Finishing a shelf unit


I'm building a shelf unit. It's a box about five feet long, one foot high, one foot deep, with couple of uprights separating it into three sections. It's made out of oak plywood. I'll be adding a face frame of oak 1 x 2. I'm no genius at woodworking, but I did a pretty good job with it, so far. However, I've had less than inspiring results in the past with the finishing part of a project.
I have 2 questions.
1. I had some furniture made that has a "Cordova" stain, a very dark reddish, purplish brown. I haven't been able to replicate that color with the stains I've been able to find. I think it's possible that I need to leave the stain on longer to get a darker color, but I'm not sure. The instructions suggested maybe 10 minutes. The color with the excess stain sitting on the wood seems pretty good, but wiping off the "excess" leaves a much milder color. I beilieve the stain is called Minwax Red Mahogany. I don't expect to perfectly match the other furniture, but I'd like a very dark color.
2. I did a few test pieces with various stains and finishes. With different products, different woods and different brushes I've gotten "bubbles". They form immediately as I brush the polyurethane on, and seem to continue forming over the space of a few minutes. They are pretty tiny, a 16th of an inch in diameter, but they ruin the finish. Is this a known problem? Is it air, or something else escaping from the wood? Is there some tratment I should use before the poly to avoid the bubbles?
Thanks in advance.
Greg Guarino
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wrote:

One more thing. Wordy as my post above is, I neglected to metion that I am looking for a decent, but weekend-handyman-friendly way to finish this shelf unit. A satin finish would be nice. A twelve step process would exceed my available spare time and my skill level, I'm afraid.
Greg Guarino
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Your stain looks darker before you wipe it off because it's a (sorry, it's true) pigment stain. You have particles of colored pigment in the vehicle. Suggests one possible "cure" if you can get the stuff to sample. A stain/finish combination like Minwax, believe it's called "polyshades," will allow you to leave the pigment on the surface. Or you could try on your own to use a glaze of an appropriate pigment from a source like artists' oil colors, followed by a careful coat of the poly.
Bubbles are a pain with oak. You trap air, you bridge pores, and after a time the bubbles pop. Reduce the viscosity of your poly by thinner, or use a thinner poly like "wipe-on" poly, so that the reduced cohesion will allow it to slump into the pores rather than bridge and bust.
What ever you choose, experiment on the plywood scraps, sanded, please, to the same grit as your piece. The real wood won't look the same, ever.
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Alot of commercial finishes are heavily pigmented (opaque color, more like paint than what you would normally think of as stain) Although this obscures the wood, it lets the manufacturer produce a very evenly colored surface.

That is smply not an easy thing to do. The good news is that you have you have already learned rule #1..."experiment on scrap".

Generally not. more time will not make much difference. As you have dicovered, not removing the excess will give you a darker result. A second coat, if the stain is largely pigment based will help as well.
The instructions suggested maybe 10 minutes. The color with the

I don't know if this is the with you, but exactly that happened to me when finishing some solid red oak with an oil-based varnish (very similar to oil-based poly for the purposes of this discusstion). I made the mistake of finishing the piece in a cold garage and them bringing it into the house to warm up and cure. The air in the pores of the oak expanded and created tiny bubbles.
Was there a drastic temperature change?
Was this oil or waterbased Poly? Water-based can tend to "foam up" is you work it too much with a brush.
-Steve
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Greg Guarino wrote:

Try adding some black or very dark blue to the stain ____________

If the poly is water based, you could pass a flame (torch) rapidly over the bubbles...heating will cause them to expand and pop. I do that with epoxy (which is flammable) but don't know if you can with oil poly. Probably, with great care.
Another way is to live with them for a coat or two, then sand out and apply your final coats. Once the wood is sealed, the bubbles will stop unless you shake the varnish or apply it agressively...it needs to be flowed on then tipped off.
Another solution is to dump the poly and use a brushing lacquer like Deft. You may still get bubbles but it is far and away easier to use than polyurethane.
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dadiOH
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dadiOH wrote:

It's hard to find any film finish easier to apply than wipe-on poly :-). Shellac comes close (and I like the appearance better) but requires more coats and provides less protection.
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