Refinishing Tips

We have all come across that piece of furniture that has so much potential.  The finish is dull, the veneer is chipped, and we imagine how it would look in a new vibrant stain. So we contemplate stripping and re-finishing it.  How hard is it?  Can I do it myself, and at what point do I call a professional?

I have discovered that re-finishing furniture, (and I am not talking about painting here), can be more complicated than it seems.  After many successful finishes, and a few projects that were ruined, it sure allowed me to step back and research what the professionals have to say. Staining wooden furniture isn’t just a matter of stripping off one finish and applying another.  If you are like me, you have run into several road blocks along the way.  Here is what the pro’s have to say……..

Practice Before You Move On To Something Valuable Kevin Sharkey Says… It’s really determined by what the piece means to you. If it’s a family heirloom, like a Chippendale sideboard that you want to preserve and pass down, it’s worth refinishing it. (Note: Sometimes a piece is worth more with a slight blemish than completely refinishing it.) However, I would recommend you consult with a professional. This should not be the first piece you attempt to refinish. But if you pick up a chair or table at a consignment shop or at a flea market, give refinishing a try. It’s a perfect opportunity to try your hand at refinishingMartha Stewart

Removing Paint And Varnish

– Heat Guns For Save You Money When Removing Layers Of Paint- You can remove paint and varnish in a couple of different ways, primarily by sanding and through the use of chemical strippers. If you have just a layer of stain to remove, use stripper, as the finish will come off with ease.  On the other hand if you find multiple layers of paint, consider investing in a heat gun, as it will save you time, effort and money long term.  Heat guns run about $15 dollars on Amazon. Heat guns are especially good at taking off multiple layers of paint and varnish all at once. The heat gun softens the paint causing it to bubble up making it easy to remove with a metal scraper.  Heat guns take a few minutes to warm up, and when they do, simply move the gun along the surface about 2 inches away from the paint.  You never want to simply point the heat gun at one location waiting for the paint to heat up.  This will cause the paint to start smoking, and you may risk burning the wood, as I have done .  The key to working the gun, I have found is to move the gun slowly in one direction, while using your puddy knife slowly behind to remove the paint.  I have found this knife, which has a pointed direction to be useful in ornate carved areas.  In addition the knife isn’t so sharp that it gouges the wood. It makes removing the paint seamless in one smooth motion.

Heatguns Work Better Than Stripper

– Heat Guns Also Can Release Harmful Vapors In The PaintThe disadvantage of using heat is that it can be dangerous because of accidental combustion and harmful vapors. Also, you may still have to sand when you’re done. Neither of these first two methods, mechanical or heat, should be used if any of the paint you’re removing could be 30 years old or more since it’s likely to contain lead.Bob Villa   In this case ALWAYS wear a respirator designed for paint fumes.

– The Basic’s When Buying A Stripper From The Store “Most paint stores and home centers stock dozens of liquid- and paste-type chemical strippers. Basically, the three things you need to know are, 1. All of them will eat through almost any finish.  2. The safer the stripper is, the slower it works. 3. Pastes don’t generally work as fast as liquids, but because they stay wet longer, you have more time to scrape off the sludge.” This Old House

– The Faster Strippers Are Deadly Without Ventilation – ” Methylene Chloride Also Called Dichloromethane, or DCM are in the fastest strippers, but be aware that the fumes are deadly.  In this article, strippers are listed in 4 categories, allowing you to determine what stripper is the safest to use.

Dipping Furniture Can Be Quick But Also Does Harm “Some pros dunk pieces in a vat of chemicals. “This method is the least expensive,” Maxwell says, “but too much chemical exposure isn’t good for the wood, and can damage the veneers and glued joints.” Because of environmental regulations, many dip strippers have switched to flow-over systems, in which the chemicals are circulated through a pump and hosed onto the piece. “Flow-over systems expose the worker to less chemicals, but the furniture is still getting saturated with more stripper than it needs,” Maxwell says. This Old House

– Belt Sanders Can Damage Veneer Wood – “The abrasive surface is a continuous belt of sandpaper that travels at high speeds and consequently offers much less control than the orbital sander. Because of the potential for more damage to the paint or the wood, use of the belt sander (also with a medium grit sandpaper) should be limited to flat surfaces and only skilled operators should be permitted to operate it within a historic preservation project”  -architecture.about.com

