Bleaching Walnut

New and old school ways to bleach Walnut. June 4, 2012

I have an architect asking about bleached walnut. Anyone ever done anything like this?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
How retro 1950's can one get! Typically this is done with a two part hydrogen peroxide bleach. Problem was that the bleach turned colors as the wood aged and the nitrocellulose lacquer that was used was not water-white. Save yourself lots of headaches and make your samples with a white base stain, seal, then a white shader. Please use a water-white finish for your sealer and topcoat. If you must use the two part bleach, do not use it at full strength - it will only burn the wood and turn out uneven.

From contributor W:
You can bleach the walnut and you will get walnut with light color. Just make sure you do the right procedure of bleaching. But the bleached result is never consistent if used to make color finish. You may need to combine the bleaching process with the stain application to get your finish.

From contributor C:
The original French walnut finish did not use two part bleach. That is a more modern method. It will lighten the wood too much, compared to the earlier method. One part potassium permanganate to two parts distilled water, followed by 8 ounces of sodium hypochlorite (the lightener). This will give a lighter affect to the wood than the 2 part. Rinse with distilled water and rags once process is completely dry (overnight or longer), sand, and go from there.

From contributor M:
My old books also say to apply a rabbit skin hide glue wash before you start applying your finish. Works well to lock in the base tone before you apply the clearest shellac you can find. The other thing that we do in replicating parts is to switch from southern black walnut to clara (California) walnut. The sapwood is almost the right color.

From contributor T:
I once ran a project through our shop in butternut. When the project came to a close, the butternut ran a little short for the moldings. I used off the shelf Sav-o-Gran(?) wood bleach (2-part) and was able to bleach black walnut very light close to 1/8" deep. The solution requires neutralizing with vinegar after bleaching. Years later I tried the same product on poplar to get rid of some poplar green for a project. No go.