What is the Best Finish for a Walnut Table? (2023)

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When crafting a stunning walnut table, selecting the ideal finish is essential to attain the desired aesthetic appeal. Using an inappropriate type of finish could result in a blotchy and uneven appearance, potentially ruining the exquisite appearance of your valuable walnut table.

To avoid such issues, I tested the best finishes for a walnut table and provided insights to choose the right one in this guide!

Premium Option
General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain
Editor’s Choice
Waterlox 5284qt TB5284 Stain
Budget Option
Howard RF6016 Restor-A-Finish
General Finishes AQ
Waterlox 5284qt
Howard RF6016
• Low odor
• Beginner-friendly
• Heat-resistant
• Gel consistency
• Multi-purpose
• Semi-transparent
• Non-toxic if dry
• Tung-oil based
• Versatile
• Rich color
• Covers scratches
• No sanding needed
Premium Option
General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain
General Finishes AQ
• Low odor
• Beginner-friendly
• Heat-resistant
• Gel consistency
Editor’s Choice
Waterlox 5284qt TB5284 Stain
Waterlox 5284qt
• Multi-purpose
• Semi-transparent
• Non-toxic if dry
• Tung-oil based
Budget Option
Howard RF6016 Restor-A-Finish
Howard RF6016
• Versatile
• Rich color
• Covers scratches
• No sanding needed

Reviews of the Top Finishes for a Walnut Table

1. Waterlox 5284qt TB5284 Stain

Waterlox 5284qt TB5284 Stain is a high-quality, tung oil-based penetrating stain designed for wood surfaces, including walnut. It is a semi-transparent stain that enhances the natural beauty of the wood by bringing out the wood grain and color.

The finish is excellent because it gives your flooring a gorgeous sheen that will endure for decades while protecting them from everyday household spills, dampness, and foot activity.

It is ideal for hardwood floors, cabinets, furniture, picture frames, gunstocks, bar tops, and fly fishing rods. This stain is designed to penetrate deep into the wood fibers, resulting in a long-lasting finish that resists wear and tear.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

2. General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain in Antique Walnut

This General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain is perfect if you’re looking for a high-quality coating for your wooden dining room table. It will save you much more money rather than buying brand-new pieces.

This oil-based gel stain makes it easy to apply, penetrating deeply into the wood pores and providing a uniform color distribution. The gel consistency also helps to prevent drips and splatters, ensuring a clean and mess-free application.

It contains urethane, which adds durability and protection to the wood surface, making it resistant to water, heat, and scratches. It is ideal for furniture, cabinets, doors, and other wood surfaces that need a durable and long-lasting finish.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

3. Howard RF6016 Restor-A-Finish

The Howard RF6016 is a unique product designed to restore and rejuvenate the finish of wooden furniture. It is a blend of premium quality refinishing oils and solvents that penetrates deep into the wood’s surface and restores its original color and luster.

Restor-A-Finish stands out for its ease of use, making the process a breeze. All you need to do is clean the furniture using a soft cloth, then apply Restor-A-Finish with another soft cloth, and finally, wipe off any excess product.

Moreover, it is an excellent alternative to traditional refinishing methods, as it is less time-consuming, less expensive, and less messy. The product dries quickly; you can buff it with a clean cloth for a shinier finish.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

4. 1 qt Minwax 70012 Dark Walnut

The Minwax 70012444 Dark Walnut finish is a high-quality oil-based wood stain designed to add a rich, dark brown color to interior wooden surfaces such as floors, furniture, cabinets, and doors.

One of the main advantages of this finish is that it provides excellent coverage and color depth with just one coat. It enhances the natural grain and texture of the wood, creating a beautiful look.

It is highly resistant to fading, chipping, and peeling, making it ideal for high-traffic areas such as floors and stairs. It also enhances the natural grain and texture of the wood, creating a beautiful and timeless look that complements any interior design style.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

5. Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish

The Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish is a fast-drying formula that dries to the touch in 30 minutes and can be recoated after only 2 hours, allowing for quick and easy application. It also has excellent flow and leveling properties, which helps to create a smooth, even finish.

Another benefit of Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish is its versatility. It can be used on wood surfaces, including hardwoods, softwoods, and veneers. It can also be applied over stains and other finishes, creating a customized look while protecting the wood.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

6. Varathane 262025 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain

The Varathane 262025 Premium is a wood stain finish that dries to the touch within one hour, allowing you to apply multiple coats in a day or without waiting 24 hours for a second coat. This also means you can complete your staining project quickly and efficiently without waiting extended periods between coats.

Black walnut wood gets a stunning dark finish with Varathane 262025, making it ideal for refinishing antique furniture, upgrading cabinets, or staining new doors. 

The nano pigment particles in this high-performance stain are noteworthy because it highlights the wood’s natural grain for a stunning final product.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

7. Tried & True Varnish Oil – Pint – All-Purpose

One of the best finishes for a walnut table in terms of eco-friendliness is the Tried & True Varnish Oil. It is made from natural ingredients like polymerized linseed oil, pine resin, and beeswax blend. 

