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Wunder Woods

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Hardwoods from St. Charles & St. Louis (Live-edge slabs, lumber and woodworking)
Updated: 18 min 53 sec ago

Stain Walnut? Are You Crazy?!

Mon, 05/06/2024 - 9:13pm

The answer is, only a little. And, yes sometimes we do stain walnut and this is why (and how).

First off, for those that don’t know, walnut has a chocolatey brown heartwood that is known for its rich color and is often finished without adding color because it is pretty on its own. Sounds simple enough, it looks great, why mess with it? Well, there are four reasons to stain walnut:

  1. Color Consistency. Walnut not only has dark heartwood, but like all other woods, has a light colored ring of sapwood on the outside of the log. Depending on the cut, walnut lumber may contain streaks of nearly white sapwood. Even if the lumber does not contain sapwood, areas near the sapwood can appear much lighter in color. Walnut heartwood also varies in color from tree to tree. Some lean towards more red, some green and some purple. Staining the wood will make lumber from different trees and different areas of the same tree have the same hue and have a similar range of shade.
  2. Increased yield. If walnut is not stained, the only way to keep a piece in the dark color range is to remove all sapwood. To keep from having to trim off all of the sapwood, commercially produced walnut is steamed to darken the sapwood. Even though the steaming process makes the sapwood darker and more like the heartwood, without stain the color difference will be much more noticeable. Staining the wood will make much more of the tree usable, since both the heartwood and sapwood can all be used.
  3. Longer lasting color. Walnut is one of the few woods I know of that lightens in color as it ages. When stained the brown color will hold tight for much, much longer.
  4. It stains great. This isn’t really a reason to stain walnut, but it is worth noting. Walnut accepts all stains well. As long as the surface is sanded properly, staining is a breeze. No splotchy wood here.

When staining walnut, I like to use a mix of Special Walnut and Dark Walnut from Minwax. I feel like Special Walnut is a little too brown with most of the color coming from brown pigment and the Dark Walnut is a bit too black with most of the color coming from black dye. But, when mixed together, they are the perfect blend of color and penetration, which makes the walnut color more consistent and keeps the wood looking like walnut without hiding the grain.

We stain walnut commonly in applications with plywood, like commercial millwork, to provide consistency to the job over multiple products and to give the project a deeper, richer walnut tone. We also stain walnut lumber, like the table in the video below for the same reasons. I think the stain does an excellent job of bringing the entire project together, while not hiding the walnut lumber.

Click on the video below to see how the walnut looks after it is stained and finished.

Video Link

Sun, 03/10/2024 - 7:13pm

The previous e-mail contains a link that didn’t come through. If you would like to see the video of our cabinet delivery for KBIS 2024, Las Vegas which shows our latest brass and walnut cabinets, please click the link below.

All About That Brass

Sun, 03/10/2024 - 12:04pm

It looks like brass is back in – bright, shiny, golden brass. The last few jobs we have done featured plenty of brass, and they have been for customers who I would say are “in the know” for design trends. The styles are less decorative than previous iterations, but I am surprised by how quick it is back. It seems like just yesterday we were taking out everything that resembled brass and replacing it with oil-rubbed bronze. I guess there are only so many choices, and brass isn’t a bad one.

A great example of the brass trend roaring back are a couple sets of cabinets we have done lately which featured brass, not only in the hardware choices, but also added to the cabinets. We have previously done a set in black and just recently a set in walnut. The brass inlay is a fancy touch which isn’t too hard to pull off, but there are a few tricks which we figured out through a bit of trial and error.

The first set of doors and drawer fronts set we did were made from mdf with the grooves routed on the cnc router. We used 1/8″ thick brass and super glued them in the grooves after we chiseled the corners square. It worked well, but we planned to sand the entire panel in the wide-belt sander and that’s where things went a little sideways. Even with the lightest and quickest of passes, the brass would get hot and expand and then pop out of the grooves. We were able to finish up by hand, using a block backer behind the sandpaper, but the process took quite awhile. Luckily, we were only doing a handful of doors. In case you are wondering, the orbital sander was a no-go because the brass and mdf sand at different rates and the orbital sander would leave the brass high and the mdf low, resulting in a non-flat surface. The only way to ensure a flat surface is with very even amounts of sanding through the wide-belt sander or with a stiff backer behind the sandpaper.

The panels above were made from mdf, painted black with brass inlays.

On our most recent set of walnut cabinets, I decided to step up the brass to 1/4″ x 1/4″ and it made a huge difference. We were able to put the panels through the wide-belt sander (still taking light passes) and have that be our almost finished surface. We then very, very lightly sanded with the orbital sander just to get the brass surface finished consistently, but had no issues with the brass wanting to pop out of the grooves. The structural difference between 1/8″ thick and 1/4″ thick brass and its ability to dissipate heat, both added to the success. I think it also helped to have more glue surface on the side of the brass to keep them in place.

These walnut frames also feature a brass inlay, but this time we used thicker brass.

The walnut panels were a bit easier to finish than the black set because the entire panel was only clear coated for the finish. The black set required us to tape off the brass before painting black and then clear coating the entire panel. To get a perfectly flat finish, the black set also took a few extra coats of finish with 320 sanding in between to level out the surface.

Click the link above to see the walnut panels with brass inlays at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.

Besides the brass hardware, brass is finding its way back in fixtures and accent pieces too. We found ourselves also working on a set of brass and walnut shelves to accompany the cabinets above. It seems like the brass is coming back and designers are not being shy about using it. Take a good look around the internet and you’ll find brass, and it will be as big as ever.

More brass. This time we used it for a shelving unit and True is using it for their refrigerator handles, also at the KBIS show.