Need help blending light and dark poplar and maple

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Forum topic by ErsatzTom posted 12-27-2007 06:38 PM 2498 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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104 posts in 4073 days

12-27-2007 06:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing

I made an easel for my daughter (from the NYW plan) and it is all done except for the finishing. The problem is that when I started the project my wife insisted that it should be painted. Since it was going to be painted, I made it mostly out of poplar I already had in the shop but also used a couple of scraps of maple when I ran out of poplar. When I finished the easel, however, my wife decided that she liked it better natural (honestly, I think she was almost as surprised that I successfully got it built as I was). It doesn’t have to be perfect or anything but I think that the especially dark green areas are going to stand out too much. Does anyone have any ideas about the best way to deal with this? Thanks!


-- Tom, Southwest Florida

21 replies so far

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4673 days

#1 posted 12-27-2007 07:03 PM

Try this trick Tom:

Figure out what color you want the final project to be. Get some wood stain of that color made for you, or off the shelf. I like Sherwin Williams stain, and they can mix it to whatever I want.

Then, I add up to 6 ounces of the stain color to my gallon of clear finish. I like lacquer, but it would probably work on something else like poly if you like that stuff.

Stir in the stain, and apply the finish as usual. The more coats you apply, the more wood color will start to look like your planned stained color.

I have done this process to make the color consistent where wood grains are not. It is sort of like painting the wood, only with a paint that isn’t very opaque. The more coats you spray on, the more it builds and covers the grain and natural coloring of the wood. This process lets the wood grain show through, and also makes the project look like wood finish, not a painted project. I do this method with a spray gun. I don’t know if it would work with a brush, or a rag, but I sort of doubt it.

I was able to use this process successfully on a birch project this fall. Here is a link to the blog where I described the process of yellowing the finish to match the house’s existing finish using this technique:

I was able to use the yellowed lacquer to blend out the various colors of the birch, to a consistent finish.

Hope this gives you some ideas,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4142 days

#2 posted 12-27-2007 07:39 PM

Mark is right – this does work with poly, but keep it down to a few ounces per gallon. I spray almost everything, so I can’t say whether it will work with a brush, but I don’t know why not.

Wood dye might work, too, but I wouldn’t recommend that a beginning woodworker mess with dies (dies? dyes? dice? awww, how do you pluralize that word??).

-- -- --

View SPalm's profile


5327 posts in 4149 days

#3 posted 12-27-2007 08:19 PM

As the others just mentioned, stain mixed in with the poly will cover most any inherent wood color. You can buy small premixed cans of it at the big box stores.

I don’t think it will look as good for other projects as doing separate coats, but in this case it will, as poplar does not stain so pretty.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View ErsatzTom's profile


104 posts in 4073 days

#4 posted 12-27-2007 09:07 PM

Thanks for your replies! In my experimenting, I’ve tried some PolyShade I had hanging around which I believe is pretty much what you are talking about. It did a pretty good job of blending the lighter colored poplar and the maple but nothing that I’ve put on the darker green pieces has had much impact on its general shade. It still looks green, but maybe a shade darker. I don’t care if it is a little green, but it is REALLY green. I was thinking about trying to bleach the darkest areas but it seems like a fairly advanced topic and most of the advice I’ve seen on the subject discourages its use.

The largest single piece that is dark green is actually a drawer front so I think I’ll simply remake that since it should take all of 5 minutes. But there are other places where the dark woods is one part of a fairly complicated (for me) piece.

Thanks again for your help!!!

-- Tom, Southwest Florida

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4083 days

#5 posted 12-28-2007 12:58 AM

Dyes would be correct.

It’s my understaning the the green will fade to brown with time. I know of no poplar that ever keeps its color. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have the poplar stay green and purple. But it never does.

It won’t lighten any, but, the colors will fade to various shades of brown.

Using a UV inhibiting finish would, of course, slow the process.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View ErsatzTom's profile


104 posts in 4073 days

#6 posted 12-28-2007 01:15 AM

Would intentionally exposing the wood to UV light speed the process? I could put them out in the sun for a couple of days, or I also have some UV bulbs for curing liquid polymer resin stamps.