These ingredients are renewable, biodegradable, and non-toxic, making this product an eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood finishes that contain harmful chemicals. When applied to wood, it penetrates deep into the wood fibers, providing a solid protective barrier against moisture, heat, and abrasion. 

It dries to a beautiful, natural-looking finish that enhances the wood’s grain and color. It also has a long shelf life to store any leftover product for future use.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

8. LinSheen Boiled Linseed Oil

The LinSheen Boiled Linseed Oil is a popular wood finish made from natural flaxseed oil that has been processed to speed up drying time. 

One of the key features of this oil is its ability to penetrate deep into the wood fibers, providing a solid and durable protective coating. This product enhances the natural beauty of the wood by adding depth and richness to its color and grain.

When applied to wood, LinSheen Boiled Linseed Oil provides a smooth, glossy finish that resists water, stains, and other types of damage. It also has a high resistance to heat, making it ideal for use in high-temperature environments.

What I Like

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9. Odie's Oil • Universal Finish

The Odie’s Oil Universal Finish is a high-quality wood made from a unique blend of oils and waxes, including plant-based ingredients like carnauba wax. It is formulated to work on various wood types, including walnut.

It is versatile and can be used as a standalone finish or base coat for other finishes, such as lacquer or varnish. It is also suitable for various wood types, including hardwoods, softwoods, and exotic woods.

Additionally, a walnut table will retain its luster for years, thanks to its UV-ray-blocking properties. It is non-toxic and safe for tables, bowls, trays, or other kitchen furnishings.

What I Like

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10. Godora 32 oz Pure Tung Oil for Wood Finishing

The Godora Pure Tung Oil can penetrate deeply into the wood fibers, providing a solid and durable protective coating. It dries to a rugged and durable finish that resists water, stains, and other types of damage. It also has a high resistance to heat, making it ideal for use in high-temperature environments.

It is easy to use, applied with a brush, rag, or spray gun, and dries to the touch in about 24 hours. This product can also be mixed with other finishes, such as varnish or polyurethane, to create a customized look.

See Also: Varnish vs Stain 

What I Like

What I Don't Like

Walnut Table Finishes Buyer’s Guide

Type of Finish

Polyurethane

Polyurethane is one of the best finishes for a walnut table due to its durability and ability to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. Several polyurethane finishes are available, including glossy, satin, and matte.

These polyurethane finishes offer excellent protection against scratches, heat, and moisture, making them a great choice for a walnut table that will be used regularly.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is a natural, non-toxic, and easy-to-apply option that enhances the natural beauty of the wood. Several linseed oil finishes are available, including raw and boiled linseed oil. 

Danish Oil

Danish oil provides a natural look and a protective layer for walnut tables. Danish oil is a mixture of oil, varnish, and mineral spirits penetrating the wood, enhancing its natural grain and color. 

It also protects against scratches and moisture, making it an excellent choice for a walnut table that will be used regularly. 

Tung Oil

Tung oil is extracted from the nut of the tung tree and is a non-toxic and environmentally friendly option. It penetrates deeply into the wood fibers, protecting against scratches and water damage. 

applying Godora Pure Tung Oil

Tung oil finishes typically have a natural, matte finish but can be buffed to provide a more lustrous appearance.

Burnishing Technique

Burnishing is a technique used in woodworking to create a smooth and polished surface on a piece of wood. The process involves rubbing a complex and smooth object against the wood surface and compressing the wood fibers to create a shiny and polished appearance.

Typically, a burnishing tool is used for this technique, which can be made of materials such as steel, bone, or rigid plastic. The device is run over the wood surface in a back-and-forth motion, applying consistent pressure to compress and smooth the wood fibers.

Burnishing can be done on unfinished wood but is often used as a final step in the finishing process to create a lustrous surface. It is commonly used on maple, birch, and walnut hardwoods.

One advantage of burnishing is creating a smooth, polished surface without additional coatings or finishes. However, it is essential to note that burnishing can darken the wood slightly and change its appearance. 

Testing the technique on a small and inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire piece is recommended.

Ideal Finish to Use on a Walnut Table Top: Type, Color, and More

Walnut is a beautiful wood that deserves a finish that will enhance its natural beauty while protecting against scratches, moisture, and heat. A popular and durable finish for walnut tables is Lacquer. 

Lacquer is an excellent finish to use on a walnut table top due to its durability, clarity, and ability to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. Lacquer is a type of finish that dries quickly and forms a hard, protective coating on the surface of the wood.

Regarding the type of lacquer to use on a walnut table top, a clear, high-gloss lacquer is often recommended as it can highlight the wood’s natural colors and grain patterns. However, a matte or satin finish can also create a more subtle appearance.

Lacquer also offers excellent protection against moisture, stains, and scratches, making it a good choice for a high-traffic area such as a dining table. Additionally, lacquer is easy to clean and maintain, requiring only a damp cloth or mild cleaner.

When applying lacquer to a walnut tabletop, following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and using the finish in a well-ventilated area is crucial.