Rotary Drill Attachments Shreds Wood -“Rotary drill attachments such as the rotary sanding disc and the rotary wire stripper should be avoided. The disc sander—usually a disc of sandpaper about 5 inches in diameter secured to a rubber based attachment which is in turn connected to an electric drill or other motorized housing—can easily leave visible circular depressions in the wood which are difficult to hide, even with repainting. The rotary wire stripper—clusters of metals wires similarly attached to an electric drill-type unit—can actually shred a wooden surface and is thus to be used exclusively for removing corrosion and paint from metals”-architecture.about.com

– Sandblasting Can Be The Worst Of The Worst Of All Paint Removal Techniques- “undoubtedly most vehemently “not recommended”—sandblasting painted exterior woodwork will indeed remove paint, but at the same time can scar wooden elements beyond recognition. As with rotary wire strippers, sandblasting erodes the soft porous fibers (spring wood) faster than the hard, dense fibers (summer wood), leaving a pitted surface with ridges and valleys. Sandblasting will also erode projecting areas of carvings and moldings before it removes paint from concave areas. Hence, this abrasive method is potentially the most damaging of all possibilities” -architecture.about.com

-Abrasive Pads Work Very Well To Remove Stripper Sludge- “To strip the flat top, Maxwell used a putty knife to remove the thick sludge, scrubbed the surface with coarse steel wool and finished up with a second dose of stripper. Carvings and turnings require special attention. Maxwell prefers using a scrub brush to work the paint out of all the nooks and crannies on the legs, but coarse twine and wood shavings also work well. For some vertical surfaces and difficult finishes, Maxwell will use a paste-type stripper. “These chemicals work when wet,” he says. “Pastes have chemical retarders built in to block evaporation, helping them stay wet longer.” To further limit evaporation, as well as your exposure to the chemicals, consider wrapping the piece in newspaper, waxpaper or polyethylene sheeting and letting the chemical work overnight. If the stripper dries, you can reactivate it by brushing on a little more, and then scraping it all off.” This Old House

DIY Tricks From This Old House

Buy a thrift-store Crock-Pot and fill it with water and 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent. Drop in hinges, knobs, and escutcheons. Heat on medium overnight. By morning, the paint will be falling off the metal. Found on thisoldhouse.com

– Stripper Chemicals Will Affect The Wood To Absorb Stain If Not Washed Off Properly “Once the paint is off, you’ll need to rinse off any remaining stripper; otherwise, the chemical residue will react with the new finish. Commercial stripper rinses are available, but Maxwell recommends denatured alcohol or mineral spirits” This Old House

– Removing Layers Of Paint With Sanders Will Just Cost You More Money “Sanding is a good method only if you have good sanding equipment and are experienced in its use. If you’re trying to remove an old finish by hand sanding or with a common orbital finishing sander, you’ll wear yourself out and waste a lot of sandpaper. On the other hand, belt and disk sanders can remove finishes quickly, but since they’re capable of removing so much material, you must be very careful not to ruin the piece by sanding too deeply” How Stuff Works

-Re-Finishing Floors? You May Need 3x Sanding Pads Than You Plan For-  “The drum sander is going to be harder on your floor,” explains Hilton, adding, “The orbital sander is more forgiving but takes longer.” Also, when at the hardware store, stock up on three to four times more sand paper than you think you need.” Huffington Post

-Re-Finishing Floors- Sanding Grade Tips“Starting out, they used very coarse sandpaper. Sandpaper is measured by grit and identified by numbers from the 20s (very coarse, gritty paper) to the 100s (very fine). Hilton suggests using the 20s to 36-grade sandpaper at the beginning and gradually move toward 100 to 120 grit for the last round of sanding.” Huffington Post

– Power Sanders Can Leave Marks In Wood Which Show Up When Stain Is Applied – “Power sanders do tend to leave swirl marks that will show when you apply the stain,” he says. Maxwell also advises against too much sanding. “If a piece is getting a surface finish, using 100-grit sandpaper is sufficient, This Old House