-- Tom, Southwest Florida

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 4085 days

#7 posted 12-28-2007 01:19 AM

In the summer, a couple hours is all it takes to turn the green to brown. in the Winter, a little longer.

-- Thuan

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4258 days

#8 posted 12-28-2007 04:55 AM

Lets see it.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View ErsatzTom's profile


104 posts in 4073 days

#9 posted 12-28-2007 10:30 AM

Well, it is currently disassembled for finishing. I did have it all put together when I let my wife take a look at it. Here is a shot of all the pieces:

Easel before finish

Here are a couple of shots that highlight the issues. The first one shows the top of the leg assembly. The two smaller end caps are made from maple scraps I had lying around. The side closest to the camera is a greenish (but too dark) piece of poplar while the side behind it really doesn’t have any green in it at all. The second shot shows a side of the tray assembly where you can see that the height extension piece is much darker than the main side piece and the drawer support back has some pretty dark areas as well. Topping it off, I didn’t really pay much attention to the color of the bungs I was putting in. Hey, I was going to paint this thing.

Easel before finish

Easel before finish

I’m still doing a little experimenting. I’m sort of leaning to just putting a clear finish on it and let it be, warts and all.

-- Tom, Southwest Florida

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4355 days

#10 posted 12-28-2007 01:58 PM

Toads have warts.
Frogs turn into princes.

As this is for your princess I’d get rid of the warts otherwise Daddy is not gong to be happy.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4258 days

#11 posted 12-28-2007 03:36 PM

Excellent construction here. You had a great idea to use poplar for a painted finish as it definately don’t stain well at all. I’d stick to that original plan and try and explain to the wife why you chose poplar. You can also incorporate a stained wood (edgeing) to a painted box. The contrast really looks good.

Your daughter is waiting to use this Dad. Gotta get it done.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View doyoulikegumwood's profile


384 posts in 4260 days

#12 posted 12-28-2007 05:27 PM

ok tom i dont know if anyone has added this im a bit to lazy today to read all the poasts but heres what i do to combat the mean greenie as i like to call it i do a 4 part finish first i pick a color stain i buy it in both normal staine and in a gel youll need shallac and poly first off use the normal stain leting it sit a touch longer on popler the let it dry and put on two coats of shallac let it dry then use the gel stain to even out the color let it dry then poly the heck out of it it takes a while but i love the way finishes turn out when dun this way i hope this helps

-- I buy tools so i can make more money,so ican buy more tools so I can work more, to make more money, so I can buy more tool, so I can work more

View ErsatzTom's profile


104 posts in 4073 days

#13 posted 12-28-2007 05:51 PM

Well, last night I experimented a little more. I took a scrap piece of poplar that was greenish (not the darkest or lightest I have) and left it overnight on top of some UV bulbs with half the surface covered by duct tape. Here is a photo of what I got (I had to play with the tint and exposure to get it to match the actual piece closely):

Poplar uv exposure test

It certainly turn much more brown and maybe a little darker too? If I could get it that shade but lighten it up a bit I might be in business.

-- Tom, Southwest Florida

View ErsatzTom's profile


104 posts in 4073 days

#14 posted 12-28-2007 05:53 PM

doyoulikegumwood: That sounds really interesting! I haven’t used either shellac or gel stain so it should be fun to give it a try. Thanks!

-- Tom, Southwest Florida

View Jim Boisvert's profile

Jim Boisvert

6 posts in 4091 days

#15 posted 01-04-2008 06:30 AM

Use a method that has been around since the dark ages (well, a long time anyway). Seal the wood with a good quality sealer, sand with 300 grit when dry then apply the stain. If the light areas still don’t quite match the dark, apply another coat of sealer, sand and restain the light areas. Then proceed to final finish. I always seal woods like maple and pine before staining to prevent blotchy areas. If you have the means, I have had great success mixing the final finish product with equal parts of the stain and spraying the light areas with a automotive touch up spray gun. When satisfied, apply a couply more coats of clear and your on your way.

-- Jim, Alberta Canada

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