I live on a tight budget. The kitchen cabinets are old, rotten and
I'm about to have a set of cabinet built by my amateur brother. He
said he can do it.
I like the cabinet to be stained, perhaps in cherry color (don't know
yet). The box will be 3/4 plywood. The front will be poplar or birch
or pine. Can I stain that type of wood? What steps do I need to do
so the color doesn't look too tacky?
My co-worker's husband told me, I need to buy the "more expensive"
type of wood such as Maple, Cherry, Oak.... but they are too expensive
If it comes to the worst, I can just paint it. But I would like to
have a stained cabinet if it's possible.
If you would please kindly give me your advices, opinions, that'd be
1. Sand thoroughly and evenly, finishing with at least #180 grit
2. Possibly (especially pine) pre-condition the wood surface so that the
stain will penetrate evenly. Most needed with pine as it is a softwood,
poplar and birch are hardwoods. Softwood absorption varies considerably
within a given piece of wood because of density variation between summer and
winter wood. Poplar is often a bilious green, often has black streaks...not
a real good wood for staining, good for paint.
3. Decide on stain type (water, alcohol, oil) and read the directions. For
you, oil is probably best. Read the directions again.
4. Practice on scrap wood sanded and treated just like the rest.
re: I'm about to have a set of cabinet built by my amateur brother.
He said he can do it.
Have you seen any of his work before? I know he's your brother, but I
would think that you wouldn't want him to build a whole set of
cabinets only to find out that you hate them, or they don't fit, or
there's some other issue. Ask him to start small and see how he does.
re: ...poplar or birch or pine. Can I stain that type of wood?
Yes, you can stain all of those types, but the same stain will look
different on each because of the color and density of each type.
Pine is the softest, then poplar, then birch, so pine will dent easier
than either of the other 2. I'd opt for poplar or birch depending on
how much you want to spend.
Go to whatever lumber yard your brother will be buying the wood from
and get some samples of each type. Take them home and stain them -
don't trust the little chips above the stain display at the home
center. Your technique and your wood will make a big difference in the
Read up on proper staining techniques. The prep work is very
important because you're not going to hide anything like you would
On those woods I would not stain without a prestain sealer like Bix, a
shellac sealer or it will probably look like crap. Once stained
without sealer you really cant get it all out. Those woods look good
natural, a few coats of an oil poly and they might be fine and in a
kitchen they will darken a few shades in a few years. Learning how to
stain, on your kitchen, is not a good idea, learn on other rooms or
No offense to your amateur brother but unless he is REALLY good at cabinette
making you're gonna have gaps , inperfections , ect and with stain you can't
use caulk or bondo to fill them...And you are using cheap wood (again no
offense) so I say paint them...Look online for ideas for colors ,
ect......Painted cupboards don't look tacky...You see them ALOT even in high
Anytime someone tells you, you need this or that, take it with a grain of
There are some very usable woods out there that don't cost much. Red oak,
hickory come to mind real quick (TX). If you aren't in a hurry, but I
suspect you are, you could find a local sawyer, buy green, air dry a year.
But you kinda need a fair shop to process.
You need to do some reading about wood finishing. I've seen poplar stained
to look like cherry and was amazed at the look. It was not stained with the
typical can of Minwax from Wal Mart though, it wad dyed with trans-tint dues
from a store like Woodcraft that handles things of that sort.
I personally don't have enough information to give you but plenty of books
exist with details and photos.
You may also find that you can buy red oak at good prices, but not from Home
Depot. You have to go to a hardwood dealer, choose the wood rough cut. If
your brother does not have a thickness planer, most will do that step for
you at nominal cost.
What do you mean by "rotten"? Doors are old and dirty? Cabinets are
falling apart? Your brother SAID he can build cabinets? Have you seen
anything he has built, or are you both newbies? On a tight budget, I'd
proceed slowly, as you can waste an awful lot of money. If the cabinets
you have are sound, but just ugly, you may be able to refinish face
fronts and make or buy new doors.
First of all, read up and shop around to get an idea of woods and colors
you like if you want stained wood. Any wood can be stained, but results
depend a great deal on hardness of the wood, amount of stain used,
method of finishing.
Get a book or two about building cabinets and finishing wood; it will
give you a good basis for proceeding. You don't NEED to buy more
expensive wood....maple would seem out of the picture for several
reasons: it is very, very hard. Maple would take on little stain,
because of hardness, and would not likely stain to the depth you say you
want, and probably a great deal more difficult to work. Pine is cheap,
very soft, takes on a great deal of stain because of softness, but may
not be durable enough. Poplar is one good choice; harder than pine, not
very distinct grain. Visit a lumber store and see if you can get some
bundles of scraps to play with - just to see how they stain. If color
is most important to you, that is where you should start.
Plywood for cases is the best choice. There are lots of faux finishes
that look like wood grain, and can be very pretty, but may not please a
purist...they take practice, but might be a good choice to save money.
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