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Walnut oil finish

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Eight months ago I rough turned 10 large bowls out of a 28" diameter Pignut Hickory (Carya Glabra). They wre finally dry and I finsihed turned them. I decided to try Mike Mahoney"s walnut oil finish and walnut oil wax. ( I feel the need to state a disclaimer after the firestorm we had recently about play for pay I don't know Mike and he has never sent me anything for free or otherwise.)
I liked the finish very much. I used two coats of oil an hour apart and a coat of wax the next day. It gave me a beautiful satin finish. Anyone else try it?
 
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Walnut Oil

I have used Mike's walnut oil on many bowls, and have been very satisfied with it. (Mike and I are not related in any way, and I paid for my bottle from Craft Supplies.):cool2:
 
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I use his walnut oil and oil/wax on many of my utility bowls and utility items. I really like the finish and satin sheen it gives. About once a year or so I apply it to our walnut plates and cherry salad bowl set. (Usual disclaimer)
 

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I buy my walnut oil at the grocery store in the same section where you find cooking oil and salad oil. It is primarily used as a food ingredient for salads, etc. The grocery store version is pure and obviously does not have any petroleum products added as thinners. It is much cheaper than buying the stuff that is packaged as a finishing product. I have used the walnut oil straight and it produces a beautiful finish. I also use it on the wooden handles of kitchen knives.

I have also tried it thinned it for slightly better penetration of harder wood, but it doesn't seem to be any better than using it straight.

I use the rest of the walnut oil for making a salad dressing, which I presume is good for the wooden bowl at the same time.
 
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I have been using the Walnut oil for several years now. I started buying it from Mike when he started selling it. I normally put on a coat a day for two or three days. I have never been able to do it all in one, just does not dry that quick for me.

You can also use it when "wet sanding" the piece. This cuts down on dust and helps penitration. I don't know that it speeds up the cure time, but it seems to work faster than coating the bowls off the lathe. I have some pieces that were only finished on the lathe, some that were only off, and some that are a combination. They all look nice, so it is hard to tell if one method is better than the other.

I have never had a disclaimer, would not know how to use one if I had one, and don't know where to buy one.

Fog
 
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I have been using Mike's oil for a few years now, and prefer it. I slop as much on as I can, then mix in some of the wax. I will let it sit for a day or 2, then wipe off the excess. Only rarely does a bowl need recoating. It does take a while to cure, and setting the bowls over a 100 watt light bulb does help it dry out a bit faster. Mike's oil is pressed from the husks and leaves of the tree, and the stuff in the stores is from the nut meats. The store stuff is usually pasteurized which does break down the proteins to reduce the risk of allergic reaction, and it also doesn't cure as well as Mike's. If you use your bowls a lot, they don't need to be reoiled. I have one I take with me to every show I do (they give you more food if you bring your own bowl I swear). It only got the initial treatment. Most of the time I just rinse it out, and some times I will scrub. I almost never use soap. I have put any type of food in it that will fit from Bar-b-Q to tofu. It is ash and was almost snow white. Now it is a nice amber color. Salads always contribute oil, and cheese cake leaves the nicest sheen on the bowl. The only time I use soap is if it starts to feel gunky on the inside. You can use salt and a wedge of lemon or lime if you don't want to use the soap. It does the same thing, emulsifys the oils and disinfects. Bowls do need to be able to breathe. We all know what happens if we keep them damp and under cover.

robo hippy
 

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Mike's oil is pressed from the husks and leaves of the tree, and the stuff in the stores is from the nut meats. The store stuff is usually pasteurized which does break down the proteins to reduce the risk of allergic reaction, and it also doesn't cure as well as Mike's. If you use your bowls a lot, they don't need to be reoiled.

That is interesting information about the difference in the types of walnut oil.

I have found the grocery store oil cures in about a day or two in the Texas summer heat if I put the freshly oiled turnings in the afternoon sun for a couple hours to help the oil soak in and then put it in my garage to finish curing. It is fairly thick stuff so a second coat is not needed (nor will it soak in).
 
