Wood stains make it easy to change the natural tone of freshly milled lumber. It should be noted that each wood has a special base tone specific to species.

The amount of water and nutrition in the soil will also have an impact on the eventual wood tone of cured lumber.

Natural walnut is part of the brown family, but there is a rich warmth to natural walnut that can appear a caramel color in the lighter grain of the wood.

Dark Walnut vs Special vs Natural wood stain colors
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Dark Walnut

Dark walnut stain is very close to black. Depending on the tightness of the grain in the wood, it may reflect black or have a rich grey sheen once it soaks in.

If you’re working with yellow wood, such as pine or poplar, do make sure to check and test the stain on a scrap or underside of the wood before you commit.

Make sure you review the grain of the wood carefully as well. The more porous the wood, the more stain it will absorb. Because dark walnut is so close to black, the porous grain will absorb more and your finished product will have black veins running through.

There’s nothing wrong with a dark walnut stain; it can be quite elegant. However, if your wood has not been well finished, any uneven patches will pick up more stain.

Additionally, if the wood is freshly planed but has not been sanded at all, those planing stripes will take stain differently.

If you can look down the length of the board and see any shiny stripes, you should probably sand it.

To avoid dealing with dust after sanding, brush and vacuum the wood. Do not clean it with liquid; this can just open the grain of the wood and create a muddy-looking stain.

Dark Walnut Color
Dark Walnut Color

Special Walnut

Special walnut stain will add a darker tone and bump up the red color in your wood. Pine, maple and poplar will take on a warmer tone that is a bit richer than just adding a sealant.

Any wood with a strong grain will, again, stripe nicely once this stain has been applied.

If you’re refinishing a wooden item and want to add a clean, warm stain to the item, this is a wonderful middle-of-the-road tone.

It’s important to know what wood you’re dealing with before you apply any finish. For example, you may have found an old table you want to refinish.

To strip paint off the item, you can use several different solvents. Another option is to try a heat gun. To effectively strip off old finishes with either product, you will need to work in an open space.

Put down a drop cloth and a layer of cardboard; if you use plastic, you may slip on a wet surface and fall into a puddle of solvent.

Dark Walnut vs Special vs Natural - Wood Stain Colors Compared
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Use gloves to protect your hands and a face shield to protect your eyes. With a heat gun, start by applying heat to the old paint until it bubbles, then scrape it away with a metal-bladed putty knife.

If you notice a thick, sticky substance next to the wood, you are melting old wax and varnish; as you scrape away the paint, the wax and varnish come with. Let these scrapings cool before you try to put them in the trash.

As you get the paint away, you should start to see the underlying wood. Depending on the age of the item, you may see a fairly uniform tone with very little graining. Often, older furniture was made of mahogany. Beech was often used in older kitchen cabinets.

Both of these woods have very little grain and should take stain evenly. Do remember that the older the wood, the less stain it will absorb. After stripping the paint off, you will probably need a solvent cleanup, followed by a round of sanding and some brushing.

Special walnut color
Special walnut color

Natural Walnut

Natural walnut is a wonderful choice if your wood just needs a bit of enhancing without changing the color. Again, walnut is a brown wood.

If you add it to a yellow wood, you will warm it up but it will still have a yellow tone. Once that walnut stain has completely dried, you might consider adding a semi-gloss sealant over the stain.

The top coat of sealer can have a big impact on the stain finish and color. Many oil-based sealants have a very light yellow tone. If you have to have an oil-based sealant for your application, do test the product over a scrap of stained wood to make sure you are happy with the final tone.

Carefully review the instructions on both your stain and your sealant. If you’re staining and sealing something that needs extra protection, such as a floor or a table top, there are sealants that will require sanding between layers.

There are also sealants that won’t require sanding if you can get the next coat of sealant on the surface within a specific time range.

Your intended use will have a huge impact on durability of your final finish. Varathane sealant products were once used to seal bowling alley floors.

Your living room floor should withstand tricycles and dog claws with no trouble after a few coats.

Natural walnut color
Natural walnut color

When You Shouldn’t Use a Stain

If you need a product to seal a food-safe surface, such as a butcher block, you will need to skip the stain altogether. Most experts recommend a combination of food-grade mineral oil for the first layer and an application of wax.

Food-safe paste wax and brushed-on beeswax can both serve as a wonderful way to protect your family by protecting the wood from moisture.

Unlike sealed wood, waxed wood will eventually need another coat. Carefully review the instructions on the container to note the signs of when you need another coat.

Each time you use your butcher block, be sure to scrape away debris, then wash the surface with a mild detergent such as dish soap.

You can also spray the surface down with a mild blend of water and vinegar. If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, you can dab it on a cloth before wiping it on the surface.

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