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Staining Tips

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
I will be using red oak plywood for my columns and red oak trim for my chair rail, base moulding, and any other trim.

I hope for my columns to turn out something like David's here:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...&&#post8919774

The problem is I've done very little staining, and never where it really mattered a lot how good it looked.

Could you give me tips on how to stain with good results?

What coats do I want to use? I've heard of a pre-stain, stain, and then some sort of clear coat on top.

Thanks,
Guy
post #2 of 40
In my travels, I've had good success by doing the following:

1) Apply some sanding sealer to keep the grain from raising (following the instructions on the can).
2) When it comes time to stain, put on rubber gloves - I don't think I can stress this enough.
3) Ensure your stain can is shaken, stirred, etc. so none of the pigment particles remain in the bottom of the can - plus, stir the stain in the can often as you're applying it.
4) If you're going to wipe it off, try wiping it a bit early and see if the desired color is achieved. If not, re-apply more stain and wait a bit longer before wiping it.
5) Use some good, oil-based polyurethane. The water-based stuff isn't nearly as good.
6) Stir the poly and pour some into a smaller can or jar.
7) Cut the poly with a bit of thinner. This will prevent it from getting to gloppy.
8) Use "000" steel wool or a substitute between coats - or, even wet sand it if you can get the proper sanding paper.
9) Have fun doing the work, don't stress too much.
post #3 of 40
Digital Man,

I'm a complete novice and have been playing with stains in my HT project as well.

A book that I'd strongly recommend you read is Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing". It is truly outstanding and has helped me a lot (see my HT thread for my trials and tribulations).

Craig.
post #4 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_brew View Post

Digital Man,

A book that I'd strongly recommend you read is Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing". It is truly outstanding and has helped me a lot (see my HT thread for my trials and tribulations).

Craig.

Oddly enough, I had a link to that book on Amazon I found in another post open in another window as I read your post. I just found that my local library has it, so I put a hold on it online.

Thanks!
Guy
post #5 of 40
I used cherry ply for my ceilings and columns. I do finish carpentry for a living, so I can pass on some helpful tips. Sand your plys lightly w/ a random orbital sander with 150 grit. let the sander do the work, don't apply to much pressure. go aginst the grain in a light pass, then with the grain. Blow off the sawdust and final sand it with a pad sander w/ 220 grit w/ the grain.Brush on your stain ,start the next piece, then go back to the first piece and wipe it in w/ a painters rag.This way you keep a continuous cycle going. Don't use the rag after it gets too saturated. I typically go over the pieces w/ a clean rag again after I rub it in. Using a sample piece like the last response stated is definitely a good idea, as is cutting the poly, but do not use steel wool to sand the polys between coats. The fibers more than likely will come back to haunt you. You can use a 300 grit sandpaper to achieve the same effect.
I actually used a simple top feed air sprayer, with a product called Magnalac. You spray w/ the grain, overlapping each pass. With this brand, you can sand after 10 minutes and get 3 coats on in no time. Heres my link if you'd like to see my finishes. Hope I was helpful
http://picasaweb.google.com/mahler007/TheatreRoom
post #6 of 40
Steps:
Stain. Put it on, let sit, then wipe off. Try a scrap piece of wood to get the right penetration.
Dry reccomended time.
Sand with sandpaper. Don't use steel wool. Steel + moisture = rust
First coat polyurethane. I've had excellent results with the water-based poly. The finish is just as tough as oil based. Just a lot easier to work with.
Light sand. This removes the wood fibers from the application of the poly.
Dust off the sanded fibers.
Second coat polyurethane.
Done.
post #7 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by finishingtouchcu View Post

I used cherry ply for my ceilings and columns. I do finish carpentry for a living, so I can pass on some helpful tips. Sand your plys lightly w/ a random orbital sander with 150 grit. let the sander do the work, don't apply to much pressure. go aginst the grain in a light pass, then with the grain. Blow off the sawdust and final sand it with a pad sander w/ 220 grit w/ the grain.Brush on your stain ,start the next piece, then go back to the first piece and wipe it in w/ a painters rag.This way you keep a continuous cycle going. Don't use the rag after it gets too saturated. I typically go over the pieces w/ a clean rag again after I rub it in. Using a sample piece like the last response stated is definitely a good idea, as is cutting the poly, but do not use steel wool to sand the polys between coats. The fibers more than likely will come back to haunt you. You can use a 300 grit sandpaper to achieve the same effect.
I actually used a simple top feed air sprayer, with a product called Magnalac. You spray w/ the grain, overlapping each pass. With this brand, you can sand after 10 minutes and get 3 coats on in no time. Heres my link if you'd like to see my finishes. Hope I was helpful
http://picasaweb.google.com/mahler007/TheatreRoom

