Finishing #1: Finding a stickley finish

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Blog entry by brianl posted 05-12-2010 05:25 AM 9804 reads 10 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I have been working on a pair of nightstands for a while now and I’ve been trying to sort out what stain to use on them. They are quartersawn white oak and reproduction Stickleys so I wanted a nice older look. I started digging around in magazines, books, online, etc… and I found some great resources – like Captain Skully's forum post. Unfortunately, viewing something over the net always makes it appear a bit “off” to me. So I decided that I needed to prototype some of the stains.

Being a very methodical person by nature, I decided to create a list of all known mission/sticklye/arts & crats stain recipes I could find (excluding ammonia-tenting recipes). A selection follows:

  1. Transtint medium brown dye and Shellac:
  2. GF Special Walnut stain and Watco Walnut:
  3. Transtint Golden Brown, GF Brown Mahogany Gel Stain, Two Coats Zinsser Sealcoat, rub out w/ steel wool and Behlen’s Wool Lube:
  4. Transtint Dark Mission Brown, 1LB Amber Shellac, GF Antique Walnut, Arm-R-Seal:
  5. Antique Cherry Aniline Dye, Dry Overnight, Dark Walnut Oil-based stain, polyurethane:

After I looked over these I saw a few patterns forming. Since I had never used Trans-Tint dyes before, I decided to come up with a sample board to test out all the different recipes I could think of:

I then selected a decent board and tried every one of them.

As you can see, I numbered everything to cross reference to my list.

Once I found a recipe I liked, I decided to complete one board with just that forumla so I knew what it looked like on a larger scale. I picked #13 – General Finishes Spiced Walnut, followed by Amber Shellac, followed by Dark Walnut Watco. I then topped it off with satin Arm-R-Seal.

I was pleased with the final product:

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

6 comments so far

View mpmitche's profile


428 posts in 3027 days

#1 posted 05-13-2010 12:21 AM

That is a lot of options. I think the one you picked looks great but is that last piece white oak?

-- Mike, Western New York

View brianl's profile


108 posts in 3132 days

#2 posted 05-14-2010 03:31 AM

Yep, all white oak. I got it at Summers Lumber (as found in this forum post).

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

View CaptainSkully's profile


1601 posts in 3610 days

#3 posted 05-14-2010 06:42 AM

Very nicely done sir! Thanks for the research and the samples.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Jero's profile


79 posts in 3038 days

#4 posted 05-20-2010 08:40 PM

From the picture it looks like it has a reddish “hue” to it…would you say it does? I have a bed-frame made out of white oak, that I just (gasp) stained last night. The stain looks very similar to the picture above. I’ll be posting it when it’s all completed.

Looks great! I’ll have to try it on my next peice.

-- Jeremy - Marshfield, WI

View brianl's profile


108 posts in 3132 days

#5 posted 05-21-2010 05:35 AM


Thanks! The reddish hue is probably my camera or something. I asked a professional photographer friend of mine how I should go about tuning images to make them appear well on the web. After she got done laughing at me she went on for quite some time about the different way browsers display colors, the differences in monitors, etc… Suffice it to say I gave up. Whatever my camera takes is what gets posted.

I am in the process of staining the nightstands I have been working on. As soon as I get them done I’ll post some photos and you can see the stain on a larger surface – with better photography (I hope!). In the meantime, I walked out to the garage and snapped quick picture of the back of that piece contrasting with some red oak I had laying around. Here you go (white on the left, red on the right, and some mdf at the top):

Now, this is at night in my badly-lit garage with a flash on my digital camera. But hopefully it un-muddlies the water somewhat.

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

View Jackman's profile


1 post in 162 days

#6 posted 02-05-2018 03:37 PM

This pictures associated with this post seem to have vanished. Any way to get them back?

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