– How To Replace Missing Trim By Making Your Own Mold“I used Das Clay to make the mold…This step is easy…roll out the clay on a cutting board or another smooth surface. Next I cut the clay into a long strip that would fit over the piece of trim that I was using as the mold.  I sprayed WD 40 on the clay prior to pushing it on the trim so it would be easy to remove…Next  I pressed the clay on the trim strip that I was using for the mold and pushed into the detailed crevasses so it would form the detail.  See pictures at Midwest Cottage and Finds Blog

-How to Remove Wood Veneer from Furniture–  See more on decoradventures.com

-White Ring Stains On Wood ?  “White rings, caused when water vapor penetrates into a finish, can be removed by wiping them gently with a cloth barely dampened with denatured alcohol. Too much alcohol can dull the finish. If that happens, restore a satin sheen by rubbing with extra-fine 0000 steel wool and paste wax. To bring back a gloss finish, use auto polishing compound applied with a rag”  This Old House

The Family Handyman features several articles that trouble shoot problem road blocks:

 Found on pioneercabinetry.net

Found on pioneercabinetry.net

Staining Furniture

– Some Woods Don’t Need To Be Stained “Before you stain any piece of furniture, take a good look at it. If it’s made of cherry, maple, mahogany, rosewood, aged pine, or any of the rare woods, the wood should probably not be stained; these woods look best in their natural color. If the wood is light, with a relatively undistinguished grain, it may benefit considerably from a stain. Beech, birch, poplar, ash, gum, and new pine are usually stained before finishing. Some woods, like oak, are attractive either stained or unstained”- How Stuff Works

– Use A Wood Conditioner First “When you are ready to stain if it is a soft wood that you are working with it is best to apply a pre-stain conditioner first. This will give your final stain a more even look.” voices.yahoo.com

Pre-Stain Conditioner

“Pre-stain conditioner helps avoid blotchiness, and here’s proof. I stained the board on the left without first applying any Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. I also stained a similar board (right) with my Terracotta Water Based Stain  — but AFTER I had applied the Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. See why I like it?”- Bruce Johnson

Bruce Johnson, writes for Minwax, shows us how wood conditioner can fix up the complexion of the wood.  He says  “After sanding this stool with #180-grit sandpaper, I brushed on a coat of Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. It penetrates the grain and helps prevent streaking and blotching when staining. I prefer a synthetic bristle brush that I can clean with just soap and water, then re-use later. After five minutes, wipe off any unabsorbed Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, then let it dry for 15-30 minutes. Afterwards you will notice a slight fuzziness to the wood grain, which is normal. To smooth the wood, simply sand it lightly with #180-grit sandpaper, then wipe off the dust.”

Pre Stain ConditionerMinwax Pre- Stain Conditioner From Amazon

– Kara, from Creations From Kara took a wood staining course from Bruce, a spokesman for Minwax stain.  She shares what she learned in the class.  Her first tip is to determine if you want to use oil or water based products:

“You want to use either water or oil base for all three of your products. So if you are using an oil base stain, also use an oil based wood conditioner and oil base polyurethane and vice versa.Oil base is better for large surfaces, because it dries slower, giving you a more even finish. But water base comes in more colors, so that’s a fun advantage.”

-Kara says, Apply Your Stain 15 Minutes After the Wood ConditionerAfter the wood conditioner has soaked in for about 15 minutes, it’s time to apply the stain”

– Kara says, Let Each Coat Of Stain Dry Before Adding Another Coat “For the best, most even results, let each coat dry completely, then sand with 220 grit sandpaper. Wipe off any dust, then re-coat.”

Ultra SandpaperNorton Sandwet 5-Pack Sandpaper 600 Grit, $7 on Amazon

Check out other brands on  Amazon

 – Kara Suggests- 400 Grit Waterproof Sandpaper “This next step is optional. It is a tip is straight from Bruce. I had never heard of it before. But let me tell you, it will make your wood surface smooth. Like smooth as a baby bum smooth. You take some lemon oil and. . .waterproof sandpaper. Super fine. I used 400 grit. Anyway, apply the lemon oil to the sandpaper liberally. Then use it to lightly sand the wood. When you are finished wiped off any extra oil with a soft cloth. Your surface will now be silky smooth.”