What kind of stain do you use on the Cherry? I'm getting a lot of blotching on the chunks of veneer I've been messing around with (with and without pre-stain conditioner). I've been using Minwax products primarily. I tried Old Masters Gel Stain and it seems to eliminate the problem.
post #8 of 40
I used minwax also. The blotches may be from a lower grade veneer. Lumber yards hold a better quality than your home-depot's. If your brushing on a poly, you may want to try min wax poly shades. I used this before on a pantry unit I made for my wife and was pretty happy with the product. Just remember, don't over work it. brush it on , walk away.
post #9 of 40
Adding to the great tips above. Be careful with glue and never use silicone sprays near unfinished wood. They seal the surface and screw up your stain finish.
Clean up glue immediately, tape the edges or stain before the glue up.
post #10 of 40
Thread Starter 
I have a question for you experienced stainers. My second coat of stain (Miniwax Red Oak 215) on Red Oak plywood is taking longer than expected to dry on some of my boards. Some dried nicely, but a few of them still are kind of sticky after 24 hours. I think the can says wait 5-6 hours between coats. So I assume I must have put too much on? We were going for a dark look, so the look is OK, but the dry ones and the wet ones look different.

I wanted to know what, if anything, I should do about this?

Also, I assume I should wait until all the stain is dry to apply the poly?

Thanks,
Guy
post #11 of 40
Definitely wait until dry to topcoat!

It should have dried by now, so my guess is that you put on way too thick of a coat. That will obscure the wood some, but if you like the look that is all that matters. Just wait and eventually it will dry out.

I see everyone talking about poly here, have you considered a better looking topcoat? Deft brushable lacquer is quite easy to apply and looks worlds better than polyurethane. It's not quite as durable, but it allows you to touch up problems, which poly doesn't. Waterlox danish oil is probably my favorite finish. It takes more coats since it is wiped on, but they are easy to appoly and the finish looks fantastic.
post #12 of 40
Get some rags (cotton t-shirt material) and rub, rub, rub. It will blend in and dry out.

I like the minwax "polycrylic" for a top coat. Just follow directions on can. Easy, quick, no smell -- but a little $$ (15/qt). Just make sure the stain is dry first.

Josh
post #13 of 40
Working on finishing the basement family/HT room, and next up is finishing the new wood ceiling, which is maple. I know this will be quite fun, staining above my head!

We want some sort of natural finish, maybe water-based poly? Almost took a belt sander to the ceiling but was tipped off that I should use an orbital, instead. I'm no where near the handy-type, so I need to figure out an idiot-proof process.

So, I could use some advice in finishing bare maple. Method of sanding, type of grit, and then how to apply a finish (and what kind).

Thanks!

Aaron
post #14 of 40
Aaron, I documented my process in my HT thread HERE

Hope that helps.

Craig.
post #15 of 40
Thanks Craig, and thanks for turning me on to that great thread. You are a very patient guy -- you must be able to taste that HT at this point!

I take it despite your early, positive results with Gel Stain you abandoned that (or is that the red mahogany stain you used)? You mentioned during the staining process, you didn't let it sit for very long before wiping it off. How long would you say?

I count 4 coats of the Poly. Did you let the remaining three dry overnight, like the first coat?

BTW, (again, I know nothing) does your Flexner book describe maple as having similar characteristics to your cherry (you mentioned tight-grained, and easily blotched)?
post #16 of 40
Aaron-- Craig has good info.

Water-based stain and poly is easier to use and cleanup. Oil-based stain gives better penetration and looks a bit richer (IMO). It also won't raise the grain the way water-based can. You can use a water-based stain under oil-based poly, but not the other way around.

I got my wife to stain and poly the ceiling behind my bar. Oil-based stain doesn't clean easily from skin.
post #17 of 40
I let the stain sit only a few minutes before wiping it off-- I'd say between 3 to 5 minutes. I gave 24 hours between coats of oil-based poly.
post #18 of 40
GreySkies, I wasn't sure from your post -- which combination did you wind up going with?
post #19 of 40
Oil-based stain (not gel)-- Miniwax Red Sedona 222 with Varethane oil-based floor poly over the top. We did four coats on the bar top. In the media cabinet in the bar, I used water-based black stain. Offhand, I can't remember the number or brand, but I think it was still Miniwax.

I've used water-based stain on other furniture in the house, and greatly prefer oil-based.
post #20 of 40
Reading over your "How I built the bar" section (and boy, it came out nice), I caught that your cabinets are maple (like my ceiling), and that you skipped staining them because you're keeping them "natural," and just polyurethaning. We're going "natural" with our ceiling as well. Can we get away with skipping the natural stain?

BTW, I wouldn't call showering with Comet the most encouraging bit of encouragement to use an oil-base, lol.
post #21 of 40
Thanks.

If you're keeping it natural, just sand to 220 grit and poly-- no stain needed.

I think you misunderstood my encouragement and method to staining a ceiling-- you see, I didn't have to shower with Comet.
post #22 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by kitchener View Post

Thanks Craig, and thanks for turning me on to that great thread. You are a very patient guy -- you must be able to taste that HT at this point!

thanks! yes, there is dim light at the end of the tunnel
Quote:


I take it despite your early, positive results with Gel Stain you abandoned that (or is that the red mahogany stain you used)?