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Waiting on our resident botanist, but if I were a betting man I'd say that the tree makes but one kind of oil, regardless where it ends up.

Be a bit careful on the off-the shelf oils, because some of them have added preservatives "to retard spoilage," which is incomplete oxidation/cross-linking. They will take a while to cure. Big difference between the oils which are expressed and the others extracted by solvents. Much less likely to have the proteins that cause reaction in the solvent-extracted oil.

I use walnut oil as a finish all the time. Keep treated surfaces exposed to open air for a week and you should have no problems with rancidity. I recommend a vinegar wipe as a fine antibacterial.

The mendicant with his bowl. Quite the image. Do you wear a saffron robe? :)
 

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The oil that I use has no additives so I keep it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer (mainly since I make my salad dressing from the same can of walnut oil).

All of the tree oils may be about the same, but there are probably a number of other dissolved ingredients that go along for the ride.
 
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I have tried a small amount of his walnut oil and I like it. When I get rich I will buy 20 gallons or so. He said he would give me a good deal.
 
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Plant-derived oils.....WRT Walnut oil.....

Waiting on our resident botanist, but if I were a betting man I'd say that the tree makes but one kind of oil, regardless where it ends up.

Be a bit careful on the off-the shelf oils, because some of them have added preservatives "to retard spoilage," which is incomplete oxidation/cross-linking. They will take a while to cure. Big difference between the oils which are expressed and the others extracted by solvents. Much less likely to have the proteins that cause reaction in the solvent-extracted oil.

I did some "literature looking" before responding, and doing so made me painfully aware about how much I don't know about plant lipids!

What I did find is that most of the studies that are reported in the botanical and biochemical/medicinal literature done on 'walnut oil' have been done on the oil found in the seed, and that it is a more healthy oil than most plant oils - high in omega-3 fatty acids. (BTW - For those of you turners with '80-grit skin' on your hands (literally), walnut oil might help re-condition the skin and help it heal more efficiently - it's used as a skin therapy compound!) I could find little, if any, information on oils extracted from fruit wall (the 'husks'), bark, or other parts of the plant. In many (most?) tree species, the vegetative parts of the plants (roots, stems, leaves) are typically not well invested with plant oils. Plant ("vegetable") oils are more commonly extracted from seeds, or in some cases, from the fruit wall [pericarp], the best example being olive oil (I tell my students that olive oil is the ONLY case of a sliding scale of "virginity" as opposed to an all or none definition found in humans and other animals!).

With respect to all plant oils being the same within one species regardless of anatomical source, there are examples where oils found in different parts of the plant can possess different chemical compositions. One of the best examples of this is 'palm oil' versus 'palm kernel (=seed) oil'. The general fatty acid profiles of these are similar, however the proportions of the fatty acids found in these two oils differ significantly enough that they are considered two distinct oil products with different characteristics. This, despite the fact that the oil derived from the fruit ['palm oil'] is in very close anatomical proximity to the seeds, from whence cometh palm kernel oil. It seems that some plants are able to synthesize and deposit different oils in different parts of their structure; whether this occurs in walnut, I have not been able to determine. It parallels deposition of proteins, in that seed storage proteins are quite different in amino acid content/proportions than are general proteins found in the metabolically active plant.

I could not find more information (with only moderate searching 'intensity') about oils extracted (either through cold pressing or solvent extraction) from walnut or butternut (Juglans nigra or J. cinerea, respectively) from parts of the plants other than that from the seed.

The residual protein content (and hence, the antigenic potential) of solvent-extracted oils is certainly less than that extracted through cold pressing (and some people are quite allergic to walnut allergens - my sister is - and the allergic response results are not pretty, from personal experience). The "pasteurization" process [which is intended to kill or incapacitate living microbes, if it is true pasteurization], likely has a protein coagulating and precipitating effect, which would reduce protein content and lessen the potential for allergic response. I'm not too sure microbes are the main enemy of walnut oil in storage - oxygen is, along with heat. Storage in tightly stoppered containers at refrigerator or freezing temperatures would maximize on longevity of unused oil.

