Best Finish for Walnut: Top 5 Reviewed!

Welcome to my article all about the best finish for walnut wood!

Walnut is one of the softest woods available, with open pores that decrease durability but allow any finish to soak in quickly and easily.

Of course, not all finishes offer the same results, so you need to consider which one is the best, depending on the project you’re working on.

Below I’ll go through the details, pros and cons of my top 5 favorite finishes for walnut wood, so that you have an idea of the best products out there.

But first, let’s discuss what to look for when selecting a finish for walnut, and how to apply the finish properly to ensure a beautiful color and long lasting protection.

What To Look For In A Walnut Finish

example of walnut wood

When choosing a finish for walnut wood, one of the most important things to consider is how well the finish protects the wood.

Some finishes offer more protection than others, especially with more coats.

Of course, this also makes them harder to remove from the future if maintenance is needed, so keep this in mind.

Also consider the color of the finish since there could be several available.

This could include light, medium, dark, or black finishes, so you need to choose the right one to match your walnut wood.

As well as the color, you may also want to decide on the look of the finish.

Some will have a soft satin shine or a glossy sheen, so choose the one that will give you your desired effect.

Some finishes are easier to apply than others.

If the finish needs to be wiped on, wiped off, and then reapplied after drying time, this will be a much larger task than one that is applied and then left alone.

You should also consider the prep time of the wood before the finish is applied.

Some finishes only work on raw, stripped, or sanded wood, so you may need to prepare your walnut before you can even begin the finishing process.

Where the piece will be located and how it is used is also an important part of choosing a finish.

Some finishes are more durable, so they work better on dining room or coffee tables or frequently used chairs while others are better for more decorative pieces that won’t see a lot of activity.

There are also different options for furniture vs floors, so keep this in mind as well.

How To Apply A Finish For Walnut

Applying oils or stains to your walnut pieces is rather simple, as long as you have the right tools for the job.

As well as your chosen finish, you’ll need a bristle brush, foam applicator, or even an old, clean sock.

Be sure to prep your wood as needed in accordance with the instructions before applying the finish.

Always check the specific application instructions of your finish to learn how to properly apply it.

However, as a general guide, here’s how to apply a finish to walnut wood:

  1. Using your application tool, wipe the stain or oil onto the wood, following the pattern of the grain
  2. Coat the entire walnut surface
  3. Leave the finish on for a certain amount of time, depending on the product and how dark you want the finish to be (check the product’s information to know how long you need)
  4. Using a clean cloth or sock, wipe the excess finish off
  5. Let the finish dry completely and then reapply if needed using the same process

Some finishes don’t even require the removal step, so be sure to check the product you’re using before applying it to your walnut project.

A finish should also be used in a well-ventilated area to reduce chemical odors.

Best Finish for Walnut: Top 5

Varathane 225250H One-Step Stain+Poly

Best for wood protection as well as color!

varathane walnut finish

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I recommend the Varathane Stain+Poly if you’re looking for a rich, natural color and the protection of polyurethane.

It combines the best of both options all in one can for a quick and easy finish to walnut projects.

You can use it on almost anything, including cabinets, furniture, panelling and doors, giving them all a smooth semi-gloss finish that lasts for years.

It is described as a one-step process but more than one coat may be required for the best results.

  • Easy to apply
  • Dries fast
  • Long-lasting finish
  • May need more than 1 application

Watco 65351 Danish Oil Wood Finish

Biggest range of colors!

watco danish oil

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The Watco Danish Oil comes in a few different options to enhance walnut pieces, including Light, Medium, Dark, and Black Walnut finishes, so make sure you pick the right color for your project.

These all work well on bare, stripped, or sanded wood, penetrating deep for good protection and a rich, warm finish.

Keep in mind that it can’t penetrate sealed wood.

This Danish Oil contains enough finish for 85 square feet with a brush or wipe-on application and dries in about 6 hours.

  • Enhances the natural wood look
  • Deep wood penetration
  • Wipes on quickly
  • Can’t be used on sealed wood

Minwax 22240 Special Walnut Wood Finish

minwax walnut wood finish

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Minwax has several finish options but few offer the rich, dark coloring of their Special Walnut finish.

Application is quick and easy using a clean cloth, brush, or foam applicator, plus it dries in only a couple of hours.

The longer you leave the stain on, the darker it looks, so make sure you don’t forget about it after the application!

This wood finish does have a rather strong chemical odor too, so only use it in a well-ventilated area.

  • Easy application
  • Rich, dark color
  • Dries quickly
  • The odor is quite strong

Howard Restor-A-Finish in Walnut

Best to cover marks or blemishes on wood!

howard restore a finish in walnut

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The Howard Restor-A-Finish is designed to cover blemishes, abrasions, water marks, smoke damage, and scratches on finished wood surfaces, which makes it my top pick for restorative work with walnut wood.

It eliminates those minor marks, blending them to match the rest of the piece perfectly with no stripping or sanding necessary.

Of course, more significant damage may require some prep before finishing with this product.

The finish is easy to apply by simply wiping it on, leaving it for a few minutes, and then wiping it off again.

  • Covers blemishes and scratches
  • No stripping necessary
  • Fast wipe-on application
  • Can’t restore significant damage

General Finishes Oil Based Gel Stain

general finishes antique walnut finish

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The Gel Stain from General Finishes is one of the easiest products to apply since you apply it more like paint than other stains.

Rather than wiping it off after application, you leave it on to fully coat your walnut wood pieces.

It doesn’t soak into the wood, instead it sits on top to create a lustrous shine.

This stain does take a long time to dry but if you’re careful, you may only need one coat to get the job done.

  • Lustrous shine
  • Decent coverage
  • No wiping necessary
  • Long drying time

Best Finish for Walnut: Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed my article all about the best finishes for walnut!

With the right finish and the techniques mentioned above, your walnut project will be looking professional and beautiful in no time.

If you enjoyed this article, here are some more that you may also like to read:

Best Outdoor Spray Paint for Wood
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