Finishing Cabinets ?

I have been experimenting with getting a "cherry" finish on hard maple. I have been going water-based all the way, using TransTint dye and Target Coatings Em8000 CV finish.
1) While there is minimal splotch, there is still a little too much color variations from the different absorption rates of the grain. I am thinking about going 1/2 strength with the dye and toning the finish the rest of the way. This would mean 3-4 coats of toner (in my case, just the finish with some dye added) before the top coats. Any experience with this or suggestions?
2) I have heard good things about General Finishes, especially their pre-cat poly, for cabinets. Has anyone played with this? Ideally, a comparison with Em8000 would be great--saving me an $80 experiment.
3) I keep seeing people brush on "stain" in the DIY shows... just a brush and no wiping. Is there anything out there this easy to apply that gives good results, or does this stuff only work on TV?
Cheers, Shawn
PS: I spray with Jewitt's QualSpray AM-6008 gun and can definitely recommend it.
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Rather than resorting to multiple toner coats right away, you should consider spit coating the wood with some shellac. This works surprising (at least to me) well. You might also experiment with a gel stain since it sits on the top and does not vary in color result very much at all due to grain issues.
Good Luck.
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TransTint dissolved in water? Tried dampening the wood first to slow absorption?
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1. Coloring Maple directly is almost impossible to do well other than a tonal shift like warming it a little. Toning the finish is the best approach but why use Maple? Just wondering. When I tone I mix the finish lighter than I want and build coats to the color I want.
3. Depending on the wood and the stain you can get good results. Maple, Oak, Walnut (Hard) hardwoods don't take stain very readily. Even Pine gives trouble. Some general Finish water based stains can go on like paint but if you wipe it down hard it will be just as weak as Minwax oil.
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Yes, shrinkage is always a concern (as in life and swimming in cold water). 1. Finish the panel before you build the frame - A commonly suggested approach but I find it hard to concieve that my finishing will be consistent enough to do the frame later and have a perfect match. 2. I almost always use a colored wax and build it in the corners of my projects causing an antiquing. Just my style and I use it mostly. So colored wax can be applied and rubbed in whenver you see a witness of the uncolored wood if you have such a project.
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