– Don’t Sand Through The Stain Between Coats- “When sanding between coats, it’s easy to rub right through the clear coat, removing the stain below. So sand super lightly after the first coat, just enough to cut down any dust whiskers on the surface. If there are bigger problems—such as runs—deal with them after the second coat when you can sand a bit harder. To repair rubbed-through spots, just apply new stain” Family Handyman

“Once stripped, I sanded, and sanded and sanded. I applied one coat of Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner followed by 2 coats of Minwax dark walnut stain. I applied the stain with a brush and allowed each of the coats to soak in completely and set for 24 hours (each). Between coats I sanded with 400 grit sand paper and rubbed out any excessive tacky-ness using a smooth cloth and acetone. After the last coat of stain was dried I applied three additional coats of clear polyurethane finish (sanding in between coats).Check out their blog for more pictures of this sofa finished- Alger’s Castle Blog

– 1, 2, 3, or 4 Coats?  Test The Stain First To Determine The Finish You Like “Before you begin staining, test the stain on a scrap piece of wood to see how many coats of stain you need. Apply one coat to a small section of the wood, two coats to a second section, three coats to a third section and so on. Allow the stain to dry between coats. Once the stain is dry, you can determine which section looks best.” DIY Network

 -Wait 5 to 15 Minutes After Applying Stain Before Wiping It Off- “When applying the stain, soak up some stain on the end of the brush and apply it using long, even strokes following the direction of the grain of the wood. Use a liberal amount of stain on the wood. You do not want to skip on the amount of stain you use as you will end up with a very uneven appearance when finished. After the stain is applied let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes to give it time to penetrate into the wood. Then take a clean rag and wipe down the stain in the direction of the grain on the wood. If you need to apply an additional coat to darken it up wait 4 to 6 hours before applying it and then follow the same process described. When the wood is stained to the shade you want wait another 8 hours and then apply a coat or two of polyurethane to give your finished wood a shine and protective finish.” voices.yahoo.com

-Stain Is Meant To Be Wiped Off Not Left On The Wood“Attempt to obtain a darker color by allowing any unabsorbed stain to dry on top of the wood, as this will later peel off. Stains are formulated to dry in the wood, not on the wood.” Minwax

Water-Based Stains Drawback“The major drawback of water-based products is that they can raise the grain of the wood. To minimize this possibility, dampen the wood with a moist rag. Allow the wood to dry completely. Finish sand again with fine sandpaper. Repeat the process. This conditions the wood to accept the water-based products with less raised grain”  How Stuff Works

– Apply A Liberal Amount Of Stain, Giving The Wood An Ample Amount To Absorb– Stain doesn’t work like paint.  You apply a lot of stain, and then remove it with a cloth after a set amount of minutes. The longer the stain is left on, the deeper and richer the color will be. For consistent color, use careful timing. Never allow any excess stain to dry on wood surface—it will cause all sorts of adhesion and other issues”  Minwax

– Soft Woods Will Absorb More StainFirst, and most importantly, you need to determine the type of wood that you will be working with. Is it a hardwood or a soft wood? Hardwoods would be woods like cherry or maple. Soft woods would be a wood like pine. It is important to know because soft woods will absorb the stain much easier than a hardwood. So after staining the wood could come off looking rather dark even with one coating of stain.When staining cherry wood or staining maple wood or other hard woods it may be necessary to give them more than one coat of stain to get it to darken up to the shade that you are looking for.”  voices.yahoo.com

-Oil Stains Don’t Work Well On Hardwoods“The penetrating oil stains are very popular; they consist of aniline dyes mixed with turpentine or a similar solvent. They are inexpensive and easy to apply, but they tend to penetrate unevenly. For this reason, they don’t work well on hardwoods and are best used on pine and other softwoods. They can be used for slight darkening on close-grained hardwoods, such as maple”  How Stuff Works

-NGR Stains Work On Hardwoods, Not Softwoods Spirit-base NGR stains don’t fade or bleed, and they produce a more uniform color. Alcohol- and spirit-base NGR stains dry very quickly. Apply them with very quick, even brushing. Repeated thin applications are best to minimize overlaps. One color can be applied directly over another, but too dark a color must be bleached out. NGR stains are recommended for use on hardwoods, especially close-grained woods, where oil stains would not be absorbed properly. They should not be used on softwoods.” How Stuff Works

