Not happy with color of stain

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Forum topic by ATLJack posted 06-28-2012 06:37 PM 9211 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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30 posts in 2279 days

06-28-2012 06:37 PM

I wanted to apply a dark stain to some white oak beds that I am making. I sampled a water based stain on a piece of oak and like it, but now that I applied it to a larger area (footboard and side rails) I think its too dark for my taste. I dont really have a question here, I am just frustrated. I wish I had sampled the stain on a larger piece of wood.

13 replies so far

View Lifesaver2000's profile


551 posts in 3107 days

#1 posted 06-29-2012 02:31 PM

This is a problem I run in to with my wife very often. Whenever she is picking out a color for something (such as paint) she will pick a color on the small swatch that she just loves, but then when the wall or whatever is done it is too dark.

Several years ago we were in the process of picking out the color for new siding for our house. My wife had picked out a color that she thought was perfect. I told her she wouldn’t like it once she saw a bigger area, but she didn’t believe me. Well, it just so happens that a relative of hers has a house with a siding color that my wife absolutely hates. One day she was at this relative’s house and had the siding samples with her. She started comparing the samples to the house, and it turns out the sample she thought was perfect was exactly the same color as the house she hated! When she got home, she said to me “You pick the color.”

I know, no real help here for you, but just wanted you to know you aren’t the only one this happens to. Now I always tell my wife to pick the color she likes on the samples, then actually buy one shade lighter in the same color family. This advice has worked out pretty well.

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2259 days

#2 posted 06-29-2012 03:46 PM

I told her she wouldn’t like it

You’re a brave man.

I have learned to err on the side of light instead of dark. Also, another mistake you can make happens when you pick two different shades of wood. Sometimes the wood is just a bit lighter or darker on a sample piece.

Is this project too big to sand or scrape down?

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View ATLJack's profile


30 posts in 2279 days

#3 posted 06-29-2012 04:02 PM

It is too big. Its 2 identical twin sized beds and the headboards and footboards are made up of vertical slats so there are a lot of surfaces. Sanding it down to the bare wood is not really an option at this point, my wife wanted them done last weekend.

I spoke to someone at General Finishes (the manufacturer of stain I used) who recommended that I might be able to lighten it a bit with a light sanding with a fine sanding sponge to take a little stain off and then apply 2 coats of polyacrylic gloss followed by 2 coats of satin.

Its not that I dont like it, but I would prefer a shade lighter. I am going to try a test with the recommendation I mentioned above, if it works and I like it I will give it a shot, otherwise I will apply the top coats and move on and I will still be happy with the result.

View a1Jim's profile


117090 posts in 3572 days

#4 posted 06-29-2012 04:26 PM

Is this stain or dye/stain ? If it’s dye stain you can remove some of the color with house hold bleach ,if you do, you need to neutralize the bleach by using a couple of tea spoons full of baking soda in a cup of water and apply liberally ,after that you wipe that mixture off with some clean water. If your using dye stain ever time you apply it, it will get darker. If you thin the dye/stain down you can sneak up on the color you want by applying more coats.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View pintodeluxe's profile


5654 posts in 2808 days

#5 posted 06-29-2012 04:32 PM

I was recently staining some mohogany that came out way too dark. I sanded down the finish, and went to 220 grit (rather than 150 as I had done initially). I then used the same oil based stain, but thinned it 20% with mineral spirits and the color was perfect.
I would apply some topcoat in an inconsicuous area before refinishing. Sometimes a finish really warms up once lacquer or shellac is applied.
By the way, I always use topcoats on my sample boards. You never really know how it will look until the topcoat is applied and dry.

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

View oldnovice's profile


6841 posts in 3362 days

#6 posted 06-29-2012 04:35 PM

I think that many of us have had that same problem! I stained a sample for the headboard of our bed …. it looked perfect. I then proceeded to stain the actual piece and it turned out much darker … lot darker!

But when my wife saw it she said ”looks good”!

To this day I don’t know if she meant it or she just wanted it done!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View ATLJack's profile


30 posts in 2279 days

#7 posted 06-29-2012 04:46 PM

I believe it is water based pigment stain but I suspect it also has dye in it.

View Oldelm's profile


75 posts in 2170 days

#8 posted 06-29-2012 05:13 PM

You have run into the true story of finishes. So much depends on the character of the wood it makes it difficult to get it right. In working with oak it is even more difficult. If a flat sawn piece is put next to a quater sawn piece the whole world changes. IMHO it is worth it to stain and finish a half sheet of ply to get the color right. The ply will most likely be rotary cut and will match the flat sawn material most of us get today. It is not cheap but it beats the task you have now. I have always found a place to use up my sample in drawer bottoms cabinet backs and such and it is all about the customer, and many times especially in my case the wife is the customer. I can hear all of the grunts and groans from all over this site as we agonize with you when you bring out the sandpaper.

-- Jim, Missouri

View a1Jim's profile


117090 posts in 3572 days

#9 posted 06-29-2012 05:15 PM

If it’s General finishes dye/stain it will say it on the can.

Also you need to sand the sample board the same as the piece your going to finish out of the same material to do a true test of what your material will look like.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View ATLJack's profile


30 posts in 2279 days

#10 posted 06-29-2012 05:29 PM

Its not a dye stain, but the fact that it doesnt say its a pigment leads me to believe that it is some combination. Or at least I’ve been told that is sometimes the case with pigment stains.

My sample was only a 4×4x1 piece of scrap. Since the sample was so small I probably wiped of the stain much faster than the actual work piece thereby allowing the stain to dry a little more on the work piece than the sample. Additionally, I now know that a 4×4 sample is just not large enough to visualize what the completed finish will look like.

Live and learn.

View Tennessee's profile


2872 posts in 2509 days

#11 posted 06-29-2012 05:50 PM

If it is a pigmented stain, the pigment is now invaded more deeply into the softer runs of the wood between the rings. I think sanding it will produce a funny look, with the dark streaks still there. I would think if there is no finish on it yet, a lacquer thinner wash might lift some of the stain pigment out by floating it temporarily and you grab it up with a soft terrycloth. If your cloth turns brown with the lacquer thinner, you know it is working. The water is gone, so you are fighting ground minerals, aka pigment. Used that trick when I refinished, slightly easier than trying to match stains piece to piece.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2364 days

#12 posted 06-29-2012 07:22 PM

Have you tried hitting it with water (the solvent base)? I noticed that the color moves quite a bit even after it’s dried. I usually have to seal coat to keep it from happening. Some water and some rags/paper towels might lift off some of the pigment. I recently did this with some alcohol based dye that went on too dark. Worked it with straight alcohol and a clean rag and lightened up some sections nicely.

-- John

View knotscott's profile


8008 posts in 3370 days

#13 posted 06-29-2012 07:49 PM

I didn’t read through all the replies, so apologies if this is duplicate info. There have been a couple of times when I’ve stained something too dark. My solution was to sand it back down, and re-stain with a more desirable tone….note that this doesn’t remove all the darker stain from the open grain, but removes most of it from the majority of the larger surfaces. The result actually contrasts the darker open grain bit more on a porous wood such as white oak, red oak, ash, elm, etc., which I’ve found to be pretty attractive, so I’ve used it as a technique to pop the grain intentionally on other projects.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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