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Old 01-07-2004, 01:03 PM   #1
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Staining Oak

One of the most important visual points to me is the propper color of the wood when done. To this end, I've saved a few scraps of the oak boards I used to construct my stand and have been test staing the scraps trying to find the right stain, application technique to get the color and darkness I want.

What I'm looking, I would describe as a dark cherry, dark being the key description. This would match a number of other pieces of furniture in the room the stand will be going in.

Every stain and application I try, however, leaves me with a very LIGHT colored piece of wood. I've tried only sanding to 200 grit as well as sanding to 600 grit and didn't pick up a difference in the color. I've been using the Minwax Gel stains. The colors i've tried were cherry, mahogany... and a third that I can't remember. I used the wood samples in the store when choosing the stains, the mahogany was the closest stain color, but came out to be a very light cherry.


Anyone have any pointers or suggestions? Am I having this problem because of the density of Oak? I'm going to see if I can find a pic of something online that demonstrates the color I'm looking for.


[edit]the third color was Rosewood... here's minwax's site... the color i'm looking for is a cross between the Mahogany and the Walnut. I want the deep dark of the walnut, with the red hue of the mahogany... thanks everyone!![/edit]
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Old 01-07-2004, 01:16 PM   #2
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My brother used those Gel Stains on his red oak and it turned out nice and dark. He did apply several coats, possibly 4 I think.
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Old 01-07-2004, 01:17 PM   #3
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If you go to Menards or Home Depot, typically they will have swatches that show the final color of the stain.
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Old 01-07-2004, 01:28 PM   #4
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How long did you leave the stain on before wiping it off?

The longer you leave it on there, the darker it will get.

check this out:

http://theoak.com/cgi-bin/forum/general.pl?read=30786
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Old 01-07-2004, 01:39 PM   #5
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As YakSplat said, how long are you leaving the stain on? One of the things when staining any hard wood is, the pourosity of the grain is dense... You have to thin the stain with either mineral spirits or the like... IMO, you should go to using the old method and just use the plain ole minwax stains.. You can thin them down better and IMO they look much better than the gel finished product...

If you use a paint brush to apply the stain, you will be able to get more on the wood and allow it to soak in better...then after a few minutes, wipe it off with a good absorbant cloth...

To acheive the dark brawnish red look, you will prolly want to start with a dark walnut, then when you get it to the darkness you want,, maybe a few coats later, you can apply some red mahagony or cherry stain and give it the red hue... it works quite well....Good Luck on your project...
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Old 01-07-2004, 04:30 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the input guys!

I have experimented with the set time a little as well. I first went with what the can suggests, then did another test where I slapped a boat load on a big piece, then every 10 minutes wiped one part of the stick off, let it set another ten minutes, wiped a different part of the stick etc etc... i just laughed... the first part of the stick was at 10 minutes... the last part of the stick was at 30 minutes... they didn't look any different to me!

I have got to be doing something wrong... I think i'm going to try the regular stains rather than the gels...

anyone want 3 cans of Minwax gel? only used about 2 tablespoons of each color! LOL
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Old 01-07-2004, 06:21 PM   #7
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My husband has been staining closet doors and bookcases for awhile now. He's using Minwax Water Based Stain, and it looks nice. Before he stains the wood, he uses Minwax Water-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. The label also says that it assures color uniformity of water-based stains. It brings out the grain pattern and makes it look nice too. The color seems to be more uniform too. He uses a brush, not a cloth, with the pre-stain and the stain. Then, for a finishing coat, he uses Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic protective finish. He's using Clear Semi-Gloss, but it I think it comes in a flat finish too. The Polycrylic is not as smelly as polyurethane, and that's good because it doesn't set off my allergies/asthma. It is gorgeous and shiny, and makes an excellent finisher, I think!

P.S. My husband just read this and said to keep applying coats until you get the color you want. Maybe try the water-based stain. Oak is pretty dense wood, and the gel may not be able to "seep" into the wood as easily as the water-based stain. Also, test the pre-stain out on another scrap piece of wood to test if you like the effect.
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Old 01-07-2004, 08:09 PM   #8
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I happen to paint custom homes for a living and work with stains ALL the time.
As timbo2 said "use the plain ol minwax stains" they cant be beat.

