Strip Mantle?


I bought a home a year ago and I do not like the wood mantle that the builder put in the house. It is like a light oak color and I want to stain it something darker like a mahogony color. Do I have to strip the mantle first or just stain over the top? I'm not sure if there is some type of sealer on it. I have a picture of the mantle that I could post, but I don't know how to post photos!
Any help/suggestions would be appreciated!
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Is it oak or just an oak color on pine or poplar? If it has a poly or any type of varnish finish, stain will not do much at all. It must be stripped, then sanded to expose fresh clean wood cells. You can use a poly that has stain in it, but it probably won't get very dark. Stripping the oak mantle will help, but oak may not get dark enough for you anyway. Before you go to the trouble of stripping it, get a small piece of oak and try different stains on it to see if you can get where you want to go.
Oak can be darkened by ammonia fuming also. That will require removing the mantle.
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Many report success in doing this by using a gel stain instead of the traditional stain. Traditional soaks into the wood but when a finish is applied the wood fibers aren't available. Gel stains lay on the surface and don't need bare wood fibers. Scuff sand the mantle with #320 sandpaper working with the grain, clean and wipe on gel stain. If unsat wipe off before it dries. It would be a great help if there is an area that is hidden for testing the steps. If not stain and topcoat a scrap piece of wood to use for testing. Ensure the topcoat has cured prior to testing. Visit www.refinishwizard.com forum and ask there. If possible add a picture of what you're working with.
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Minwax makes some colored urethane. I used some on windowsills, and they came out fine when I spread it over the old sills after scuff-sanding. I was trying to match a color and got pretty lucky, but I'm sure I could have darkened a lighter wood. The grain still shows through.
Keith

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