Reply by Dan Krager

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Posted on Espresso color on maple wood

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Dan Krager

4036 posts in 2259 days

#1 posted 12-15-2012 06:30 PM

Maple is notoriously difficult to stain darkly because it is so dense.
There are two general types of wood coloring agents, stains and dyes. Both come in solvent and water based versions. A professional commissioned to “stain” maple would likely use a combination of several steps to achieve the desired intensity, the old timers using solvent based and the greenies using water based. All these would be sprayed. The first step would be to condition the maple with a sealer and toner to ensure uniformity. These would be fast drying and deeply penetrating. Then an intense aniline dye, maybe dissolved in alcohol for deep penetration and color build. Two or more coats may be needed. A thin sealer coat may be necessary here to set the dyes depending on build. Next a glaze, which would fall into the stain category because it is an intense dark color pigment suspended in a solvent, sprayed on liberally and wiped to the desired intensity. Here is where color highlights and darker recesses are created. Not much penetration occurs here, it’s more like a paint really. Finally a clear sealer and two or more top coats with progressively heavier build that are compatible with the well dried glaze. There may be a spatter spray between the sealer and top coats for “distressing”, or some touch up shading.
It is nearly impossible to match the quality of that finish with a simple brush or wipe on finish. It would be like brush painting enamel on a car compared to the slick production finishes used. Now, that being said, there are some simple finishes that work well on most woods, but not so much on hard maple, even if you quit sanding early.
I always recommend a clear finish on hard maple because it keeps things simple and easier to maintain. Dark finish of any sort on light wood is asking for repair work soon. No mistake on the maple, just making it dark is not so easy!
Good luck and
Merry Christmas!

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL One should always prefer the probable impossible to the improbable possible.

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