Finishing help. Dye or Stain....

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Forum topic by Griffin_SC posted 06-27-2016 03:35 PM 762 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Griffin_SC's profile


17 posts in 945 days

06-27-2016 03:35 PM

I’ve been slowly working on this project for a couple months now. It’s been a big learning curve from my normal items, including learning to dovetail for the first time. (Lots of wasted wood there.) But it’s wrapping down finally and I’m trying to working out my finishing schedule and what I want to use. I’am limited in what I can do partially because I work in my garage and share it with my wife’s vehicle. So I don’t own spray equipment or have a place I could spray if I did. Here is a couple images of what I’m working with.

Big Challenge is the few pieces of trim where I was limited to my material and had to go with something other then oak on the drawer faces. How do I get them all the same color in the end.

The goal is a dark brown/walnut look to the project. I have two thoughts on finishing currently. In either one the drawer boxes will be getting 2-3 coats of dewaxed Shellac. Probably #2 SealCoat.

Option 1
1) Shellac whole project.
2) Apply Medium Brown General Finishes dye.
3) Seal with coat of Shellac.
4) Apply top coat. Leaning toward gloss Arm-R-Seal

Concerned the maybe the dye won’t adhere through the first coat of Shellac and whether that will help even out the color differences between the molding and drawer faces.

Option 2 – Suggested by a friend.
1) Shellac the whole project. – Really going to with I could spray before I’m done with this project. :(
2) Apply Walnut Gel Stain or similar color.
3) Seal with Shellac
4) Apply the top coat.

Everything is getting sanded to 220 to start and will sand with 320 between coats.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Maybe there are steps I missed or can remove from the process.


10 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3164 posts in 2401 days

#1 posted 06-27-2016 11:44 PM

Griffin, if you use an initial coat of shellac, it will reduce the uptake of the stain, so the color won’t get as dark as you might like. FIRST, make a couple sample boards from scrap and try whatever you decide upon. I wouldn’t use any more than a 1# cut of shellac as a wash coat, in fact, I probably wouldn’t use any shellac on the oak because it isn’t a blotch prone wood. The General Finishes gel stains are usually pretty forgiving and apply quickly by hand. After the stain, there is no need for shellac IF you stick with either all oil base or water base products. Therefore, you can cut the schedule down to just those 2 steps although you should apply at least 2 coats of the Arm-R-Seal. If you use oil base, you shouldn’t even need to sand between coats if you can keep your finishing room dust free and without any breeze blowing crud around. Finally, if you use oil base be CERTAIN to store used rags properly, either in a sealed metal can with water in it or lay them out flat on concrete. HTH

-- Art

View Griffin_SC's profile


17 posts in 945 days

#2 posted 06-28-2016 04:13 PM

I tried some on a scrap piece with both trim and oak together. The trim is really blotchy. What can I do to help solve the blotchy in the trim? Would gel stain be better with the blotchy wood?

View OSU55's profile


1862 posts in 2134 days

#3 posted 06-28-2016 08:00 PM

Blotch control – If your trim is already attached is will be difficult. Probably best to cover the whole thing with conditioner.

View TMGStudioFurniture's profile


55 posts in 963 days

#4 posted 06-28-2016 08:01 PM

You might try a water based dye, like the TransTint stuff, as that doesn’t tend to be blotchy. You might end up doing a base coat of water based dye, then follow up with a gel stain to selectively darken lighter parts. I’ve also mixed a ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ water based dye, using them to even out the color.

Keep testing on scrap, though. I’ve even had problems going from small-sized scraps to the full-sized projects, as sometimes techniques that worked on small pieces didn’t translate quite as well to large ones.

Meant to add that the odd trim might not ever match very well, as the grain pattern is so much different than oak. Even if the color is the same, it might not really look the same.


View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 1597 days

#5 posted 06-28-2016 08:08 PM

Minwax Jacobean.


-- Madmark -

View CharlesNeil's profile


2436 posts in 4015 days

#6 posted 06-28-2016 08:11 PM

pm sent

View Plain's profile


157 posts in 843 days

#7 posted 07-08-2016 08:33 PM

Oak does not blotch, so you do not need to bother about that. however since you used different materials I would recommend Charles Neil blotch control. It is a PVA based product which seals the wood. When you stain or dye you will actually be staining the PVA film not the wood, so the color is going to be uniform and independent on the wood you use. Be careful with shellac over it however. It works but you have to apply it very lightly, without much rubbing.

View DrDirt's profile


4464 posts in 3887 days

#8 posted 07-08-2016 09:21 PM

Listen to whatever Charles Neil tells you.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View pintodeluxe's profile


5757 posts in 2958 days

#9 posted 07-08-2016 09:46 PM

Unfortunately the disparate wood species will never match. You can stain everything so dark that it will be close (with gel stain for instance). However I really dislike gel stain because it is difficult to apply evenly.

Beyond that, you will have to apply multiple coats to the light trim wood to darken it further.

The hang-up with pre-stain conditioner is that it tends to limit how dark you can stain.

Your worries are justified, and this will be a huge problem. I just don’t think the finish will be a match to a discerning eye. Are the drawer fronts applied or integral? If the drawer fronts are applied, perhaps you could start over with new fronts and save the finish.

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

View Plain's profile


157 posts in 843 days

#10 posted 07-08-2016 11:35 PM

Looking again it seems that you have some very flat wood for the trim and deep oak grain for everything else. Even if you get the same color the grain will look different. As someone already suggested I would just redo the trim from the proper wood.

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