Beginner Question on Stains

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Forum topic by OJohnnyO posted 01-27-2011 09:54 AM 1075 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 2672 days

01-27-2011 09:54 AM

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been playing around in my shop lately since I’ve found myself with some free time and I am about to start construction on some new end tables for our home.

What would you all suggest for a strong but relatively inexpensive wood that would take a mahogany stain well?

Oak is, of course, readily available, comparatively inexpensive, but my research shows that the grain and rings on red oak are really tight and it does not take stain well? Tomorrow I head by the local hardwood shops to check out prices on a wide range of woods but was hoping for some suggestions.

As this is my first big project after some time away from the tools I’m not looking to sink money into higher end woods at this time but still want something that will provide plenty of strength and quality!

Thanks in advance everyone, have a great day!

9 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3817 days

#1 posted 01-27-2011 12:48 PM

Johnny, oak would an excellent wood to start with. It is readily available, pretty easy to mill and it stains well without blotching.

I assume that you are going to be using an oil base product. If this is the case then sand the wood through successive grits to 150 and apply the stain according to the manufacturers directions. Let it dry and you should be good to go with your finish coats.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View OJohnnyO's profile


9 posts in 2672 days

#2 posted 01-27-2011 01:53 PM

Thanks Scott, I appreciate it.

I was finding mixed reviews on oak for staining but on the flip side its a pretty solid and readily available food for furniture construction.

But since these pieces will be staying in the home they’ll be great pieces for experimentation and I’ll be setting up some test strips for finishing today so I can get some practice – and more importantly an idea of how the wood will stain up.

Once again, thanks!

View Chris Davis's profile

Chris Davis

1560 posts in 3977 days

#3 posted 01-27-2011 02:18 PM

I find that oak is the most forgiving wood for staining. It is hard to mess that one up. As Scott said it doesn’t blotch. Sanding marks are hidden very good. It does have that heavy grain that some don’t like, but a lot do.

-- Watch live video from our shop.!current-projects/c3c1

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3153 days

#4 posted 01-27-2011 03:27 PM

Ditto on the oak.

Despite what you’ve heard, oak stains very well. It doesn’t soak in the stain like pine, but that just means that it colors more uniformly without splotching.

I just completed a bevelled and mitered mirror frame with red oak, using mahogany stain. The only caution I’d suggest is to not assume it will turn out mahogany…my project turned out a little orangy (not quite mahogany), but I knew that would happen having used it on a test piece. But as always, you should use a test piece with the color you pick…the color is almost always NOT what you expect.

The other thing is that oak is perfect for end tables, especially since we tend to make them in a craftsman style. If you pick good, tight grained quartersawn boards (either red or white oak)’ll make a very nice project!

-- jay,

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3537 days

#5 posted 01-27-2011 06:09 PM

If built right any wood will be “strong” enough. If built wrong, even being red oak doesn’t mean it will be strong. As everybody else has stated, red oak takes stain very well. Going back to your question, an inexpensive wood that would take a mahogany stain well, I would consider alder. It’s not as hard as red oak, but is way more beautiful in my books. That may very well be because I can’t stand red oak. Alder is one of those woods that can be stained to any color. It will have a tendency to blotch, but nothing that a wood conditioner won’t take care of. It’s also a lot easier to mill and sand. Definitely worth looking into, I think.

Poplar is also something to consider. It’s probably the cheapest and if you use Charles Niel's blotch control, it will look great. If you get this blotch control, it opens you up to a lot more choices than just red oak…

-- Childress Woodworks

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#6 posted 01-27-2011 06:22 PM

I agree that oak will take stain very well. Just remember that even though you can stain it a mahogany color, it will look nothing like mahogany because the grain will be much more pronounced.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3475 days

#7 posted 01-27-2011 07:29 PM

I agree on the oak too. If you want the oak to be a little more true to the mahogany stain color you could try white oak…its lighter in color that red oak, but its a bit more expensive.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View OJohnnyO's profile


9 posts in 2672 days

#8 posted 01-27-2011 09:19 PM

Thanks everyone – due to the overwhelming support of oak, I’ll be leaning towards that. Going on tuesday to see some reclaimed wood for a good price that I’m excited about. A small amount of pine from an old tobacco mill – excited!

Probably pick up my oak that day as well.

View stnich's profile


118 posts in 2919 days

#9 posted 01-28-2011 02:47 PM

One possible problem with oak is bleed back. If you apply too much stain it gets trapped in the pores or grain of the wood. It keeps coming back to the surface even after you wipe it off. Just keep wiping it down as it happens. Lite coats of stain will help to minimize the problem. Also make sure you sand well before staining. I’ve had it happen even after I’ve put my first coat of finish on.

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