Advice on staining wood black

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I'm making a special desk for a friend of mine who is a quadrapalegic (sp). It will be a fairly large "L" shaped desk so that he has room to move his wheelchair to use one section and his wife can use the other leg of the "L" as a normal desk.
My original plan was to make this out of red oak since red oak plywood is readily available and it isn't terribly expensive. My problem is that his wife wants it to be black to match the piano. Now I'm not NEARLY good enough to produce a finish to match a baby grand, and I'm thinking that any shiny black surface would look awful on ANY minor surface blemish. I'm also not looking at some exotic wood since frankly I don't want to spend thousands of dollars on this project
I wouldn't think anything short of paint would produce a suitable black so I was thinking about putting black laminate on the top/sides and trimming in something like beech or maple. That would seem to make it easier hiding the laminate edges.
Anybody have any words of wisdom?
Thanks, Jim
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Jim asks:

You're right about the blems.

It's easier.

Tell your pal's wife that the black, shiny piano is finished that way so it will stand OUT from the rest of the room, not match it. You might tell her, too, that too much unrelieved black in a room is depressing as hell.
Charlie Self "Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves." Dorothy Parker
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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Ummm...Charlie you ARE married right? Maybe you are as good a talker as you are a woodworker. I know *I* haven't convinced my wife let alone someone elses of anything in the last 40 years! ;)

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Jim notes:

Tell her that the wood finish doesn't show dust and fingerprints NEARLY as bad as the gloss black so it is just a swipe of the feather duster and on, instead of 10-15-20 minutes each cleaning day with cloths and polish.
Charlie Self "Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves." Dorothy Parker
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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Charlie Self wrote:

Your wife knows how to use a feather duster? Your wife has a "cleaning day" with cloths and polish?
I got gypped maybe.
--
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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Silvan responds:

Hey, this is a case of "Do as I say". My wife knows what a feather duster is. Hell, it usually sits under the hall telephone table, so she has to know. She even vacuumed a chair last week.
You bet. She has a cleaning day. Once every February 29th.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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Charlie Self wrote:

I got gypped for sure then. Mine has a cleaning day every February 31st.
--
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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--------------- Have you considered coloured MDF?
This stuff: http://www.avonplywood.co.uk/downloads/Valchromat_Price_Page.pdf
might just suit your needs. As it is the same colour all the way through it makes it somewhat ding resistant. It'll stay black forever.
I'm thinking of ripping out some old built-in wardrobes and replacing with this stuff, maybe the red and black. I'll need to get some samples of all the colours to see just how they work with each other, but the pictures from here: http://www.avonplywood.co.uk/noframes/valchromat%20photo%20gallery.htm
look quite promising.
HTH
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I like MDF for desks. There's usually plenty of scope for supporting them underneath, so it's lack of stiffness isn't a problem. The lack of surface grain makes it a much easier substrate for painting than a natural timber.
Simple black paint is a good finish on MDF. Use the right primer, sand between coats, work in a dust-free environment and you should have no trouble with it. OK, so it's not as high gloss as a piano, but that's not a bad thing for something you're looking closely at.
A quick and easy painted semi-gloss finish on MDF is to use blackboard paint and wax. The matt black paint is full of solids so it gap fills and self-levels pretty easily. Then you put a sheen on it with a coat of finishing wax.
If you do paint plywood, then the trick is to undercoat it properly. Two or three coats of undercoat minimum - you have to fill those pores. Rub down after the undercoat coats and don't even think about switching to the finish coats until you've got that surface perfectly smooth.
Another finish might be to give a more natural ebonised timber finish (the "black ash" finish of the '80s). Red oak will ebonise quite easily with either ammonia (25% cleaning ammonia, applied wet with a brush - work outdoors) or with standard ebonising solution (iron and vinegar - search for a post I did last week). Watch for gluelines or repair patches becoming more visible on plywood though. Once you've ebonised it, useoil and then wax as a finish. You'll get something low-gloss that looks like natural timber, only black.
Another finish for the top might be rubber sheet. It looks good on a desk, stops things sliding around and is very hard wearing.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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I like the ebonising idea. With something like that I may be able to go for a natural light finish for the main piece and work in ebonized oak for the trim. I was originally thinking it would need to be mostly black to hide the laminate edges, but the ebonizing would give me a lot more options.
I think I'll try a piece this week and see how it works.
THANKS! Jim
[snipage]

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Well, I painted my MDF desk black with the Dupont Centari auto paint I had left over from repair/paint my tailgate on my pickup. That was five years ago, and I can still see all the reflections I want in it. Almost as good as lacquer.
--
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They're just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh."
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I'm doing a built-in desk and bookshelf right now. The desk surface is 14'-6" long and it's all ebonized oak. The grain is still slightly visible and contrasts nicely with the rest of the oak.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (WebsterSteve) wrote in message
Try using an analine or alcohol based dye.
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Hydrocote makes (made?) a water-based finish that was available in gloss black. I experimented with it a bit, and still have a little test piece around here somewhere. I just couldn't bear to throw it away, it came out so nice. Easy to apply, too, and you can rub it out with pumice and rottenstone to whatever gloss you'd like.
Highland Hardware (http://www.tools-for-woodworking.com /) used to carry the stuff, probably still does. I'm sure there are others.
Hope it helps, Henry Bibb

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Jim wrote:

You're missing the point to all of this. Take some 0000 steel wool and scuff up that thar pie-anner to match the finish on your desk. Problem solved. :)
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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I just read (somewhere) that the lacquer that is used on pianos cost over $100 per gallon. Good stuff, huh?
On Mon, 19 Jan 2004 19:02:55 -0500, Silvan

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I think this may be the most intelligent, well thought out, insightful post of the year.
I stand in sincere awe. Jim

thinking
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My problem is that

Use a bottle of black writing ink. You can stain the timber black without hiding the grain effect, then coat with a sealer / varnish to the required finish. That way, it matches the piano (black), displays the wood grain, and should hide any blemishes.
Alterntaively, use a "black Japan" finish, similar to Laque Cinese (chinese black laquer)..
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Well, the piano is black because of black lacquer. If you really want to match it, I can find the name of the company that supplies the lacquer to Steinway Pianos. I bought a gallon of it a while back to refinish my piano bench, and it was very expensive. I think around $100/gal.
You'd have to spray it, and probably rub it out. I think that would be crazy for a surface that you're going to pile papers and computer equipment upon.
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Thanks for the offer, but I'm not wanting to spend that much money on a piano finish for a desk with at least 12' of desktop area. Even if the finish was cheap I am confident my finishing talent would fall well short of those that made the piano.
I also agree that a piano finish wouldn't be very practical for a desk surface.
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