I personaly dont like the gels.
They just dont seem to penetrate the wood grain very well.
Try the ol fashioned stain and use a brush to get more stain on the wood.
Leave it sit a bit and wipe off the rest with a cloth.
This should give you the look you are looking for.
Good Luck.
HTH
8)
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Old 01-07-2004, 08:29 PM   #9
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I had to do a lot of color matching when I was building my house. Sounds to me like you need golden oak, red oak and early american. You will have to test the percentages, but I would start with 50% golden oak, 30% red oak and 20 % early american. Mix using small measured quantities, then test. When you get the color you want, mix enough to do 2 coats (you'll never make it the same again). Put one coat on, sand, another coat, sand, then 3 coats polyeurethane.
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Old 01-08-2004, 12:57 AM   #10
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ohh man.. just the thought of mixing makes me shiver. When this "piece" is complete it will be 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide with a 55 (or 90) gallon tank in the middle. I would NEVER get that much stain mixed the same way for the whole thing. Especially since I know the stand will be done in the spring, and I probably wont have the rest of the unit done until fall...

I think i'll experiment with the water based stains some. I just wish I knew of a way I could test without having to buy a whole can of the stain... I've already got 3 cans I won'y likely use any time soon...
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Old 01-08-2004, 01:56 AM   #11
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Minwax water-based stain also comes in a very small (8 ounce) can. You still have to buy a can, but at least it's not a big one.
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Old 01-25-2004, 10:50 PM   #12
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Water-based stain is the way to go. Gel stains were originally developed to make staining softwoods (pine, spruce etc.) easier. Traditional stains will leave these woods looking splochy with obvious light and dark areas. The gel is designed to 'not' penetrate the grain as readily. For the best finish to your wicked oak piece, remember to lightly sand after all your staining is done, as water-based products will raise the grain of the wood. This also holds true if you use a water-based polyurethane. Sand lightly (400 grit) between every coat. If you have a good library in your area, take a look at 'Understanding Wood Finishing' by Bob Flexner. Some of the best money I ever spent on a book.
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Old 01-26-2004, 08:48 AM   #13
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Thanks for the book reference Giles! I'll check it out as soon as I get the chance...


been a bit busy lately and haven't had a chance to pick up any stain, nor work on my stand... I'll keep you folks posted once some progress is made.
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Old 03-12-2004, 04:02 PM   #14
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When staining, does it help to lightly sand between coats?

-J
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Old 03-13-2004, 04:29 PM   #15
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Nope, you sand between coats of polyeurethane. Stain should just soak into the wood.

Jim
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Old 03-13-2004, 04:45 PM   #16
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Gel stains generally don't penetrate as much as the liquid type do. I've always used them for soft woods because you don't want the stain to penetrate as much, otherwise it will turn out blotchy due to some areas being more dense than others. For this reason, oak being a hard wood, I would stick with the liquid stains.
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Old 03-14-2004, 01:10 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jratuszn
When staining, does it help to lightly sand between coats?

-J
This depends on the type of stain, IMO.

Water-based stains will raise the grain slightly. You don't have to sand, but it helps if you want a mirror smooth finish later. A light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper will help knock down the grain that raised up. Use a sanding block for the best results. Don't sand it too much or you'll get light spots or unvenness in the finish. Also be sure to use a tack cloth afterwards to remove any sanding dust.

Oil-based stains rarely require any sanding after application. If you do decide to sand after applying oil stain, follow the guidelines above.

Polyurethane finished shouldn't be sanded IMO. They are a self-leveling finish and should dry very smooth if you applied them correctly. Several very thin coats are much better than a couple heavier coats. Water-based Poly's will raise the grain slightly, but I recommend fine or very fine steel wool after every coat. Of course, follow that up with a tack cloth to remove all the dust. I only use sandpaper over polyurethane if I goofed up (runs, fingerprints, etc).

All this is solely IMHO, YMMV.
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Old 03-14-2004, 01:49 PM   #18
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staining...

I have a few thoughts that others might disagree with or maybe just not believe. I haven't tried any of this yet, but will once we move out of here. My wife and I try to stay as far away from chemicals as possible. We don't use any to clean anything in the house. I'm always looking for the most "natural" way to do things and staining is one that I have looked into a little. Unfortunately, I don't think I've saved any sites so I couldn't really give any references but the info is out there. You can make your own stains using pretty much plant matter. I remember one of them mentioned boiling walnut shells to get a walnut finish... makes sense... the longer you boil certain things the darker it will get. And different "plant matter" will give you different colors... one thing I may try in the future is tea... we get flavored teas all the time and some of them have a nice color to them. I know there is better info out there than what I'm saying, but I believe it would work... Take a dark liquid and let it set on some wood for a little while, wipe it off just like you would a stain. I expect you would still need something to seal the wood afterwards... I haven't looked into it yet, but I hope to find some "natural" way of doing that as well... People have been "trained" to rely on man made products(stuff thought up in a lab) and so we forget that things use to be done differently. Sure chemicals seem to make life easier... well, I'll stop myself before I really get into it all... things can be done naturally, they just require more time and effort and todays society doesn't want to do that... they want to do things as quick as they can... anyway... those are some of my thoughts...
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