.
In any case, to get the best finish you need to let the oil (tung or BLO) cure completely before doing anything over top (wax or poly).
I am partial to the Circa1850 antique oil, and their paste varnish.
The oil, I like so much since it does not change the colour or the shade of the wood, merely pops it. I used Watco on some cocobolo I have and am now regreting that decision for the darkening of the colour. Watco is a good product, don't get me wrong, just the colour change was un-wanted. The Circa oil goes on easily, applied in thin layers and buffed a little, gives such a deep satiny lustre to the wood.
The paste varnish is such a forgiving top coat. Wipe it on, buff until you feel the cloth go "smooth" and move on. No worries about keeping wet edges, no worries about the inevitable dust particles settling into the finish, because they don't, just sit on top. A light sanding with a pad or 0000 steel wool and the shine of the finish can be controled.
For a professional saw dust maker such as myself, still struggling with design balances, joinery issues and detail, fighting with a finish is just a little too much right now. With that combination, I do not worry.
Oh yeah, the paste varnish can be tinted with an oil stain. It won't become a full colour but will give suggestions of shades.