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How do I stain maple a dark brown?

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Forum topic by xeddog posted 02-02-2016 10:44 PM 719 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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xeddog

115 posts in 2470 days


02-02-2016 10:44 PM

I have been working on a project for a couple of months now. The hangup is trying to get a good consistent color that I accidentally came across. This project is a maple table/cabinet that is to go between two recliner chairs, and has storage and a charging compartment. Anyway, I initially wanted it to be black in color, but while fiddling around with different ebonizing techniques I came across a nice medium dark brown color. I checked with SWMBO and she liked it too so I decided to use it. I wasn’t quite ready to apply it yet so it was a few days before I was able to. Wouldn’t you know it, now it turns the maple a greyish black. DANG IT!!!!

The solution I used was tea, and steel wool dissolved in vinegar. I was trying several things so I don’t remember exactly what I did (forgot to take notes), but I can’t replicate it on any consistent level. It was either steel wool AND the tea bags in vinegar, or the tea bags brewed in DNA, the steel wool dissolved in vinegar, and then the two mixed. But in either case I can’t replicate it consistently. I have been able to get a brown color once, but it was much darker and muddier looking.

I have tried many different canned stains, both water based and oil based. Tried some brown Rit dye and I’m sure there was something else I have forgotten. Nothing works. Paint is not allowed. :-)

So here I am asking my first question on LumberJocks. I have replied to a few threads, but never started one until today. Does anyone know how to get a nice warm medium-dark brown color for maple that is rich and the grain (what there is of it) still clearly visible?

Thanks in advance,

Wayne


17 replies so far

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AandCstyle

2568 posts in 1720 days


#1 posted 02-02-2016 10:57 PM

Wayne, usually the steel wool/vinegar is a recipe for ebonizing. Take a look at the colors available from TransTint dyes. Maybe one of them will meet your needs and you can make the maple darker by diluting the TT less. Practice on scrap first. Also, maple is very prone to blotching so you should consider using a blotch control of some sort. There are many-Charles Neil makes one that gets high marks from users, many use a 1# cut of shellac, Minwax makes one and I am certain there are others. HTH

-- Art

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xeddog

115 posts in 2470 days


#2 posted 02-02-2016 11:03 PM

Ah! That was it! I did try TransTint when aiming for black and was dissappointed. I only got a black-ish color and not the dark I was looking for. I have not tried TransTint for brown though, but I suspect the results would be similar.

Thanks,

Wayne

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conifur

955 posts in 614 days


#3 posted 02-02-2016 11:37 PM

Well Wayne then you are doing some thing wrong. You may have sanded the wood to fine and burnished it and it wont take anything, mixing the dye too weak, ect I have made both mistakes, sanded a oak cabinet to 320 ROS and would not take an oil based stain to color that I used b4 with success. I use Trans Tint Brown on walnut all the time and get the color, I mix it with Denatured Alcohol, not water. Mix it to instructions, apply it, if not dark enough, add a few more drops and repeat.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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AandCstyle

2568 posts in 1720 days


#4 posted 02-02-2016 11:41 PM

Wayne, if you want black with TT it gets a bit more involved. The black TT will produce a dark grape juice color on some woods, but use it at the concentration of 1oz per quart water (1:32). Then you need to let it thoroughly dry, maybe 3-7 days, then apply Minwax Ebony stain and wait for that to completely dry, another week. Finally, use the clear top coat of your choice. As always, work through the complete process on scrap before attacking your (un)finished project.

-- Art

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a1Jim

115202 posts in 3040 days


#5 posted 02-02-2016 11:59 PM

Charles Neils blotch control is great stuff.As far as the darkening it to the shade you want,us some general finishes dye/stain each application you put on it will get darker,unlike just stain that seals on the first coat then after a second coat that’s about as dark as it will get. Do a sample board first to make sure you can get the color you’re looking for.

http://www.amazon.com/General-Finishes-Water-Based-Ebony/dp/B003ELFJZ8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454457549&sr=8-1&keywords=general+finishes+dye+ebony

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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conifur

955 posts in 614 days


#6 posted 02-03-2016 01:26 AM

Trans Tint Antique Maple double dose, a wash of 50/50 BLO/MS wipe on wipe off, then let dry and a top coat of your choice.
Get Bob Flexners Finishing Book. Read it, then re read it, and put it next to your bible.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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MadMark

977 posts in 916 days


#7 posted 02-03-2016 01:38 AM

Brown shoe polish. Mix with black to darken. Its very old school but the wax base works on wood.

