Black Walnut is a beautiful wood and also wonderful to work with. It is fairly common, and good quality black walnut lumber is not hard to find, but can be quite costly – I have several huge Walnut trees in my back garden that one day may make a nice piece of furniture.
I like to finish black walnut with a clear oil finish such as Watco Danish Oil or Waterlox Tung Oil.
Recently I was asked to make a gun rack from an old piece of fabulously grained walnut. It had tiger striping, swirls and quilting – it had such depth to the surface – the visual feast is called chatoyance, and comes from the french “to shine like a cat’s eye”.
The board was planed flat and then card scraped. I then gave it one soaking of Danish Oil, let this sit for a while and wiped off the access. [the nice thing about this product is that the excess can be stored and used again] It’s also very easy to repair damage.
It was then scuff sanded with 180 grit and then another coat of oil – repeat with 320 grit and then a final coat rubbed in. The last coat could be rubbed out with 0000 wire wool.
As an aside I did have a colleague and her children collected a couple of buckets of walnuts one year, that I left for several weeks to decompose into a very dark, smelly syrupy. I used it to refinish a chest of draws.