-Use Quick Strokes With NGR Stains“Use a medium-size new brush to apply NGR stain, flowing it on quickly and evenly along the grain of the wood. Make long, smooth, light strokes, and try not to overlap the strokes. Brush overlap marks will dry twice as dark as the rest of the stain.To minimize overlap marks, it’s better to use several thinned coats of stain than one dark one.” How Stuff Works

– Practice With NGR Stains“NGR stains cannot be adjusted and should not be applied in very humid weather. An unsatisfactory stain must be bleached out” How Stuff Works

– What Is The Difference Between Water and Oil Based Stains?   According to Minwax, oil based products give you a longer working time, which enable you to stain floors, cabinets, paneling and doors without the worry of dried lap marks. Oil based stains also don’t raise the grain of the wood, which eliminates the need for additional sanding.  Oil based stains need to be applied with a natural bristle brush, while water-based products must be applied with a synthetic brush.  Water based stains on the other hand have a low odor.  Water based products also dry faster, enabling you to stain and finish in one day.  They also require only soap and water for clean-up and come in a wider range of vibrant stain colors.

– ALL Stains, Even Gel Stains, Need Wood That Has Pores To Soak Into ” All stains require open pores for adequate absorption into the wood. Applying stain over a finished surface, such as lacquered kitchen cabinets, will not change the color of the wood. Your cloth will simply wipe off the stain blocked from the pores by the existing finish”  Gel Stains are designed to make staining vertical surfaces easier. Its thicker consistency enables it to cling to vertical surfaces without immediately running, giving you more time to apply an even coat of stain.Minwax

– How To Join Two Different Colored Woods“The maple used on this table didn’t quite match. To darken the light boards without overdarkening the adjoining wood, Maxwell made two blends of stain — one taken at full strength straight from the can and a second that he thinned with a splash of mineral spirits. He brushed the full-strength stain on the lighter wood, then switched to the thinned stain to finish the top. “The key to blending the two areas is to always brush from a wet edge,” he says. Once the stain dries, any additional stain will make the wood look like a darker second coat.” This Old House

 Minwax Stains 1Minwax Stains 2

Wood Stain ColorsWater Based White Stains

Picture Credits – Minwax

– Pigmented Oil Stains Are Non-penetrating– The most commonly used furniture stains are based on pigments mixed in oil or turpentine. They consist of pigments mixed in linseed oil, turpentine, mineral spirits, or a similar solvent. They are sometimes also available in gel form. They are inexpensive and easy to apply, but unless the grain of the wood is very open, they usually blur or mask the grain pattern.  These stains usually don’t work well on hardwoods but can be used for slight darkening on close-grained hardwoods, such as maple. The lightening stains are pigmented oil stains. Pigmented oil stains are applied by wiping and are removed after the desired color is achieved. The intensity of the color is controlled by the length of time the stain is left on the wood”  How Stuff Works 

– One- Step Stain Finishes Don’t Soak Into The Wood As Much As Liquid Stains  – There is a big difference between the all-in-one finishes such as the plyshades by Minwax.  The all-in-one products contain the polyurethane, which means it seals your finish in one step.  Polyshades are terrific for faux painting, such as duplicating wood on other surfaces.  I have created many faux walnut woods with this product, because it’s transparent properties.

Dresser Makeovers Using Polyshades By MinwaxThese dressers I created are a great example of what polyshades can do.  This works great with vintage furniture made with cheaper materials.  You can paint your dressers a wood color such as salmon, and create faux wood by using artist oil paint, and finish by spraying polyshades to give it a high gloss wood appearance.

On the other hand, if you have a piece of furniture that IS solid wood, make the extra effort do it right -working through the steps using a liquid stain.  This allows you to add more color before you seal the wood.  You can then buff, apply more stain, buff more and add your final sealing coat.    Polyshades on the other hand, can look like layers of transparent stain, it won’t show off the wood as well as liquid stains.  The main difference being that liquid stains absorb into the wood, where was Polyshades mostly sit on the surface.