Next time use walnut …

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

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a1Jim

115202 posts in 3040 days


#8 posted 02-03-2016 02:26 AM

Finishing is one of those things that when people ask everyone says “do it my way” ,some are good and some are not so good. Like conifur I had used Bob Flexners book as an experts way to do things regarding finishing, but a few years ago I came across a rare resource as far as woodworking and finishing goes,that resource was and is Charles Neil.
Charles is a expert in woodworking and finishing,Charles has brought finishing up several notches from all of the past books on the subject. Charles has low-cost online class on finishing that covers everything from sanding to high-end details on finishing and trouble shooting finishing problems. He also has books on the subject,Another advantage of using Charles techniques is you can e-mail him with questions.

The proof of who’s and expert is in viewing their results

http://charlesneilwoodworking.3dcartstores.com/Charles-Neil-Finishing-Simply-Put-Chemistry-Degree-Not-Required_p_238.html

http://www.cn-woodworking.com/finishing-class/

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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conifur

955 posts in 614 days


#9 posted 02-03-2016 04:48 AM

Brown shoe polish. Mix with black to darken. Its very old school but the wax base works on wood.

Next time use walnut …
Shoe polish, most have silicone in them, FISH EYE when you go to to top coat it.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View skipj's profile

skipj

88 posts in 1735 days


#10 posted 02-03-2016 12:14 PM

I did a kitchen like this. This the pantry cabinet. Hard maple with TT and EM6000.

View upinflames's profile

upinflames

209 posts in 1625 days


#11 posted 02-03-2016 01:12 PM

Find a dye that you are happy with on color, working with the dye you can get it where you want it.

As for glue sizing that was suggested,(blotch control), it will require a whole new strategy, it seals the wood, just as any “conditioner ” does, therefore you need a darker color to start with.

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OSU55

1056 posts in 1452 days


#12 posted 02-03-2016 09:42 PM

Blotch control – pva glue reduced 4 to 10 parts water to 1 part glue. I use elmers glue all dries clear. Same as Charles Neil’s mix. Any blotch reducer will reduce the amount of color transfer due to less absorption. Layering addresses this. A dye mixed with a binder will create layers as additional coats are added. Any topcoat that uses the same solvent as the dye can be used as a binder. Personally I prefer Transtint dye with Target Coatings WR4000 to start. BLO look but dries in 2 hrs. I use dewaxed shellac with TT mixed in, very light 1/2# or so cut, sprayed as toner to even out and intensify color to level desired. Can be top coated with about anything. A topcoat with a TT compatible solvent (water, alcohol, lacq thinner) can be toned as well. Not so easy to do w/o spraying.

View xeddog's profile

xeddog

115 posts in 2470 days


#13 posted 02-03-2016 09:45 PM

First off, thanks everyone for the replies. Some notes:

I am fairly certain that I didn’t sand too fine. My test pieces were sanded on my belt sander which had a 120 belt on it, so maybe heated a little too much. On some pieces, after the belt sander I may have quickly hit them with some 220.

As for the dye being too weak, I made a sample with a cup of alcohol and 25 drops of the black TransTint. That was waaaaay too thin so I let the alcohol evaporate out and kept making more tests while it did. For the last sample, there was less than 1/4c left and it wasn’t much different than the original test.

I found a good black that worked for me, but it was some waterproof India ink. That stuff is BLACK. Thanks for the tip of using black TT and Ebony stain, but my search is now for a warm dark brown.

I will try the TransTint dyes again but I’m not sure which color to get. From the samples on my monitor the vintage maple looks too light, as does the medium brown. Maybe brown mahogany or the new Coffee Brown. Darkening them with a touch of black seems like it would produce an ugly brown that is kinda dirty looking. I want a pretty warm brown, but still quite dark.

Brown shoe polish. hmmmm. I actually have some of that around somewhere.

I could use a good book on finishing. Charles Neil looks like a good one.

I will look into the blotch control too. I have some shellac flakes that have been on my shelf for years. I guess I should toss them due to shelf life. Right?

How do you get a 2” thick rectangular slab of wood that has a natural edge all around it? :-)

Thanks again,

Wayne

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conifur

955 posts in 614 days


#14 posted 02-03-2016 10:05 PM

I think shellac flakes keeps a long time, it is after it is mixed the shelf life is short.
Some red or yellow dye will warm up the black mixed dye.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

115202 posts in 3040 days


#15 posted 02-03-2016 10:44 PM

I’ve used thinned down glue, shellac and water based finish they all work to a degree but not as well as Charles blotch control.
The way to test your shellac is to mix up a small amount apply it to a test piece of wood and see if it dry’s most shellac that has gone bad will not dry.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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