I did abandon it, but not because I didn't like the results - more because I couldn't get the right color. Everything was either too red or too brown and I didn't want to get into custom mixing stains in case I did more woodwork later and needed to grab more stain
Quote:


You mentioned during the staining process, you didn't let it sit for very long before wiping it off. How long would you say?

5 mins max. I didn't really time it, but I did my soffits in sections. So I would put the stain on a section then right away go back to the start and wipe it off. I figure that was about 5 mins.
Quote:


I count 4 coats of the Poly. Did you let the remaining three dry overnight, like the first coat?

Definitely let it dry overnight. When I first started I tried to hurry it a bit (by following the directions on the can) and it was a bit "gummy" when I sanded it. Sanding is much easier and the the Wipe-on Poly goes on much nicer if you let it sit overnight and dry completely (I have to re-do one section of my soffit because of this).
Quote:


BTW, (again, I know nothing) does your Flexner book describe maple as having similar characteristics to your cherry (you mentioned tight-grained, and easily blotched)?

No, Maple is a wood that, like Oak, should not need any special prep (e.g., wood conditioner) prior to staining. You should be good with regular Minwax stain.

I'm with GreySkies on preference for oil-based stain. I wouldn't use anything else.

One other tip if you're working above your head - go to HD and get the stain applicator pads. They hold the stain well and don't drip nearly as much as a rag. They also work very well for the wipe-on poly.

Craig.
post #23 of 40
If your going "natural" just put the poly on. A light sanding and dust off before applying poly is highly recommended. Then again between coats.
You'll be pleased with the results.
I do this with oak, simply 'cause I like the color of polyurethaned oak.

BTW, I noticed your stain is taking a long time to dry. I hope you didn't make a "Wilson" mistake and apply the stain without wiping it off.
That stuff will stay tacky for weeks.
post #24 of 40
Here's a mistake I did on my bartop-- I used it before it was finished. A glass of red wine was spilled on the raw maple top. I cleaned it up quickly, gave it a light sand when dry, and couldn't see any discoloration or anything to suggest that anything had been spilled on the wood.

Until it was stained. Now, I can see exactly where the wine was spilled. That said, it doesn't look bad. In fact, the grain is more pronounced and the color is deeper and richer. If I had known how good it would look, I'd have doused the entire bartop in wine before staining.

I'm building a maple desk for my office and I plan on "conditioning" part of the desktop with wine before staining it.
post #25 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreySkies View Post

Here's a mistake I did on my bartop-- I used it before it was finished. A glass of red wine was spilled on the raw maple top. I cleaned it up quickly, gave it a light sand when dry, and couldn't see any discoloration or anything to suggest that anything had been spilled on the wood.

Until it was stained. Now, I can see exactly where the wine was spilled. That said, it doesn't look bad. In fact, the grain is more pronounced and the color is deeper and richer. If I had known how good it would look, I'd have doused the entire bartop in wine before staining.

I'm building a maple desk for my office and I plan on "conditioning" part of the desktop with wine before staining it.

Classic. What do you use for conditioner? A nice Cab? If you want an Italian look you could always go for a nice Chianti or maybe a Barolo...
post #26 of 40
I think it was a big zin, but might have been a cab. Then again, my wife likes Italian reds, so it might have been a Barolo.

I heard that Stradivari did strange things with the wood he used to make instruments, like soaking it in beer for a year.
post #27 of 40
Thanks, men. Confidence is high, I repeat, confidence is high. Oil-based poly, HD applicator pad, 220 grit. Firing solution entered.

BTW, does the HD applicator (for overhead work) apply to using poly, too?
post #28 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnddwilson View Post

... A light sanding and dust off before applying poly is highly recommended. Then again between coats.
...

As to the sanding, do I go with the grain of the wood? Also, what motion -- one direction, forward and back, circular? The maple ceiling is made up of boards ~4" wide.
post #29 of 40
With the grain-- back and forth-- light touch-- 400 grit or even fine steel wool.
post #30 of 40
This just in from Field Marshall Von Wife:

We have young children and she's worried about odorous oil-based poly requiring us to evac the house for an extended time after each application. Thoughts?

There are areas in the ceiling where she applied some filler (nail holes and whatnot), very likely requiring a tougher grit. Is it ok to spot sand the areas with filler with the rougher grit and then do the whole ceiling with a finer grit afterwards? Or, for eveness and consistency's sake, must we use the rougher grit on the whole ceiling before finishing with the suggested 400 grit?

As the ceiling doesn't get walked on, spilled on, or bumped into, how many coats might it require to seal and protect the wood? I guess dabbling with some spare pieces lying around will provide me the answer based on our own tastes, but I am merely a humble conduit for she-who-must-seem-to-be-obeyed.
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