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First time staining, lots of questions

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Forum topic by Matt Przybylski posted 11-25-2012 04:19 PM 1107 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Matt Przybylski

467 posts in 1100 days


11-25-2012 04:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing stain red oak

Hello everyone,
I apologize in advance for all the questions but I’m about to stain a project for the first time and need some help. I’m working on a towel cabinet for my neighbor and it’s made of quartersawn red oak and red oak plywood. Most of the construction is ply with hardwood for the raised panel doors and face frames as well as edge banding on the top (QSRO ply top with QSRO banding). I’ve not yet glued up the doors because I know I need to finish the panels before glue up but I have a few outstanding questions:

1) I’d prefer using water based stain as it’s cold here in Chicago at this point and working with the garage doors up is no longer an option. What are my best options? “Ideal” situation as well as budget friendly (because I’m not sure how much my neighbor will want to spend on finishing stuff unfortunately)?

2) Whats the best way to apply water based stain? I have foam brushes, china bristle brushes, the Earlex HVLP 5500, and the following supplies I bought from Lee Valley a little while back on sale (Lint-Free Cotton Pads | Cotton Diaper Cloths). I also have random towels and such but not sure if wiping on what is the best material to use.

3) It’s going to be a rather dark stain, kind of walnut colored, so how many times do you think I should apply? I realize a test piece is in order here but just a general idea of usually how many times you think I’ll need to apply it.

4) Do I need to worry about blotching? Should I use something like Charles Neil’s blotch control?

5) What is a good top coat to use? I was thinking about spraying either satin lacquer or poly afterwards.

6) Is there anything else (general tips, gotchas, watch out fors…) that I should know before starting this process?

I appreciate any and all help my fellow LJs can offer in this new endeavor for me :) Kind of nervous/anxious but at the same time excited about it.

-- Matt, Illinois, http://www.reintroducing.com


25 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile (online now)

ShaneA

5417 posts in 1321 days


#1 posted 11-25-2012 04:39 PM

I dont stain stuff often, but I usually use a old piece of a t shirt. I do find that oak is one of the easier woods to stain. You may want to try to see how many coats it takes on the test piece, as you mentioned, to get to the color you want. Plus you will need to see if you can even out the look of the ply to the hardwood, which can be tricky. I usually dont have a problem with oak blotching, but better safe that sorry withsome sort of conditioner. Any top coat should be fine, once the stain has dried of course. Keep in mind dust is not your friend. Either in the air or on the project. Get it as clean as possible and dont stir it up when the stain is still wet. Wish I had more and better advice. Good luck.

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

2963 posts in 1009 days


#2 posted 11-25-2012 05:19 PM

I don’t mean to put a kink in your plans, but you should consider a jel stain. Very easy to work with. Also I’d use a color conditioner on the wood first. I know a lot of jocks here will advise against it but anytime you stain a light colored wood to a dark stain you have the potential for blotch. I take the extra step to insure that doesn’t happen.
Jel stains wipe on with a rag and can be worked in to a uniform finish that dries very fast. I consider them the wave of the future in finishes. I’d follow the jel stain with a wipe on satin poly to about 3 coats, any more than that and it resembles semi gloss more than satin.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Bagtown's profile

Bagtown

1712 posts in 2452 days


#3 posted 11-25-2012 05:23 PM

You can wipe on any stain, not just gel stains.
Like Shane said, an old T-shirt works great.

-- Mike - In Fort McMurray Alberta

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

2963 posts in 1009 days


#4 posted 11-25-2012 05:25 PM

Right on Bagtown, but jel stains are so much neater.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112525 posts in 2299 days


#5 posted 11-25-2012 06:06 PM

It’s true that red oak does not usually blotch but plywood may. I use waterborne dye/stain by General finishes that’s what I like because you have a lot of control ,you can thin it down and ad a little color at a time until you get the shade your want. unlike stains where you add one coat and and it seals the wood off so it will not darken any more. If you use your Earlex it will work fine, don’t forget to try what ever approach you take on a sample board preferably of the same material. If you would like to learn about finishing I would suggest getting a copy of Charles Neil’s Finishing A-Z ,it covers all aspects of finishing, He has a new book on finishing coming out too that I know will be great too.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1881 days


#6 posted 11-25-2012 07:35 PM

That plywood will blotch, especially if you wipe or brush it on.. I guarantee it. The mix of the two is problematic from a finishing standpoint.

I would precondition all surfaces with a washcoat of shellac first, then use the stain. I would then tone the project with a dyed film finish, sprayed with the Earlex, closely matching the stain. I believe you will find that step very necessary because the plywood and hardwood will look very different in shade, even with the same stain.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

2963 posts in 1009 days


#7 posted 11-25-2012 07:38 PM

Hey cosmic, would switching to an oil help to even them two wood finishes out? Something like Danish Oil mahogany or whatever color he wants.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

467 posts in 1100 days


#8 posted 11-25-2012 07:51 PM

@Cosmicsniper: what exactly do you mean by “dyed film finish”? And when you say precondition all surfaces with a washcoat of shellac, imagine you’re talking to an idiot and need to explain EXACTLY how to do this :) (remember, its my first time finishing something other than poly, i need all details i can get if possible).

Thanks for everyone’s help thus far, please keep the comments/suggestions coming.

