Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! #2: Time to mooch the table saw.

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Blog entry by BethMartin posted 03-30-2009 12:55 AM 1520 reads 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Time to get started Part 2 of Downstairs Built-ins Extravaganza! series Part 3: I Haz Saw Now. Plz Check Work. »

So there was still some debate about which wood I was going to make stuff in. Therefore I didn’t pick up as much wood today as I thought I wood. I mean would. I can’t believe I just typed that.

Anyhoo, there were several people who commented in my wood thread about how cherry doesn’t really get its true color until it’s been exposed to sunlight, and I may find that it gets TOO dark eventually. So back to square one, I went the lumber store so I could make a decision with the wood actually in front of me.

At my lumber store I have to choose from: red oak, poplar, cherry, and maple. These are my options because I’d really like to work with plywood instead of making my own panels from boards. And I can get these woods in both plywood and boards. I don’t like red oak, cherry has its darkening issue, poplar I think is kind of icky looking, and maple has a really lovely swirly grain on it. Especially the plywood, they had a piece of dark maple plywood that just looked so fanciful with its swirls. I’m thinking, “why can’t I use this?” And I guess I was worried that it would not get dark enough. But the guy at the store said that it darkens up as well as the oak. I took home a scrap board and a stain sample and tried it, and it actually looks like it will work.

Today I’ve been reading about the horrors of trying to darken maple. ha ha! Apparently it is quite a PITA. But people do it, so I’m willing to give it a go. It seems that a common suggestion is to color it with a dye first. So I’ve ordered 2 different colors of Transtint dye, and I will do some experimenting with some different finishing techniques. I figure one of them will work decently, and I’ll get my dark brown AND my nice swirls and I’ll be happy. :)

But in the meantime, I got two sheets of regular plywood, so as soon as I get that table saw borrowed, I can start cutting stuff.

-- Beth

8 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3517 days

#1 posted 03-30-2009 03:01 AM

To me the choice of wood is not really difficult. As a contractor I see the use of poplar wood for trim packages in houses all of the time. You can use a good stain to achieve any overall look that you want.

Here is a house my brother and I built:


This is some of the trim. The doors, door and window casing, baseboard, ceiling beams, and light trough and column caps are all made of poplar wood.


Choice of stain is easy, just go to Sherwin Williams.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 2795 days

#2 posted 03-30-2009 03:48 AM


-- Beth

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3517 days

#3 posted 03-30-2009 05:34 AM

If you use poplar just avoid the heavy dark streaks that are typically purple or black. All of the wood here was white and green colored.

Using Sherwin Williams’ Sherwood line works well because it is a heavy bodied stain and covers well. This means that it has a high solids content compared to something like Minwax.

Sherwood Classics dries in 2 hours and I also use Sherwin BAC wiping stain which dries in 30 minutes. This one can be more difficult to work because it dries so fast, especially when you do any project with inside corners it takes an experienced hand to work it fast. Both can be reactivated with a little more stain or solvent on a rag.

I typically spray pre-catalyzed lacquers on my trim work. I use Sherwin’s T77-F37 or T77-F57. My new favorite is M.L.Campbell’s MagnaMax, this one comes from a Pittsburgh Paint dealer in my town.

Go to one of these places that deal with professionals. You can buy there too, do not be intimidated. These stores have people that really know their product.

The reason that I have great success is that I not only use good tools, but I use good products. These products are designed to help me make money by efficient and enhanced application performance as well as durability. Amazingly, these products are not much more expensive than what you pay for inferior products at the box stores. For the way that they perform, I pay less in the long run.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3517 days

#4 posted 03-30-2009 05:43 AM

Another thing is dye. At a professional paint store you can get a quart of dye for $90 so that is $2.81 per oz.

A 2 oz. bottle of Transtint costs $18.50 plus shipping if there is not a store nearby. That is $9.25 an ounce.

But for your project, I do not think that you really need the dye.

What you really need to do is take some wood in that you are going to use and have some samples made up. Don’t just put the stain on, give it a few minutes and shoot a rattle can of lacquer on it to see how it looks with a clearcoat. The color typically deepens and comes to life.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View 's profile

593 posts in 3390 days

#5 posted 03-30-2009 10:24 AM

Beth, listen to the wise words of Todd. He says that (sic): ”The reason that I have great success is that I not only use good tools, but I use good products.” but the truth is that, above all, he has great success because he is a true craftsman that knows his trade very well. Problem is he is too humble. You can’t go wrong following his advice.

View Sawdust2's profile


1467 posts in 3505 days

#6 posted 03-30-2009 12:39 PM

I will reinforce what these folks have said.
I would add that you can get a 14 day free trial at
Once you are there you can read all that Peter Gedrys has to say about finishing (staining, dyeing) wood.
Especially that part about dyeing wood yellow or orange (or both) to bring out the grain before you get to your final color.
It is not a simple process to figure out on your own.
Sample boards make it easier plus you can write the process on each board so it’s repeatable.
Consider aspen as an alternative (less expensive) choice for cherry.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3131 days

#7 posted 03-30-2009 10:51 PM

Beth, I have discovered things that as a recent newbie, (1 yr) you can take to the Bank, There are a few LJ’s that are Masters and Todd is definitely one of them and the other is that Todd and most of the others like to share their knowledge and if necessary take you in hand to guide you and help you. You are undertaking a complex and expensive project. The only way to due it is the right way. Any little error that you think that you might have made you will always see even though no-one else does. As you are doing now, take your time, research, learn before you commit yourself and you bank account to a project of this magnitude.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 2795 days

#8 posted 03-31-2009 01:21 AM

Thank you all for your advice. I will definitely check the local sherwin-williams to see what they’ve got. :)

-- Beth

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