I am building another hardwood rocking horse for a church raffle. This
years project has a high content of hard maple and I have some really pretty
wood. Previous projects have had maple accents but this one uses the maple
for rockers, mane, tail and accents.
I usually stain and then wipe on several coats of poly for durabity. Any
thing special I should know about staining this wood?
Now I know why they call it "hard" maple. The curly and knot areas are
hard -- and beautiful.
I have had variable to poor results in coloring maple directly. Alcohol
soluble dye gave me some really disappointing results. Didn't try
waterbased, though. Minwax oil-based wood finishes yielded what one might
expect from the series...
Colored or toned finishes, however, suited me better. Dewaxed shellac
worked pretty well, as did dyed shellac. Maybe one could tone poly, for
Any way to use the blond maple as is? ;-)
Actually I have been thinking about that. The mane, tail and other pieces
can go on after the rest of the horse is stained (other woods are Oak and
Walnut). I use a natural stain on both of those woods which gives the Oak a
nice golden-oak look and darkens the Walnut slightly. I have been thinking
about just applying poly to the bare Maple after a good sanding and
burnishing. The maple details in the last horse received this treatment and
came out with a subtle but attractive light amber. Think I'll cut some test
samples in the morning and start playing.
Thanks for the help.
If you want to really bring out the figure, you might try this stain.
Cain Outdoors used to be Mountain State Muzzleloading. This stain is designed
to really pop the
curl. Email address is on the web page. They used to be really good about
answering questions, and
I doubt they've changed much over the years. Still a family business.
I only know that it's a solvent _dye stain_ as that's what it sez' on
the label, and I KNOW what most pigment stains do to maple (not good).
Solvent can be alcohol or petroleum based. That leaves oils and dyes
for color. <G>
I'm guessing at the repackaging, based on the industry. Getting a
private label solvent based stain made is not as easy as getting a
microbrew bottled for you. Also, check out the price! Day-um!!! <G>
Yeah, the stuff is cheaper now than it was almost 30 years ago. I've seen
rifles with this stain on
it, and they've looked pretty nice-nice brown with just a touch of red to it.
Really brings out the
curl though.. No first hand experience with it, unfortunately.
Note winking smile at end of my previous post.
The natural stain darkens all of the woods slightly and mainly seals it.
The Oak takes on a golden oak tone, walnut evens out a little darker and the
maple really doesn'n change beyond a slight amber tone.
BTW - I just put on a first application of BLO and it provides a similar
effect with much more depth. I'll post pics on abpw in a few days.
Thanks for a very detailed response. After a little more research and some
experimentation, I just applied a first coat of BLO and it looks very good.
I'll let it set overnight and apply a second light coat in the morning.
This past year I built a kitchen table using hard maple. SIL wanted a light,
mellow honey tone and most of all - wanted all the boards to have an even
look. That was the easy part - bleached first and then stained. Hard maple
does not take stain very well at all - it's very dense and be sure to test
on scraps first.
Had to resort to a gel stain to get the tone she wanted. Finished off with
about 5 coats of gloss - rubbed on poly followed by one coat of satin poly.
Very little grain to see in hard maple but if you have some curly maple and
want a satin look - don't apply the satin coat until the last coat. The
gloss coats with 600 grit sanding between coats, will keep the grain popped
and then a final coat of satin poly or degloss with 0000 steel wool or
equivalent synthetic pads to knock down the gloss to the level you want.
I think you and Patriarch are confirming my suspicion. I guess I have led a
sheltered woodworker's life. Most of my experience has been with Walnut,
Oaks, Ash, Cherry and a little bit of Bubinga. The Hard Maple machines well
but the sanding process threw up a flag - this stuff is going to be a
I think I will stain the oak and walnut on the bench; and finish the maple
natural before assembly. Experimenting with samples starts tomorrow
I get great results with a Minwax oil-based stain. It is easy to apply,
penetrates and gives really great results. Even with, or perhaps
especially with curly maple, the grain shows thru and looks great. One
of the good features of this stain is that if you don't get the
coloration you want you can lighten it with mineral spirits or darken it
with another application, even after it has completely dried.
The color I use is not one that's in their selection. I mixed it myself
to achieve just the degree of "browness" I wanted. That's not a problem
at all except you'll end up with several colors that might not be
usefull otherwise. I'd suggest that if one of their stock colors
doesn't please you that you get several pints in various colors and mix
them to your color preference.
After you get the right color (tested, REALLY TESTED on scraps), let it
set for 2 days, spray with 2-3 coats of sanding sealer, sand, spray with
SEVERAL coats of polyurethane (or whatever), lightly sand between coats,
and you'll get a really pretty, durable finish that can be polished to
I note you said you wipe on the poly. I've found that if I spray it I
get a much harder and more durable finish than if I wipe it on. I'm not
sure why this is so, but since I realized it, I've only used the spray
Not something that seems to be in favor here. Personally I use it and have
had excellent results.( I double the dry time...no smell...it's dry) I do
the same as you . Mix to achieve the shade I want.
If I'm using hard maple (sadly rarely in the UK) I just try to achieve
the best possible sanded finish, then wax it. No oils, as I don't want
to risk discolouration in the future. If there's particularly good
chattoyance or figure then I might oil it first, but that's only as a
soak-in, not a surface film.
I wouldn't apply a stain in a typical method, it'll blotch like crazy.
Options I would choose from, in no particular order:
- Water base poly alone, to keep the wood as light and bright as
- a rubbing with BLO, followed by oil based poly, or better yet,
sprayed and rubbed clear lacquer, for a "honey maple" look. I just
did a king-sized platform bed with a birdseye headboard for a client
with this finish. The results are drop-dead gorgeous.
- a _LIGHT_ colored dye, followed by appropriate clear coats,
depending on "ambering" wants. Medium and darker dyes often blotch.
- a sprayed, tinted toner made from Seal Coat or lacquer tinted with
compatible dyes or universal colorants, followed by appropriate clear
coats, depending on "ambering" wants. Solar Lux dye stain is an
excellent colorant, universal tints come in tubes from any paint
store. A little universal colorant goes a LOOONG way.
--- If I _MUST_ stain it beyond a light honey color: ----
I'd Seal Coat it, then apply a Behlen's / Mohawk wiping stain evened
by dry-brushing, followed by Seal Coat again, followed by appropriate
clear coats, selected depending on "ambering" wants. After the second
Seal Coating, I'd carefully de-nib each coat with fresh 400 grit.
I like to rub out lacquers and varnishes (incl poly) by wet sanding
(with paint thinner or kerosene) 400 & 600, followed with a gray
synthetic pad with pumice & paraffin oil, and waxed with a white
synthetic pad. On larger surfaces, I put the synthetic pads under my
Try whatever you do on scrap, noting each step on the back. Staining
blotch-prone woods without spray gear is a pain, as you have to be
very diligent with the dry brush. The more detailed the piece, the
more you'll want spray gear.
I would NEVER, EVER apply any stain or dark dye directly to maple,
birch, pine, etc... ALWAYS use a barrier. DAMHIKT <G>
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