Best finish after stain

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Forum topic by connerjenk posted 11-05-2015 02:14 AM 1001 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View connerjenk's profile


3 posts in 1170 days

11-05-2015 02:14 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finish stain danish oil polyurethane table top maple finishing

I’ve been a woodworking enthusiast for about 3 years now (I’m 24). Luckily I can say it has become a full-time profession for me. With that said one area I’m not very confident in is finishing. I’ve done some research and gone through phases but can’t seem to find a general consensus. I went through a phase of using boiled linseed oil. Then I moved on to Danish Oil which I still like to use if a project will let me get away with it. I like the way it leaves the wood feeling natural but still somewhat protects.

I’m building a dining table right now and the buyer wants a dark stain. I usually stick with Minwax stains and am using Dark Walnut for this one. The wood I’m using is Maple. In your opinion, what is the best finish to use after stain and still achieve a natural wood feel, unlike the “plastic” feel pure poly gives you after finish with it.

-- Conner, Louisiana,

14 replies so far

View BurlyBob's profile


6030 posts in 2501 days

#1 posted 11-05-2015 02:22 AM

Conner, the man you need to contact is Charles Neil. You’ll find him here. He basically wrote the book on finishing. He’s a great resource and very willing to help anyone.

View connerjenk's profile


3 posts in 1170 days

#2 posted 11-05-2015 03:31 AM

Thanks Burly Bob!

-- Conner, Louisiana,

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5233 posts in 2729 days

#3 posted 11-05-2015 01:21 PM

I can suggest 2 books that might be useful. They have basically the same info, the only difference is the way they are organized. The first is F”lexner’s Understanding Wood Finishing”, the second would be Jeff Jewitt's book “Complete Illustrated Guide….”. I think one or both should be required in any hobbyist’s shop, maybe both in a shop that earns money.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Woodtodust's profile


61 posts in 2073 days

#4 posted 11-05-2015 02:58 PM

Fred suggested two very good books but I would also like to support Burly Bob’s recommendation and suggest Charles Neil’s book, “Finishing Simply Put.” You can buy it on his Web site. Additionally, I took his finishing class and found it to be extremely helpful.

Finishing can be a pain in the neck and the part of a project that I would often dread and do a mediocre job just to get it done. We invest a lot in tools and materials to build our projects and then go to the big box stores and buy a cheap finish and slop it on—the part that everyone sees and touches. The reality is, finishing is the element that can make a good project great—if done properly, or make a great project just average if done poorly.

Getting a good foundation in this art/science will raise the level of your projects.

-- Bill...Richmond Hill, GA--"83% of all statistics are made up."

View RogerM's profile


799 posts in 2635 days

#5 posted 11-05-2015 03:44 PM

Conner -

This may be a bit intimidating but first, try using an aniline dye on the maple for the color. I have had excellent results using a very dilute water based medium walnut dye on maple. It comes in powder form and you can mix it to the color you want. This is followed by a dilute coat of Seal Coat (shellac) followed by diluted wipe on coats of oil based polyurethane. Trust me on this it will be well worth the experience and effort.

Get a few scraps and try it with various dye concentrations. Also, have faith, after the water based dye your surface will appear to be dull when dry. Lightly rub this surface down with a high grit sandpaper and put a sealer coat on it. Go to my lumberjacks page for detailed instructions.

Please send me a message if you would like more details.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View mahdee's profile


4041 posts in 2003 days

#6 posted 11-05-2015 04:18 PM

You can get a natural look (grain showing) by applying several coats rob on poly until you get the desired look.


View OSU55's profile


2025 posts in 2225 days

#7 posted 11-05-2015 04:27 PM

I agree with Fred’s suggestions. Both books are worth having. I haven’t read Charles Neil’s book, so I don’t know if it is more of a recipe/cook book, or if it does get into the science and chemistry like Jewitt and Flexner, which I believe is necessary (don’t worry, the science and chemistry is not deep).

View pjones46's profile


1001 posts in 2878 days

#8 posted 11-05-2015 04:53 PM

+1 OSU55 and Fred Hargis.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View pintodeluxe's profile


5816 posts in 3049 days

#9 posted 11-05-2015 05:01 PM

Spraying lacquer will give you a professional looking finish.

I think Minwax stains are just okay (prefer Rodda, Varathane, Cabot brands) but I would steer clear of their topcoats.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View connerjenk's profile


3 posts in 1170 days

#10 posted 11-06-2015 06:10 PM

Thank you so much for all of your help. Everything was very helpful and I’ll definitely be getting the resources you guys suggested and studying up!

-- Conner, Louisiana,

View Daruc's profile


460 posts in 1368 days

#11 posted 11-06-2015 06:25 PM

I really like the feel of “Dull Rubbed” pre-cat lacquer from Sherwin Williams. Feels like furniture should.
Pre-cat lacquer is more durable than regular nitrocellulose lacquer, the next step up would be conversion varnish which is a little harder to do, but more durable than the pre-cat.
This is my opinion only, there are several finishes that would work,
these are just where my experience levels are.

-- -

View splintergroup's profile


2500 posts in 1458 days

#12 posted 11-06-2015 07:22 PM

I take a different approach.

The big problem I have with stain is that it only lies on the surface, more so with hardwoods. The problem comes when applying a topcoat that needs to be layered, that is the top coat needs to be sanded between coats. This can result in sanding through the stain on sharp corners unless one is very careful.
The solution is to either use a more penetrating form of staining (dyes, fuming, etc) or use a top coat that does not require sanding between coats (spray lacquer, etc.).

View Gixxerjoe04's profile


850 posts in 1812 days

#13 posted 11-06-2015 08:15 PM

Awesome you get to do it full time, def jealous. One question about the particular project, since you’re using hardwood for it and not pine or cheap stuff, since they want it to look like walnut, why not make it from walnut? Of course I guess the final finish issue would be the same, was just wondering.

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 3956 days

#14 posted 11-06-2015 08:21 PM

A couple years ago I had a new experience using a brushing lacquer (I think it was Deft brand) on top of stain. I really liked the feel of the lacquer compared to polyurethane topcoats. It had a softer feel that made the stain look better. The downside was that it stinks until dry. I had to wear a breathing mask and vent air through the house. However it dries quickly. On another project, I learned that layering different topcoats onto Minwax stained wood created lots of problems because the Minwax doesn’t contain enough bonding agents to work like that. Hope this helps.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

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