Matching the Patina of Walnut

Finishers discuss ways to get new walnut pieces to match the golden appearance of older furniture. July 3, 2008

I need to match a walnut conference table that is nice and orange. Any advice besides having pure sap laid up on panels ?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
May I suggest using a diluted 2 part bleach to lighten the new coloration of the wood first of all. You can dilute by 10 or 20% and apply then keep a close eye on the progress and when adequately lightened stop the process by washing with white vinegar. Afterwards I would recommend using a dye system (water dyes) to layer the color onto the surface.

First apply a yellow dye let dry then a very thinned out red or red orange dye over it. This should get you in the ball park your after. Then seal and glaze the rest of the color on using a mixture of raw sienna and burnt sienna over the sealer coat wiping on and wiping off to give you that milky orange brown cast - you may need a touch of burnt umber also. Always experiment and do samples beforehand. You may have to apply the dye and glaze more than once to accomplish what you’re after, and by no means is this the only way to get the look. I'm sure others will give other input also. One such way is to use white walnut (butternut ) instead of black walnut - this way you don’t have to bleach the wood before color applications.

From contributor C:
Bleach should be thinned 5-10 % not 10- 20% sorry Use distilled water to thin not tap water.

From contributor R:
Walnut tends to lighten and get yellower as it ages. Some go more to the cinnamon hues and other pieces more to the yellowish tones. I'd suntan the wood as intensely as possible before I did anything else. Then bleach if you still need it and re-stain as needed.

From contributor C:
If you've got the time clay makes a good point.

From contributor P:
Walnut doesn't bleach consistently, so I wouldn't recommend it. Instead, use walnut that has been dried in a steam kiln. The process 'washes out' a lot of the color you get with air dried lumber. Then you can simply use an orange dye followed by a burnt umber glaze to get a close resemblance to naturally aged walnut.

For the dye, both Behlen and Mohawk have walnut colors that have the orange tone of aged walnut wood. Either can be reduced in lacquer thinner or acetone to eliminate grain raise and allow the dye to dry fast.