When I see Mike Mahoney in Albuquerque in a few weeks, I'll have to ask him more about the composition of his oil, and where it actually comes from.

I hope this has provided some useful information for those with "inquiring minds" that wanted to know.....

Rob Wallace
 
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Would not surprise me in the least to find that "husks and leaves" really meant that it was waste-product extraction rather than pressing the clean premium nutmeats.

As you recall, it is denaturing of proteins by causing them to unfold or unwind that renders them unrecognizable to the body as antigens. Somewhere the figure of >140 F comes to mind, which means that Pasteurization would suffice, even though it is specifically aimed against bacterial activity.
 

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I am beginning to wonder if the "walnut oil" sold as a wood finishing product is a lot like "teak oil" -- meaning that it is really linseed oil. Oil is not extracted from teak and sold as a finish -- the term "teak oil" means that it is a linseed oil formulation meant to be used as a finish on teak. Could it be that a similar situation exists regarding "walnut oil"? I find it a bit hard to imagine that there is a sufficiently concentrated harvesting of walnut to make it practical to "render the lard" from the waste of walnut trees. I am certainly no expert in this matter, but just flying by the seat of my pants, all of the plant oils that I know about come from the nut or seed of the plant.
 
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I am beginning to wonder if the "walnut oil" sold as a wood finishing product is a lot like "teak oil" -- meaning that it is really linseed oil. Oil is not extracted from teak and sold as a finish -- the term "teak oil" means that it is a linseed oil formulation meant to be used as a finish on teak. Could it be that a similar situation exists regarding "walnut oil"? I find it a bit hard to imagine that there is a sufficiently concentrated harvesting of walnut to make it practical to "render the lard" from the waste of walnut trees. I am certainly no expert in this matter, but just flying by the seat of my pants, all of the plant oils that I know about come from the nut or seed of the plant.

Usual "mislead" example is baby oil, but the smell says walnut, not linseed, so I think you can discard that idea.

Take a trip up to Sacramento and north if you want to see intensive walnut cultivation. Diamond does a lot of business up near Marysville/Yuba City, where I spent a bit of time. There's even a good business in grapeseed oil, which helps use a bit of that pig's squeal. It's a wonderful non-curing oil that I favor for French polishing, though the health and therapeutic massage types are the main reason for its success.

The crack and shake they use on walnuts leaves a bit of nutmeat in the shell, so it makes perfect sense to go after it on the way to that clean, properly sized shell they use for paint removal.

Thanks, Rob, I had forgotten about the palm oil trade, though as a botanist, how close are they to "trees" as we know them?
 

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I am relieved to learn that baby oil and palm oil don't fall into the same category as whale oil. :p

I'll be going up to the Pacific Northwest later this summer, so maybe I will have an opportunity to check into walnut oil.

Pecans are a big business in central Texas around San Saba where my brother has an orchard, but the trees are not removed enough to be of commercial value except for a few one-man operations with portable bandsaw mills.
 
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In the grocery stores here (next to the olive oil) I find plain old walnut oil, and also a "toasted" version which is darker and has a much stronger smell. The toasted version seems to set as well as the plain, but costs more.
 

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In the grocery stores here (next to the olive oil) I find plain old walnut oil, and also a "toasted" version which is darker and has a much stronger smell. The toasted version seems to set as well as the plain, but costs more.

The oil that I have says "roasted", I believe. The brand is "La Tourangelle". Real hoity-toity stuff -- here is what it says in the frou-frou script at the bottom of the label: Handcrafted in California with 150 years of French tradition. Distinctive, flavorful, and all-natural.

In case you have any of the oil left over from oiling your bowls, here is a nice dressing recipe:
French Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
4 Tbs. Roasted Walnut Oil
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Dash of salt to taste (ancient sea salt preferred)
Combine all ingredients and enjoy.


