Staining and finishing an interior oak stair

Hi everyone, I've finished installing an interior stair made of oak steps and oak balustrades and railings (modern style). My next task is staining and protecting it. Any suggestions for the type of staining (oil or water base) for steps? Is 3 coats of polyurethane (should I use something else) enough for steps and one coat enough for the balustrades/railings?
Any advice on how I should proceed? I'm a newbee at staining, finishing hardwood.
Thanks in advance.
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There are many methods of finishing this. First is the color. You say you want to stain them. Is there a particular shade you want to get to? Try putting a little mineral oil or linseed oil on a scrap piece and see if that is something that looks good as any finish will change the appearance. I bring this up because a lot of people think all wood must be stained because they see it done that way often. While I use stain on pine, I never use it on hardwoods.
Next is the finish. Do you want a gloss or satin finish? In most cases two coats of poly is suitable, but the treads can probably use a third coat as they will be getting the most wear. Poly is not a "must" either but it is probably the most durable on the treads. You can use an oil finish (such as Danish oil, Varnish oil, or boiled linseed oil) or shellac on the other parts. Oil finishes tend to be more of a satin luster, not glossy.
As for the water versus oil poly, I don't have an experience with the water based so I can't comment. I have heard it is very good for floors though. Ed
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I would stay away from water based poly s. They give a plastic look to the wood (in particular oak). I sanded away and refinished using oil based on a project. The water based look was like store bought plastic oak furniture.

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I agree, with home center products. Some of the better water base products can be enhanced with "ambering" additives that makes them look an awful lot like oil varnishes when dry.
I wouldn't have believed it until I saw it myself!
Barry
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like the Enduro water borne urethane I use. It's referred to as "amber overprint". You can purchase the urethane with or without the overprint. it works fairly well.
dave
B a r r y wrote:

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On wood stairs, solvent base poly will hold up in the long run. Three coats is the minimum imo (I like them thin to cut the drytime and give a good finish) with light sanding between coats. Balastrades get one or two (for oak) coats of sanding sealer and two poly to finish. I like the railings quite smooth, as hands will be the judge of your work.
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First of all, unless you have a compelling reason to stain the oak try whatever finishes you are considering using on the raw wood and see if you like the look. Staining is NOT a required finishing step. There are reasons to do so but it's something best left undone if you can avoid it.
Varnish, poly is varnish on steroids is good. Oil based will give you an amber tint, water based won't.
Oil based varnish takes, under normal conditions, an hour to dry out of tack, that is an hour before it is dry enough to not act as a neighborhood dust collector, and at least overnight before you can do anything with it. Water based is pretty dry after an hour.
You can probably get two coats of water based varnish down in a day, no more then one for oil based.
Neither will be cured enough for full use for a week or so. Plan on walking up and down the stairs in socks. Neither will be ready to be walked on, socks or no, the day the coats are applied. Plan on doing every other step or not going up and down the stairs for a few weeks.
Good luck
-- Mike G. snipped-for-privacy@heirloom-woods.net Heirloom Woods www.heirloom-woods.net

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Thanks all for your answer.
To expand on my request, the stair will be at our cottage to which we'll be going about 60 days a year (not consecutive) and I can easily let it dry a week before I can put another coat (probably will have to if I go with an oil base varnish since I can only work on it during the weekends). Sun will be striking about half the stair so I'm concerned about the yellowing of the oil based varnish after time and its look on the stair.
So, here's the steps (pun intended :-) ) for finishing my stair (sorry for the lengthy email)
Btw, the stair has open risers so I'm gonna have to protect the bottom of the steps as well. I plan on putting two protective coats on the ballustrades and the steps' bottom side while I will put three protective coats on the railings and steps' top side and edges.
I'm planning on using a 'satin' finish for the protective coats so it's not as glossy and was told not as slippery. Should I use satin for the final coat only and use glossy for the other coats so it doesn't create a too 'cloudy look'?
The varnish recipients will be gently stired to avoid bubbles. The brushes will not be 'brushed' against the side of the recipient for the same reason. The varnish layers will not be thin to prevent seeing the brushes bristles but not too thick either so it doesn't drip or sag. Any clue for this?
The brushes will have synthetic bristles if it's going to be a water based varnish or natural hair bristles for oil based varnish. I'm also planning on using a 1" 1/2 brush for the ballustrade (1" 1/16 thickness), 2" 1/2 for the railings and 3" or 4" for the steps (11" wide). Am I ok with these? What about foam brushes?
Should I apply a 'sealer coat' first for oak wood?
First I'm going to stain a scrap piece of oak and varnish another one and see which one I prefer. Then, for the whole stair :
- Use a 150 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the ballustrades and railings (specially the roughts egdes of the ballustrades and the railings ends).
- Clean the steps, ballustrades and railings for wood dust with a vacuum cleaner.
- Use a cloth ligthly damped with methyl alcohol to 'deeply' clean the ballustrades and railings.
- If I'm going to stain it, apply the stain (water or oil base, not sure yet) with a cheesecloth and wipe the stain about 10 minutes later with another (clean) cheesecloth. Let it dry (how long?).
- Apply the first coat of varnish (water or oil base, depending of the stain I used earlier, if I'm going to stain it) to the railing and ballustrades and let it dry. But for how long?
- Use a 220 grit sandpaper to lightly scrath the varnish surface then use a tack cloth to remove the dust.
- Apply the second coat of varnish and let it dry.
- Use a 220 grit sandpaper to lightly scrath the varnish surface of the railing then use a tack cloth to remove the dust.
- Apply a third coat of varnish on the railing and let it dry.
At this point, the ballustrades and railings should be done and I should be able to start on the steps, from top of stair to bottom of stair. Is that a correct approach?
- Use a 150 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the steps (top, edges and bottom).
- Clean the steps, ballustrades and railings for wood dust with a vacuum cleaner.
- Use a cloth ligthly damped with methyl alcohol to 'deeply' clean the steps (top, edges and bottom).
- If I'm going to stain it, apply the stain (water or oil base, not sure yet) with a cheesecloth and wipe the stain about 10 minutes later with another (clean) cheesecloth. Let it dry.
- Apply the first coat of varnish (water or oil base, depending of the stain I used earlier, if I'm going to stain it) to the steps and let it dry.
- Use a 220 grit sandpaper to lightly scrath the varnish surface then use a tack cloth to remove the dust.
- Apply the second coat of varnish and let it dry.
- Use a 220 grit sandpaper to lightly scrath the varnish surface of the steps' top side and edges then use a tack cloth to remove the dust..
- Apply a third coat of varnish on the the steps' top side edges and let it dry.
To apply the varnish, I'll apply it to the wood by brushing either with or against the grain initially in order to get it on the surface with doing as little brushing as possible. Once on the surface I'll take one light pass with the tip of my brush moving with the grain, overlapping each pass slightly, then leave the varnish alone.
That's it, the stair should be all protected, and for many years, hopefully.
Thanks.

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Your first coat of varnish will be your sealer coat. If you want a little better penetration for that coat thin it with the appropriate thinner.
-- Mike G. snipped-for-privacy@heirloom-woods.net Heirloom Woods www.heirloom-woods.net

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Sylvain Gagnon wrote:
... a lot!
Sylvain - are you a tech writer for a living?
--

-Mike-
snipped-for-privacy@sprintmail.com
  Click to see the full signature.
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Nope, a network admin trying to figure out the best way to protect my stair <grin>

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Sylvain Gagnon wrote:

I guess that fits - that was the most detailed plan I've ever seen for a woodworking project. You network guys...
-Mike-
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