Soft Maple Cabinet Finish Blotching?

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Blog entry by Kjuly posted 08-18-2009 02:39 AM 3002 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I posted this information on my blog and wanted to share it with LJ.

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I built this Soft Maple cabinet for a class that I am going to teach this fall. The design is simple so the students can focus on building the cabinet and not be distracted by a lot of design details.

This post is about the finish. If you have ever worked with Soft Maple then you know that this wood does not take the stain evenly, leaving some areas with more stain than others causing a blotchy mess. You can also encounter this same problem with other woods like Cherry, Pine and Birch, to name a few.

The solution is simple but it does take a little practice. As in any finishing that you do, always test the finishing technique on a piece of scrap wood before applying it to your project.

After the sanding is complete and all sawdust has been removed, I apply two coats of sealer, sanding between coats. The type of sealer that you would use depends on the top coat. In this case I used lacquer, so I used lacquer sanding sealer for seal coat.

I used an oil soluble aniline dye to color this cabinet. The dye comes in powder form and is dissolved into lacquer thinner. Testing to get the right mix is a must. The combination of colors and concentrations is endless so take a little time and test a few samples to get the color that fits your needs. I mix one quart of lacquer thinner with one ounce of dye. Starting with four ounces of the top coat ( in this case lacquer) I add small amounts of the lacquer thinner/dye to get the color I am looking for, adding a quarter teaspoon of the dye mixture to the lacquer each time. Each step is recorded so I can match the color again in the future. After the color is added, I test it on a piece of scrap wood. If the color is too light then I add another quarter teaspoon to the mix and do another test until I get the correct color. I do very small tests in each step because large tests will use too much finish and throw off the ratio of finish to dye. Remember, I started with four ounces of lacquer and a quarter teaspoon of color and may have to do several tests until I get the right combination. Once the desired color is mixed and applied to the cabinet I then put on the clear top coats as usual.

There is no shelf life for the lacquer thinner/dye mixture so it can be used in future projects. Check the manufacturer of the top coat material for the shelf life.


-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

4 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3776 days

#1 posted 08-22-2009 07:49 AM

Very nice cabinet Keith

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Kjuly's profile


311 posts in 3484 days

#2 posted 08-22-2009 06:39 PM

Hi Jim,
Thanks for the compliment.
I took a look at your projects and must say that you have a very nice shop.

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3469 days

#3 posted 08-22-2009 06:53 PM

Very nice and interesting finishing technique….I’ve been using analines on my bowls and turning…the water based dyes there….then applying a water based poly….then wax buffing.

I have not attempted to dye a larger production….I have read about mixing the dyes with laquers and polys as long as both are the same base – water to water…oil to oil…...I was curious as to whether you had any problem with the dye not mixing uniformly? Or whether you get any lift off with the oil based analines using an oil based top?

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Kjuly's profile


311 posts in 3484 days

#4 posted 08-24-2009 01:00 AM

Hi Reggiek,

The instructions on the container say to mix the thinner and dye and let stand for one hour and then strain. I have not had a problem but I always give it a good mix before using.
I have not had any lifting with this method but I have only used it with lacquer. I do not know how it would work with polyurethane.
Thanks for the good question.

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

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