It is presumed that one knows that it is used on a salad. Also, the oil made from leaves, stems, and bark might not have quite the same taste as the oil extracted from the nut. :D
 
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safety of walnut oil & walnut shavings

Question was raised today at an informal club meeting - "if you have to be careful of disposing of walnut shavings, chips, etc because they are toxic (unless composted for years), and you are not supposed to use the chips for stable bedding.....why/how is walnut oil considered foodsafe for use by humans"?
 

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Question was raised today at an informal club meeting - "if you have to be careful of disposing of walnut shavings, chips, etc because they are toxic (unless composted for years), and you are not supposed to use the chips for stable bedding.....why/how is walnut oil considered foodsafe for use by humans"?

As far as I know, walnut wood shavings are only toxic to horses (which is a non-issue for the great majority of us), but people can become sensitized to various wood species and have allergic reactions. The current issue of Fine Woodworking has some good information on this subject. Usually, it is a tropical species of wood that causes a person to become sensitized, but it may lead to having some reaction to domestic woods in extreme cases.

Some walnut oil comes from the nut itself (the grocery store variety) and most people are not allergic to walnuts. However, it is rare, but some people are allergic to eating various types of tree nuts. Walnut oil catalyzes into a varnish-like finish, but I do not know if the dried oil finish is a problem for those people. I suspect that they steer clear of anything that might cause a problem (including wooden bowls).
 
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Ever notice that powder post beetles won't go into the heartwood of Walnut? The boring beetle larva won't either. Biological chemical warfare. For me, general rule is that the stronger it smells, the worse it is for you.
robo hippy
 
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Almost any chemical reaction occurs faster at warmer temperature. Cool and corked makes good sense, even if it doesn't say so on the label. Corked more important than cool.
 
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Does it really polymerize ?

I tried Mike's walnut oil on a nice cherry bowl a while back because of all the "food safe" concerns. It went on easy and I wiped off the excess and set it aside to "cure". It was supposed to be for a charity but my wife liked it too much (had to make another bowl for the charity). Several months later I took the bowl to a local turning symposium and put on the Instant Gallery table which was covered with white paper. When I retrieved the bowl at the end of the show, there was a distinct oily ring on the paper. Is this normal ? This after months of "curing". Hence my question in the title line. The label says it is heat treated-whatever that means. I have my doubts that it really polymerizes into a solid like a varnish or poly does. Maybe just ends up really viscous liquid.

I am not trying to put Mike down or trash his product. I am just disappointed in a highly touted product.

Maybe if I could find some snake oil, that would work better:eek::D;)
 

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Don, there are a number of factors which will prevent an oil or varnish from properly polymerizing. If the wood had not completely dried before the finish was applied, the moisture and miscellaneous VOC's in the wood can slow down the curing or even stop it completely. Cedar and many tropicals can cause polyurethane to take months to cure, if ever. The more resins that any wood contains, the greater it chances of being problematic. Other potential problem areas for your bowl could be the result of using a wax over the oiled finish or if you applied a stain to the wood before applying the oil finish.
 
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Don I had asked Mike about that very thing. He said it had not dried properly. Here is what he said about drying. I asked him what was needed to get it to dry properly? Normal ambient day light is fine. No extra lighting is recommended. I use this in the directions to discourage dark oxygen deprived spaces. This will make it dry slower. I haven't had a problem since. I am removing this in the directions to avoid confusion. I also asked him if it needed refrigerated? He said, refrigeration will slow the oxidation process. However, it will be fine for 2 years at room temps. So I have a table I sit my pieces on near a window for good daylight. Seems to work fine.
 
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Bill & Bernie,

Thanks for your input.

No wax, stain or any other type of coating. Wood was quite dry when turned and finished. It sat in my daylit shop for several weeks, but not in direct light.

I'm really not impressed with this product. I have a hard time believing it truly polymerizes. I think it just soaks in like mineral oil and seems dry on the surface. This is just MY opinion. I should do some testing.

Where's our resident chemist Mr. M. Mouse on this aspect of oil polymerization ?
 
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Not really polymerization, per se....

