I was wondering if I could get your input on staining. I've
built a fish tank stand out of pine. I wanted to stain it a VERY dark
chocolate brown with red highlights. I went to Home Depot and bought Minwax
products. I bought mahogany gel stain, oil based stains in two colors
(Jacobean and mahogany), and a can of Red Mahogany Polyshade. I have lots of
scrap wood to test with so I've been experimenting. With the oil stain there
doesn't seem to be a way to get the wood DARK. Like a solid dark chocolate
brown dark. The gel stain is worthless (although I love the consistency of
it). Too bad. I've gotten great color by applying the polyshade. It's a lot
redder than I wanted so I plan on purchasing the Tudor and mixing in some
Red mahogany for red highlights if it works out. The problem is that since
it's thick I get paint lines and bubbles. I am using a foam brush though for
testing and expect that it's the reason for the bubbles. I had a few
My girlfriend's dad who works with wood all the time suggested I paint on
the polyshade, wait 5-10 minutes and rub it off with a cloth. He said to
keep doing it until I get the darkness I want. He said that by rubbing it
off I would get a smooth shade with no lines or bubbles. Has anyone done
this before? If so do you have any tips? I guess I'll have to practice on
4-5 pieces of wood to make sure I can get all the pieces the same shade.
What grit should I sand with. I planned on sanding with 180 and then 240.
Since this polyshade is more like a paint I don't expect that the fineness
of scratch lines would play much of a role in accepting more stain.
To clean my wood after sanding and before polyshading I was rubbing down
with mineral spirits and then letting it dry. Is this a good idea or should
I use denatured alcohol?
Between polyshade coats I've been rubbing slightly with 0000 steel wool.
Should I use mineral sprits to clean any debris off? I was just rubbing with
Any other polyshade tips would be appreciated.
Hey, it's pine. He should use an old tin of shoe polish.
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This is a classic problem for hobbyists. Applying more coats of Minwax
stain will not get you as dark as you seem to want. Polyshades is in the
right direction. It is just a polyurethane based toner.
Someone already mentioned the gel version which might get you where you
want to be after several coats and it will minimize the streaking on pine.
You describe the gel stain as worthless. I am guessing that you sanded to
more than 180 so the gel stain, which sits on top, had no place to adhere.
Like the Polyshades in brushing form, you must be careful that you don't
obscure the grain so much that you may as well have painted it. If you want
to use the brush on Polyshades as a wiping toner, just thin it out about 50%
by volume with mineral spirits. You will need more coats but you won't have
to worry about brush marks. I am assuming you can't put the care needed
into brushing on polyurethane without brush marks.
What ever you use, be careful where you overlap wipes or brush strokes.
You might get a dark line with the applications overlap.
I don't have a lot of experience, but I'm half way through a book that
has changed the way I thought about things a hundred times over (not
to mention debunked a lot of "advice" I got for free ;)
It's _Understanding Wood Finishing_ by Bob Flexner. I've read many
posts where people recommend it. Lemme tell you, they mean it. It's
incredible. Mostly because you really understand "why" things work
the way they do (gels vs. oil stains, vs water dyes, etc) and now I
can make better decisions because when I know what I want I know how
to approach it. Sure, I'll still need practice, but I can get there a
lot faster now.
Anyway, if you pick it up at the store or at the library, you could
probably get by with 3-4 chapters and be ready to get yourself some
dark pine (which by the way is totally achievable, there's a store in
town that sells some awesome custom country furniture that has some
really dark pieces that are to die for -- but I digress).
My suggestions are:
Chap 2: Preparing the wood surface
Chap 5: Staining wood
Chap 7: Introduction to Film Finishes
That will give you enough info to do a pretty sweet job (my guess is
you'll want to start with aniline dye and then use a glaze over it,
fun, fun, fun!). Oh, and another good suggestion is _Wood Finishing_
(VHS) by Frank Klausz (also at the library), it's handy to be able to
"see" someone apply a finish (Varnish is probably what you'll want and
I didn't realize how easy it was to put on -- I made it way to hard on
myself until I saw how he thinned the first layers, etc, etc).
Preparing the surface and applying finish to a project is not something I've
ever been fond of, but Flexner's book has made the process itself into less
of a chore and turned it into another area of woodworking that you can take
The keyword is in the title: "understanding".
I have to say, that I was very surprised how much I enjoy the
finishing steps. I figured I'd just be doing it to get it over with,
but I find finishing to be enjoyable. It really seems like, at every
step, every investment of time clearly makes the project look better.
While it can be drudgery sanding a big project through a bunch of
grits, for example, I feel that every pass clearly improves the look
of it, so it's very satisfying.
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