The surface should be sanded and cleaned thoroughly before the lacquer is applied to ensure a smooth finish. Multiple coats may be required, with sanding between each coat to ensure adhesion and a smooth finish.

Which is the Ideal Oil to Apply on Walnut

Tung and boiled linseed oils are ideal for walnut use for several reasons. Firstly, they are natural and environmentally friendly options that penetrate deeply into the wood fibers, enhancing their natural beauty while protecting against scratches and moisture. 

Second, they both have a natural finish to maintain the wood’s color and texture. Tung oil typically has a natural, matte finish, while boiled linseed oil has a slight amber tone that can darken the wood slightly.

How to Apply a Finish on a Walnut Table Top

Step #1: Sand the Wood

Before applying any finish, sanding the wood is essential to create a smooth surface. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper (around 80-100 grit) and work to fine-grit sandpaper (around 220-320 grit). 

Sand with the grain of the wood, and remove any dust or debris with a tack cloth or vacuum.

person holding sanding block

Step #2: Apply the First Layer

To get a stunning polish, walnut wood requires shellac as the first step. Shellac lays a solid groundwork for subsequent finishes like gel dyes and glaze when used as a primer.

Step #3: Apply the Second Layer

Make sure to give the shellac some time to cure between coats. In 30 minutes, shellac dries to the touch and is ready to use.

If the shellac has finished curing, sand down areas with developed spots. Put the second layer after vacuuming out any remaining dust or dirt. Apply subsequent coats only after the initial application has dried.

How to Apply a Finish on a Black Walnut Table Top

Lacquer finishes on black walnut are more popular. This black walnut coating dries quickly, and two applications are all that are required.

Black Walnut table top

Applying it to a surface with an airless spray is an option.[1] The glossy sheen of the lacquer will also highlight the wood’s beauty. If the color is uneven, try using a black walnut stain instead.

How to Apply a Finish on a Walnut Slab Table

A walnut slab table should be finished with an oil-based finish that emphasizes the wood’s natural grain and creates a visual contrast between the walnut and the sapwood. Both Tung Oil and Danish Oil work wonderfully here.

How Do You Protect a Walnut Table?

From Impact

A wood or oil finish can provide an added layer of protection to a walnut table from impact. Both can penetrate the wood fibers and harden the table’s surface, creating a more durable surface that is more resistant to damage from impact. 

It’s important to apply multiple coats of finish to ensure proper protection and allow each layer to dry completely before using the table. 

Rot and Decay

You can take several steps to protect walnut from rot and decay; there are several steps you can take. Firstly, apply a polyurethane layer, boiled linseed oil, or clear varnish to the surface. 

Secondly, you can keep the walnut dry by avoiding exposing it to excessive moisture, such as keeping it away from direct sunlight and areas prone to spills or leaks.

Thirdly, using felt pads on the bottom of objects frequently placed on the table can help prevent scratches and damage to the surface of the wood, which can lead to rot and decay over time.

After Applying Your Finishing of Choice

After applying your finishing to a walnut table, you can take a few additional steps to protect the wood, like avoiding placing hot or wet objects directly on the table’s surface, as this can cause damage or discoloration to the finish.

You should also regularly dust and clean the table using a soft cloth or microfiber duster to prevent dirt and grime from building up on the surface. 

Before, During, and After Use

Before use, applying a protective finish or oil to the table’s surface is essential to prevent moisture, scratches, and other damage.

walnut table

During use, it’s necessary to avoid exposing the table to excessive humidity, heat, or direct sunlight and to use coasters or placemats to protect the surface from scratches or stains.

After use, it’s essential to clean the table regularly using a soft cloth or microfiber duster and to address any spills or stains to prevent them from penetrating the wood.

Additionally, inspecting the table periodically for any signs of wear or damage and addressing any issues promptly to avoid further damage to the wood is crucial.

FAQ

Is it recommended to stain walnut?

Whether to stain walnut or not is a matter of personal preference. To darken raw wood, you can stain or use oil-based varnish or boiled linseed oil to darken raw lumber. If staining, the stain you choose will be the deciding factor in the final hue.

What stain should I use for a natural finish for walnut?

Lacquer is a popular choice for a natural finish on walnut because it dries quickly, provides a hard, durable surface, and has a clear finish that enhances the wood’s natural beauty. It can be applied in multiple coats for added protection and depth.

What is the best finish for black walnut?

Lacquer on black walnut is the best finish because it dries quickly, provides a rugged and durable surface, and has a clear finish that allows the wood’s natural beauty to show through. It is also resistant to water, chemicals, and scratches.

Also Read: Does Walnut Wood Turns Lighter Over Time?

My Top Pick For a Finish for a Walnut Table:
Waterlox 5284qt TB5284 Stain

My choice for the best finish for a walnut table is the Waterlox 5284qt TB5284 Stain. This finish delivers a lush, vibrant hue that amplifies the inherent charm of the wood, offering a robust and resilient layer of protection against water, stains, and various forms of damage.  

Additionally, it boasts a low VOC content and can be conveniently cleaned using just soap and water.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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