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
Thanks in advance.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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
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