The color and finish are applied to the piece at the same time, eliminating several steps and possibly several hours of work. It can be more difficult to achieve a very good finish with these products. The finish itself is tinted so the color lies on top of the wood instead of being absorbed into it like penetrating stain. Thicker areas of finish will therefore have more color than thinner areas. Brush marks against the grain or other surface imperfections will be more evident in the final finish. Also, these finishes are less transparent and may obscure desirable grain characteristics.” Refinish Wood Furniture – Lowe’s

Polyshades

Minwax Polyshades Spray on Amazon

Minwax® PolyShades® Aerosol combines beautiful stain and polyurethane in one simple step, providing rich color and lasting protection while enhancing the wood grain. Minwax® PolyShades® Aerosol also allows you to easily change the color of your currently stained or varnished wood without stripping.

Polyshades Spray TIPS-  Shake can vigorously for 2 minutes. Shake for 10 seconds occasionally during use.  Protect adjacent areas from over-spray by laying down paint drop cloths. Hold can 8″-10″ from surface. Depress button fully and spray in an even sweeping motion. Always begin and end each pass off the surface to prevent blotches. Apply a THIN coat to lightly seal the wood. Do not attempt to achieve complete color coverage with this first light coat. Wait 5-10 minutes before applying the next coat. Be careful not to overapply to avoid runs and sags. To deepen the color, allow PolyShades® to dry at least 6 hours (dry time may be extended due to high humidity, low temperatures, and inadequate ventilation or if the coat applied is too thick). Rub surface lightly with fine steel wool (grade 000 and finer), remove all dust, and apply the next coat. Repeat if necessary. After final coat, allow 24 hours before normal use.  Other helpful tips, keep even distance from surface while spraying, and if a run occurs, brush it out with a clean bristle brush immediately. Do not attempt to wipe it off with a rag.

Polyshades Can Transform Faux Wood Cabinets– Kitchen cabinets which are made with mdf wood, would be a great project to use with Polyshades.  In this case, you cannot sand down your cabinets.  We have all seen these cabinets, – the sides of the cabinets look like real wood, but when you inspect them closely, they are finished with a sheet of contact paper that only looks like wood.  The cabinet doors are wood, but the sides of the cabinets are fake.  So in one sense the home owner’s only option is to paint.  However, with polyshades, you could dilute the formula with mineral spirits,and spray on light coats of finish with a paint spray gun. OR, as you see above, they now have polyshades in a spray.  This cuts out the extra time spending cleaning your spray gun.  For the very best finish, remove your cabinets, and lay them down flat, allowing the solution to not run, and and ruin your cabinets with drip marks.  This would be an ideal project for the garage, where the dust could be controlled.  Polyshades could give you the wood look you are after,even when you are working with faux wood. When attempting this finish use 600 grit sandpaper between coats.  Thinner coats are better than thicker ones. 

Rachel From Thrifty Inspirations Blog Says Invest In A Purdy Brush“When it comes to paintbrushes… You really DO get what you pay for. Invest in the best. Purdy is my brand of choice. I use them for everything and I have never been disappointed. I used this very same brush to prime my kitchen cabinets. They are good for everything and last forever.You will need a natural bristle/fiber brush to use PolyShades. Why? Because it’s oil based and if you use synthetic brushes with oil based products your brush will go limp and get all soggy and floppy. That flick you do (naturally) to minimize brush strokes wont exist and you’ll have a big mess. Natural bristles for PolyShades!”

Figured maple with dye stain. Three different-colored dyes are used to get this effect, none of which obscure the natural figure in the wood. The topcoat is shellac.

Rob Yagid wrote a terrific article on Fine Home Building explaining the difference Pigment Stains, and Dye Stains.  Pigment stains should be thought of thinned paint.  “They come as either liquids or gels. These stains have large particles that don’t penetrate wood well and tend to rest on its surface, highlighting the wood’s texture and grain contrast, but masking its natural tones and figure”    Pigment stains are considered much easier to apply than dye, and are also considered colorfast, so it won’t fade over time.   The drawback to pigment stains is they won’t color the wood as great as dye does.