-- Matt, Illinois, http://www.reintroducing.com

View huff's profile

huff

2808 posts in 2007 days


#9 posted 11-25-2012 09:01 PM

Matt,

As A1Jim said, blotching is “usually” not a problem with oak, but the plywood may, so to be on the safe side I would suggest using something like Charles Neil’s blotch control ( since you already seem to be familar with it).

Stain; For me, it’s really hard to recommend a certain one, since this is pretty much your first time staining. Each will have it’s pros and cons and everybody has their favorite ( much like our preference to tools or trucks and automobiles). Personally, I like working with an aniline dye if I’m trying to get a dark, deep color. It does take a little getting used to, but I like the contol I get from it once you get used to it. I like a typical solvent base pigmented stain for a lot of my staining.

The only tip I would suggest when staining is this; Start staining the same way as you plan to finish staining! Here’s what I mean by that, usually when someone that’s fairly new to staining is wiping on a stain, they very carefully dip just the tip of the rag in the stain so it doesn’t make a mess and very carefully wipe a little stain on the wood at a time. (that’s known as “dry rubbing”) and as the rag gets more saturated with stain, they get a little on their hands and they realize that staining this “whole project” could take forever and before you know it you’re putting three times the stain on your rag and really putting it to it. When you get finished, you realize the first part of your staining looks different then the last part of the project. That’s because you “dry rubbed” the first part and slapped on the second part. The bigger the project the more tendency someone has of doing that.

All I’m saying is, just be aware of how you’re applying the stain from start to finish and making a sample board.
Keep it consistent. For me, lap marks are more offensive then blotching.

Since you have an Earlex 5500, I would spray the finish. Again, if there is a product you are used to using and having a good result from, then I would stick with that. Good luck.

BTW. I would not recommend using a toner in your finish if you’re not familar with using it. It’s a good way to make your final finish look muddy if you get it too heavy, especially spraying in tight areas.

-- John @ http://www.thehuffordfurnituregroup.com

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1881 days


#10 posted 11-25-2012 09:17 PM

Nah, makes no difference, oil or water. About the only way to prevent blotching is to spray the stain to begin with, which is an option, but I still think there will be enough of a difference in color between the plywood and hardwood to be objectionable, so the “toner” step would be my approach.

Matt…a washcoat is a thinned dewaxed shellac (I use Zinsser Sealcoat) applied over the entire work before you stain. This will help even out the stain application and help it to penetrate more uniformly. I like to thin the shellac 1:1 with denatured alcohol. Alternatively, you can try something like Charles Neil’s preconditioner, though I cannot vouch for that product personally.

Once you have applied the stain, preferably by spraying, I would seal with the same mix of shellac, and then I’d spray the “toner.” This would be your choice of film finish, like poly, tinted (thinly) with the stain you used for the project (or even something different if you are artistic). This will let you spray only the areas of disuniformity, sneaking up on the final finish. Or, it’s a great way to add some highlight areas, perhaps in conjunction with a glaze.

I would experiment on some practice panels…a piece of hardwood glued to the edge of some oak plywood. Then, practice with wiping vs. spraying of the stain and toner. You will find that spraying everything might conceal most all your wood grain, which may not be desired. The trick is getting uniform color and still get the right look in terms of wood grain…all the while NOT blotching. And if the quality of your oak plywood is anything like mine, it will blotch when wiped or brushed on.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1881 days


#11 posted 11-25-2012 09:26 PM

By the way, thinly colored toner sprayed on is just about the simplest thing you can do. This is the method that builders use on kitchen cabinets to bring uniform color to all the diverse materials used in typical contractor grade cabinets. It’s no harder than the first coat of your finish since it IS the first coat of your finish. It’s what I have done to my own oak kitchen cabinets because of my use of both new and reclaimed hardwood AND oak plywood end panels.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112525 posts in 2299 days


#12 posted 11-25-2012 09:30 PM

Matt what Jay is saying might work fine but I’ve found that for a preconditioner Charles Neil’s blotch control if used as directed works better and can make the plywood the same color as the oak,this is normally a hard thing to do.

http://lumberjocks.com/reviews/1430

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

467 posts in 1100 days


#13 posted 11-25-2012 10:41 PM

@huff: thanks for your input. I’ve read that usually stain has to be wiped off after application. If I chose to spray a water based stain, do I still need to wipe it? Any recommendations on good stains that spray easily and are water based? Ideally I’d like to spray all my finishes as I feel more comfortable with the gun than rags at this point to be honest.

@a1Jim and @Cosmicsniper: I appreciate both of your input. After doing a bit of reading about using something like zinsser seal coat vs CN blotch control I think I’m going to opt for the CN. Price difference for a quart is negligible and according to the wood whisperer CN is superior so, you know, that’s gospel…. :)

-- Matt, Illinois, http://www.reintroducing.com

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a1Jim

112525 posts in 2299 days


#14 posted 11-25-2012 11:10 PM

Matt take a look at General finishes products They make a good product ,In short stay away from min wax products even though many will recommend it there’s an equal amount or more that say stay away from it. If later you deside to go with dye/stain it’s important to get it all on evenly and then wipe it back,because every coat you put on makes it darker even when applying it ,shooting it on is the way to go in my opinion.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

2963 posts in 1009 days


#15 posted 11-26-2012 12:01 AM

Jim, you’re going to have to stop refering to Charles, I think you’ve probably read and watched enough of his video’s to BE Charles these days. I feel just as comforable coming to you for my finishing advice as to go to him. He is still the Guru though and I’m glad to have you both around.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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