It was asked (by Don) whether the oils used actually polymerize..... my understanding is that in reality, the "drying" oils do not polymerize in the strict sense (that is, form bonds between smaller monomeric subunit molecules to form a larger polymer), but use oxygen to form cross-links (ether or ester bridges?) between the fatty-acid chains found in the oils. (This is not really polymerization, as one would find in polyurethane, or the formation of natural 'crepe' rubber from isoprenes) This cross-linking process with oxygen in contact with the oil is exothermic, which is why the so-called "oily-rags" need to be handled carefully to avoid spontaneous combustion.

I am curious about the comment from Mike Mahoney that Bernie reported. This is the first I've heard about anything having to do with "light" and the "curing" process. I really have my doubts that there is any aspect of the cross-linking process that is photo-activated or photo-enhanced. There is nothing found in the chemistry of the oils (at least that I know of, or have read about) that would be an active photon "capturer", or a transfer molecule which would promote the cross-linking of fatty acids in the curing oil. Perhaps by being out in the sunlight one is assured of an unlimited source of oxygen, and the "normal ambient daylight" recommended is only an associated condition, not the actual cause for correct "drying" of the oil. It also could enhance thermal warming of the piece which would increase the rate of crosslinking, provided sufficient oxygen is available. I just don't think its the light itself that has anything to do with the curing.

With respect to the 'oily ring' left on the paper by the supposedly cured piece that Don O. talked about..... I wonder if the bowl was kept on a surface which did not allow oxygen to reach the bottom of the piece where it touches the table. If there were oil molecules in the wood at the bottom of the bowl, for them this would be the same condition as keeping the oil in the bottle, since they do not get to see enough oxygen to cross-link. Was the bowl allowed to cure with equal access to air on all sides? If you laid the bowl on its rim or on its side, would you get oil stains on the paper from these surfaces too? If so, then the oil, and its ability to crosslink, certainly is to blame.

I always thought that it would be useful to try accelerating the curing process by placing the piece in a hyper-oxygenic chamber. I suppose I could try this in a metal vacuum chamber I have, in which I have been doing some experimenting with vacuum wood drying of roughed-out bowls. I could see infusing the chamber's atmosphere with a bit more oxygen than we normally have around us (ca. 20%), and see whether the curing process takes less time under these conditions than it would in "plain" air. Another thing to do in my copious free time! (I'll put it on the list...)

Interesteg thread,

Rob Wallace
 
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Like heat, light energizes things. We all know how the high-energy UV light of direct sun affects wood. We might assume that addition of energy to this molecular mixer is like adding loud music to its collegiate equivalent.
 
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I put a 100 watt light bulb under some to help the drying and it did seem to speed it along. I have some pieces that never seem to totally dry, and others that soak in all I can put on them. I do like it. Mike told me he doesn't put anything on his personal wood ware in his house. I do like the oiled look for sales purposes, and keep my 10 year old bowl handy to show people what will happen to them.

robo hippy
 

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A 100 watt bulb generates a lot more heat than light, so if it is beneath the bowls, it could be the heat from the lamp that is drying the finish. If visible light has any impact at all on drying, I would guess that it would be the light close to the UV end of the spectrum.
 
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Rob,

Great post and very informative. Of course you are correct on the polymerization-cross link difference. Thanks for the clarification. I honestly don't remember if I turned the bowl upside down to expose the bottom to more air. Most likely not, I don't imagine I thought it necessary. I will keep it in mind the next time though. I do like the idea of nothing on the wood for use. No worries about "food safe" finishes. As long as the wood itself is non toxic. People have been using wooden ware for centuries without the modern high tech finishes. Average life span was not very long way back when, but I doubt it was from eating off of wooden plates:D.


Hmmm...light activated finishes ? As MM said, adds energy to the system, but how much really.
 

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....... People have been using wooden ware for centuries without the modern high tech finishes. Average life span was not very long way back when, but I doubt it was from eating off of wooden plates:D.....

The shorter life span back then could have been due to NOT eating off plates -- just a thought. ;)
 
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