Dye Stains Are Tricky To Work With And Are Often Used By Professionals –  “Dyes come as either a factory-mixed product or as a powder that needs to be dissolved in alcohol, oil, or water”

“Many people shy away from wood dye because it’s easy to create a streaky, uneven surface when you don’t have experience with the product. However, dye penetrates wood more deeply than pigment stains, colors wood more evenly, and dries more clearly, so it renders the natural character of wood more accurately”  The added benefit of using dye stains is they tend to highlight the grain and makes wood pop.  Dye stains help to distinguish character of different wood species better than pigment stains.  On the down side, the color can fade in the sunlight” Fine Home Building

Styles Of Wood, and What Stain Works Best On What- Taken From Minwax

  • Ash and Chestnut and Oak– Oak is a hardwood, which has a strong grain pattern and large, open pores that absorb stain readily. For that reason, oak is attractive with nearly any color of stain. It does not tend to turn blotchy. Ash and Chestnut should be stained just like oak.
  • Alder and Aspen are two hardwoods have become the go to woods for the  unfinished furniture industry.  They are lightweight and affordable.  Unfortunately, they absorb stains unevenly. To help reduce blotchiness first apply  wood conditioner.
  • Birch- Birch is less expensive than maple, but just as hard as maple.  It does not absorb stain evenly and should not be stained with dark colored stains.
  • Mahogany, Rosewood and Ipe Woods– these American hardwoods are noted for their dark, rich colors and their high levels of natural oils. In most instances, additional staining is not necessary. When staining always use a oil-based stain, to insure compatibility with the natural oils in these woods.
  • Maple is an hard, extremely dense, tight-pored wood that does not absorb much stain. Unlike oak and ash, the grain pattern of maple is uneven, causing it to absorb stains in varying degrees. Then, it is advisable to stain maple with light to medium colored stains.
  • Pine, Fir and Cedar woods are popular softwoods.  These woods are beautiful when finished naturally or with a light application of stain. Problems can arise when darker stains are applied, as all three woods absorb stain unevenly, especially around knots and blemishes. Always select light to medium colors.
  • Poplar has a grain pattern similar to prized cherry, but lacks the same reddish hue. When stained with Cherry, Red Mahogany or other colors containing red dyes and pigments, less expensive poplar can be made to look very much like cherry.
  • Cherry as a reddish hue that reduces the need to stain this popular hardwood. Unlike oak and ash, cherry has a subtle grain pattern and small pores which do not absorb as much stain.  This makes it very difficult to make any drastic changes in its natural color.   Find out more on Minwax

– Work With A Flat Surface- “To prevent drip marks and uneven color, turn the piece of furniture so that the surface being stained is always horizontal. If you’re working on a large piece and this isn’t practical, start at the bottom and work up. Always work quickly, applying stain smoothly and evenly over the entire surface” How Stuff Works 

-Stain Too Dark? “If the wood is too dark, soak a clean cloth in turpentine or mineral spirits and rub the wood firmly and evenly along the grain. This will lighten the stain but not remove it. If part of the grain is too dark, wrap a cloth around your index finger, dip it into turpentine or mineral spirits, and lightly rub the grain you want lightened. If part of the grain is too light, use an artists’ brush to carefully apply more stain just to the grain.” How Stuff Works 

– Varnish Finishes Are The Best For Wood “Varnish provides a clear finish, but it darkens the wood slightly. It is available in high-gloss, semigloss or satin, and matte or flat surface finishes.” How Stuff Works 

-Water Based Finishes Tend To Cloud After Several CoatsWater-base varnishes offer similar results without the cleanup hassle and toxicity. Most dry clear to the touch in 15 to 30 minutes. They don’t crack, chip, or bubble, and they are water- and alcohol-resistant. Best of all, these varnishes do not yellow. However, when applied in several coats, the finish might begin to cloud, depending on the wood.  How Stuff Works 
 
– Shellac Produces White Rings With Water Or Alcohol” Shellac is easily damaged and dissolves in both water and alcohol. White rings are usually a problem. Shellac cannot be applied in very humid weather because humidity turns it white. Shellac finishes absorb moisture and sometimes turn hazy or white with age. Repairs are easy, but frequent retouching is necessary” How Stuff Works 
 
