Stain Matching: A Better Way? (Long)


I've been working for three weeks to get a perfect stain formula to match my existing Oak kitchen cabinets. Because I'm building new cabinets and trim to match the existing cabinets, the stain has to match perfectly, or it'll stand out like a sore thumb.
I started out at the home center. The store clerk was very helpful...he opened up cans, grabbed some scrap red oak and started dabbing on stains. There was no stain that was a perfect match, so I finally decided on mixing two of the Minwax oil-based stains.
I get home and plane up some fresh boards to experiment on. I use 3 boards: one for the cherry stain, one for the colonial maple stain, and one for a 50/50 mix of the two. Of course you have to wait 4 hours between coats, so it takes 3 days just to get a board with test patches of 1 coat, 2 coats, 3 coats, and 4 coats - all with polyurethane coats on top. Wow.
I get looking at the sample boards closely. The 50:50 mix is alot closer, but it doesn't seem 'red' enough. So I make up another test board and a formula of 2 parts colonial maple: 1 part cherry. Another couple of days for several coats, and this sample is looking very close.
So I get looking at the sample boards...they look pretty close, so I grab my 1/8" inch oak skins that I'll be applying to the sides of the new cabinets, and start staining away. After the first couple of coats dry, it's clear that the panels are missing a 'tint'. I have some Minwax water-based Golden Oak stain laying around, so I try applying this over top of the oil-based.
Once I get the panels all poly'ed they look very close, but I'm thinking, 'Hmmn...this is going to be a difficult application to touch up, or match at a later date.'
Back to the home center. Find a third oil-based stain with a yellow tint, Puritan Pine. Another test board, several more formulas and test applications. Finally, I've settled on a formula that will work...I'm sure...really.
Well I'll have another look tonight before I stain my newly fabricated door. If it still looks good in the day light, I'll start by staining the back of the door, in case I need to adjust yet again.
THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY?
Steve
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Mr Fixit eh wrote:

Snipped long and painful process.

There is I am sure of it.
Let me know if you find it. ;-)
I had to match some Vilas. Sounds like we had similar experiences.
Our local hardware store does paint matching -- course you did not suggest paint as an option. LOL

--
Will
Occasional Techno-geek
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In a similar problem, I made the same efforts at home-brew stains, with same mediocre results. Then I took a sample to an unfinished furniture store that also did finishing, They matched it perfectly and I picked up a can of their product the next day. It cost me $20 for the product, but it worked perfectly. It turns out that this is a problem that professionals have all the time, and they go to a specialist with experience. I got my advice from a general contractor acquaintance, so you might either try a similar source for info or find someone that does finishing as a specialty. -- Good luck and tell us how it works out.

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World Traveler wrote:

Good tip will try that too one time and see if it is better - probably will be.
Thanks
--
Will
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Sorry for your woes.
Trial and error is the non-professional method (and for the pros that I know). Write down you final formula and/or application method and save it somewhere that you can find in the future.
I'm not crazy about Minwax products. Color not consistent, but that's another story.
Stick with your method. A hair drier (NOT A HEAT GUN) could be used to accelerate the drying time, maybe cutting down on the 3 day cycle. Use this on small samples only, in a well ventilated area (safety first.)

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Mr Fixit eh wrote:

I had a Sherwin Williams paint store employee create a stain match for me - they needed about a day, a sample of what I wanted to match (e.g. a drawer from a dresser), and some scrap wood to test the stain on. They did a great job and there was no charge for the matching - just the regular cost of the stain. They took one of their stock stains and added pigment to it.
Charles
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Good tip thanks. WIll try that in the future.
--
Will
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Mr Fixit eh wrote:

I had to match some existing cabinets for some new work in a co-worker's kitchen. I found the easiest way was to call the place where the original cabinets were purchased and have them order the stain from the cabinet manufacturer. A quart cost about $7.00.
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Jack Novak
Buffalo, NY - USA
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Great tips! I will make the rounds of the paint stores before I lay any stain on any 'good' wood. Maybe I'll get lucky.
Unfortunately, I can't track down where the cabinets were purchased or who installed them.
To make things even worse, there is a minor variation in the existing stain itself. Pretty much the same tint, but some is a little lighter or darker, perhaps due to different grains in the wood.
Thanks, Steve
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For occasional matching, I'd go with those who suggested paying a pro shop to handle it. Trying to match using various off-the-shelf stains is an exercise in frustration. I've got a bunch of those cans, that I primarily use for the colored pigment on the bottom. For the color I mix from a selection of dyes. They dry quickly, and I have three different light sources to check the result. But this is not something to invest in for one matching job. GerryG

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On 17 Mar 2005 07:27:01 -0800, the inscrutable "Mr Fixit eh"

Stop right there with the oxymoron, please.
---------------------------------------------------------- Please return Stewardess to her original upright position. -------------------------------------- http://www.diversify.com Tagline-based T-shirts!
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wrote:

1.    All woods are brown.
2.    Some of them are yellow brown, some of them are reddish brown, some of them are greenish brown, some of them are blackish brown.
3.    Find the lightest brown in the wood that you want to match - this is your base coat.
3A.    Wash coat with shellac.
4.    Find the next most prevalent shade and apply it with a feathered brush, with the grain.
4A.    Wash coat with shellac.
5.    Find the next most prevalent shade and work it in with an artist's brush.
5A.    Wash coat with shellac.
6.    Look for the singularities of the species that you are dealing with. For instance, cherry often shows pitch slashes. Find the color and apply it judiciously with a finely pointed camel's hair brush of the appropriate size.
Guess what? - wash coat with shellac (we are talking about a 1 LB cut, here, and above)
When all of the above fail, buy peel and stick veneer of the appropriate species and have a nice day.
Thomas J. Watson - WoodDorker
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1 (webpage)
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The problem is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to match a very complex finish schedule with something much more simple. The kitchen cabinets have a color and finish that was put on in several layers - stains, sealers, toners, possibly glazes, and top coats. In addition, even half-way decent kitchen cabinets have finishes that meet the KCMA's standards so they will stand up to the wear and dirt that comes from being in a kitchen. Also, wood is not uniformly colored. There are all sorts of different colors in the wood - browns, reds, greens, yellows, etc. One way to match the color is to start with a base stain that is pretty close to what you want. Don't spend forever on it. You can then tone it with the appropriate toner. You don't have to tone the whole piece, only where it is needed. If you need a glaze, fine. Once you are happy, topcoat it. Remember, the topcoat may impart some color of its own so be sure to topcoat your test pieces.
Good Luck.
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