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Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF

John Hartman Member


Struggling to stain walnut consistently. I use general finishes RTM stain system; spraying on a couple of wiped off coats. I have made 25 plus samples that all look great with a flat sheen, but can't seem to capture the "look" as in the attached link. Any words of guidance would be greatly appreciated.


1/14/17       #2: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...

John, if that's wood in the picture, that is a fantastic veneer grain match guess would be that it's a laminate.
wood or not, are you staining black walnut? If so you will have to use a 2part wood bleach to kill the purple/grey brown before you can get close to the golden brown in the picture. If you've never used 2part wood bleach be forewarned it's a pita.

1/14/17       #3: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...
Paul Snyder  Member


The walnut in the pictures does not appear to be stained.

What aspect of your work is different that the photos? What is different about the "look?"

1/14/17       #4: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...
John Hartman Member

I've never done anything with wood bleach. I viewed an interesting video about using baking soda and water solution to naturally darken walnut.

I suppose the biggest differences from the photo in the link and my samples is the color in general. Within the same sheet the grain varies widely; from straight to wavy with lighter and darker areas.

There must be a technique that I'm missing. I might just be the bleach??

1/14/17       #5: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...

Paul makes a important point; if that is wood in the photo, it is not stained and no stain will give you that exact look. The best you be able to do is approximate it.
re; wood bleach...practice on a pile of scraps first to get a idea how it works before applying on your project.

1/14/17       #6: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...

I sprayed that job. Send me an email and I can give you the specs. It's all custom laid up walnut 1/4" veneer, no stain, definitely not laminate. It was almost a year of finishing just for the millwork in that house.

1/15/17       #7: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...
Denny J

Nothing better than getting it from the horse's mouth.

Craig- it looks fantastic.

1/15/17       #8: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...
Hen Bob Member

Awesome job!

1/16/17       #9: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...

That looks like an amazing project, I would be interested in knowing the finish also?
I was told by one of the best finishers that I know that you should always stain Walnut as it keeps it from fading over time.

1/16/17       #10: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...
Michael Foscone

Not to be sinnical but a year of finishing in the house? That's just amazing.
The color of the walnut in the photo can of course be duplicated, that's what a Finisher does.
What happens in a year or two and the client wants to add a couple of pieces, with that same color?
Do you tell them all the wood from that tree is gone?

1/16/17       #11: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...

Awesome job!, and my apoligies. Give us the details... english walnut? what was the finish schedule?

1/17/17       #12: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...
John Hartman Member

So Craig was kind enough to share how this walnut was finished and it was just clear coated with ICA dead flat acrylic polyurethane.

1/18/17       #13: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...

@Michael Foscone- it wasn't a year only on that job in my shop, but it took them a year to complete the millwork. The photos don't do the size of the house justice. It's a 6 bedroom house, all with ensuite's, floor to ceiling panelling in many rooms. The passage doors were 10' with matching grain panels running to the ceiling. I even sprayed the panels that went in the elevator :) All the panels were custom layup, chosen for colour.
@Scott- I generally stain or tone walnut for that reason, but the ICA seems to actually get richer on it's own, which seems unusual for an acrylic. I don't know why it works, but it looks fantastic. I spray a ton of it here.

1/18/17       #14: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...

My mistake, they were 8' doors. I'm Canadian, I use metric :)

1/18/17       #15: Staining Walnut Veneer over MDF ...
Paul Snyder  Member



Walnut does fade and turns more orange in color. A lot of people love the natural color of aged walnut. If you want it to be brown for the life of the finish, you can stain it.

Here's a picture of a 40 year old piece of finished walnut - natural color.

View higher quality, full size image (480 X 640)

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