– Staining Deck Wood?- Finish 3 Boards End To End At A Time- “To eliminate lap marks when applying stain to a deck floor, stain 3 to 4 boards at a time only—end to end—for an even application and a uniform look.”- Tom Ferry, Fineline Painting
Large 18 ft Burl Mahogany Chippendale Dining Table www.mahoganyandmore.com
Large 18 ft Burl Mahogany Chippendale Dining Table www.mahoganyandmore.com
 
– Call A Professional For Your Ornate Carved Antique Furniture – “Restoring wood furniture can be time-consuming and challenging, especially ornate carvings or intricately shaped features like Barley twist legs on a table. Mistakes made to ornate work can mean damage to the piece or compromising its design and value. According to Mitchell Kohanek with The National Institute of Wood Finishing, accurate restoration involves the understanding of organic chemistry and a mastery of wood-working and wood-finishing skills. It takes Kohanek nine months to prepare someone for a profession in the finishing of wood.” How Stuff Works
 
– Call A Professional For Museum Quality Pieces“Museum-quality items should always be restored by a professional. By refinishing common antiques at home, you risk making a mistake that can lower its value, damage the patina that gives it an old look and proves its age, overdo the restoration by replacing more than necessary, or harm the wood’s aging process or finish. If you don’t know what to look for, you can sand or scrape away desirable marks of age like small, concave grooves created by jack planes used a century ago or numbers chiseled into items in a furniture set to mark their order.”No inexperienced person should try to restore antique furniture. Period,” says Clinton Howell, a member of the National Antique and Art Dealers Association of America” How Stuff Works
 
Clear Paint Products

Varathane Matte Polyurethane – Home Depot –  This is a matte finish, which is often not sold in the stores.  This formula is fast drying and allows additional coats to be applied after just 2 hours.  It is a water-based formula that delivers maximum performance, scratch and stain resistance and cleans up easily with soap and water. Matte sheen adds a flat, non-reflective finish to the wood’s surface. Coverage up to 40 sq. ft. for half pints and 150 for quarts

DecoArt Americana Decor Ultra Matte Varnish – Home Depot -Non-yellowing ultra matte finish that will preserve the matte quality of Americana decor Chalky Finish paints 

OUTSIDE Clear Coat Options Water Based Matte Finishes That Won’t Yellow- Old Master

Clear Paint Products

“For water-based poly, a synthetic brush (such as nylon or polyester) is best. For oil-based poly, use a natural-bristle brush. In either case, plan to spend a few dollars extra for a good-quality brush.”
 
Defthane Polyurethane  Interior Satin Based Clear Coat SATIN- Amazon  Outlasts varnish and shellac, Stands up to water, alcohol and common household chemicals “Oil based polyurethane formulated for hard use areas. Excellent for interior and exterior wood surfaces including floors, doors, furniture cabinets and marine applications above the water line. Formulated for hard use areas. Excellent for interior and exterior wood surfaces including floors, doors, furniture cabinets and marine applications above the water line”

Rust OleumVarathane Premium Oil-Based Clear Floor Finish-  Amazon “The oil based choice for hardwood flooring. Has superior durability, abrasion resistance, and scuff and mar resistance. Resists stains and household chemicals. Has excellent flow and is self leveling. Easy to apply. Dries fast for same day recoating. Clean up with paint thinner/mineral spirits. Covers up to 500 sq. ft. per gallon”

Clear Paint and Sanding Products

Water-based Polyurethane- Before applying the finish, wipe down the project with a damp cloth, and allow the wood to dry.  Then sand to remove any raised grain.  Use a water based poly with a water-based stain. If you’ve never used water-based polyurethane before, don’t be set off by the white, milky color of the product when it is applied.  It will quickly dry to a completely transparent clear. Unlike solvent-based finishes, it won’t tint the wood yellow or amber.

Water based Polycrylic- Satin Amazon–  Non Yellowing clear coat that can be used over white stains, white paint, and it won’t yellow.  Dilute it with water, this product is one of the best water based clear coats out there. 

Buy Large Quantities Of Sanding Pads On Amazon “Mirka 8-Hole 100 Grit Dustless Hook & Loop Sanding Discs – 50 Pack”

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