First time using red oak, how do I stain?

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Forum topic by Zach posted 06-05-2014 03:43 PM 1558 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Zach's profile


13 posts in 985 days

06-05-2014 03:43 PM

I’ve done my first engraving with red oak, and i’m not sure how to stain/finish the project.

Here is the piece:

I’d like to make the color and grain pop and bring out their richness. I figure i’ll do a top coat poly or shellac to give it a satin sheen. Just not sure on how to stain it with the nooks and crannies of the inset text.

-- Pax Vobiscum

10 replies so far

View lndfilwiz's profile


88 posts in 1018 days

#1 posted 06-05-2014 04:04 PM

Will this be hanging out in the elements?

-- Smile, it makes people wander what you are up to.

View Zach's profile


13 posts in 985 days

#2 posted 06-05-2014 04:08 PM

No, it will be inside, either on a desk or hanging on a door.

-- Pax Vobiscum

View RogerM's profile


747 posts in 1817 days

#3 posted 06-05-2014 04:09 PM

Just plain ole Minwax or similar works OK for red oak. After at least 8 hrs followup with a dilute coat of shellac (Seal Coat work fine) then successive coats of polyurethane. The lettering can be enhanced with black paint dropped in the lettering with an eye dropper or something similar.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View waho6o9's profile


7115 posts in 1994 days

#4 posted 06-05-2014 04:12 PM

Maybe practice on some scraps first with

different recipes and maybe write them on the back

of the scraps for future reference.

View Zach's profile


13 posts in 985 days

#5 posted 06-05-2014 04:15 PM

Practicing is indeed my first step, just wasn’t sure to pick up from the store. I’m really new to woodworking, and know next to nothing about staining.

If it helps, I really like this look, deep rich red color:

-- Pax Vobiscum

View TerryDowning's profile


1052 posts in 1535 days

#6 posted 06-05-2014 04:22 PM

Nice engraving well done.

You have options here.

What I would do.

Stain the entire piece the desired background color first. Nothing wrong with the big box store offerings here In my opinion.

Option 1: Paint the inside with an enamel to a desired color based on stain color. (Personally, I would do this with a gloss black enamel. This is for Dad and should be more masculine)

Option 2: Using a detail brush stain the inside of the engraving a darker color to enhance the lettering. (This is trickier as the stain can bleed into the background and you have to be careful.)

Option 3: Fill the engraving with colored epoxy, chipped stone, or whatever else.

The idea on these three options is get a contrast between the lettering and the background.

Do the finish coat of poly/lacquer/shellac your preference.

Regardless of you proceed, I would build some practice pieces to experiment with. Shop signs that only you and visitors to your shop will see for example. Then once you have the desired finish repeat the process on the main piece.

Just my thoughts.

Good luck and enjoy.

-- - Terry

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1734 days

#7 posted 06-05-2014 05:34 PM

If you desire a muted, wood-tone appearance with just subtle highlights, then the glazing approach works well. The carving below has a cherry lion but a walnut background. The lion just looks similar because of the stain effect.

That carving was stained with a fairly dark product then buffed heavily on the high spots. This keeps high surfaces lighter and crevices darker but doesn’t eliminate the natural look.

Gel stains are nice for that task because they tend to accumulate inside corners and pockets. You don’t want gobs of gel left behind but a little bit in the corners doesn’t hurt.

-- See my work at and

View MT_Stringer's profile


2818 posts in 2648 days

#8 posted 06-05-2014 05:47 PM

Here is a link to a project I made with red oak. Maybe you will get some ideas. There is a link in the description to a blog where I detailed the construction and finish methods.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Zach's profile


13 posts in 985 days

#9 posted 06-05-2014 06:22 PM

Thanks everyone! That’s some amazing work there Jacob and Mike!

With your help I think i’ve realized what the best route is. I actually WANT part of the stain to catch inside the letters, and then buff/sand off some of the top color. I’ll try to wipe down the stain, probably a gel, which will catch inside the letters.

I’ll give it a shot. I think this is exactly what I’m looking for. Thanks much everyone!

BTW, if anyone is curious, yes you can get good engravings using a Dremel :)

(hint, it takes the right kind of bits – downcut spiral)

-- Pax Vobiscum

View bowedcurly's profile


515 posts in 1146 days

#10 posted 06-05-2014 06:22 PM

amber transtint Liquid dye, then honey oak stain, choose your finish, the transtint dyeliquid will go into the poors make sure to use denatured alcohol with the dye and it will turn out nice, took me a long time to come up with that color

-- Staining killed the wood<<<<<>>>>>Dyeing gave it life

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