Hard Maple and Finishing

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Forum topic by bruc101 posted 11-05-2009 06:27 AM 15766 views 3 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1384 posts in 4461 days

11-05-2009 06:27 AM

I need some advice from some of you that have experience finishing hard maple. I’ve work very little with hard maple in all my years in the business. I have a reg customer that brought me a dining room table and 6 chairs today made out of hard maple and was made in the early 50’s. She wants the base and chairs painted with a museum quality finish and the top stained, or dyed a darker color. Sorta made me sick to hear this because it’s a beautiful dining set but she is the customer and I’ve built this lady several kitchens and she has never failed me.
Any help before I do this would be greatly appreciated.


-- Bruce Free Plans

11 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


118145 posts in 4496 days

#1 posted 11-05-2009 06:52 AM

Get Charles Neils dvd “finishing a-z “it covers tons of finishing. And if you ask they might put a rush on it .It’s worht the money 10 times over.


View SwedishIron's profile


142 posts in 4560 days

#2 posted 11-05-2009 07:57 AM

I’m currently building a curly hard maple cupboard/hutch and I’ve decided upon using water soluble Transtint Dark Vintage Maple dye. Here is a picture of my sample board:

Curly Hard Maple Finishing Sample

Here is a quick overview of the process I used.. from Robert L. Millards Chest on Frame Article
Prepped the board sanding to 320. Next I used distilled water to raise the grain a number of times, lightly sanded w/ 400 wet/dry sandpaper after completely dry. I applied the dye w/ a link free cotton rag. After it dried completely I lightly sanded it w/ 600 w/d sandpaper. Applied BLO, two coats.. lightly sanding w/ 600 grit w/d sandpaper after dry. Finished w/ shellac and rubbed down w/ mineral spirits and 0000 steel wool.

If interested, the article goes into great detail.. FYI, my dye ratio was 30 drops to 6 oz. of distilled water.

-- Scott, Colorado

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8392 posts in 4294 days

#3 posted 11-05-2009 11:52 AM

Maple doesn’t stain very well without some sealers to help the stain cover more evenly. I know that the Minwax Polyshades isn’t overly well thought of, but I’ve some success with it on existing furniture piece and it might be a reasonable solution for the top. Good luck!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View mski's profile


442 posts in 4899 days

#4 posted 11-05-2009 02:22 PM

I use 1 good coat of oil/varnish to bring the grain out then wipe on poly, I like gloss on maple


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42 posts in 4631 days

#5 posted 11-05-2009 02:37 PM

You might go to the Wood Magazine “Finishing Forum” and pose this question to Steve Mickley (the Forum Host). He will give you excellent suggestions on what to do.

-- Roger1

View NathanAllen's profile


376 posts in 4063 days

#6 posted 11-05-2009 06:42 PM

I also remember a good series on thewoodwhisperer about staining maple.

My technique:
Use a dewaxed shellac, cut to around 1lb for the stain sealer.
Dyes, TransTint is my favorite for maple. They make a medium brown and a dark brown. Depending on the color of stain she wants you may need yellow/red to even the color. You can spray it on dry with alochol base or use a water based wipe-on. Spraying is not for the faint of heart since keeping a wet edge with alochol is difficult

Move up the color scale, don’t expect maple to take dye in a single session. Keep working the color up.

TT dye is remarkably flat in color when dry. Add a clear or tinted dewaxed shellac layer to bring it to final color/add depth. Be very gentle, since the dye likes to move if you’re rubbing to hard.

Finish with Waterlox, lots of thin layers.

Don’t rely too much on the shellac layer for coloring, just toning the warmth of the top.

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 4466 days

#7 posted 11-05-2009 07:03 PM

Hey, just my 2 cents. I have worked with hard maple a lot. Don’t like to though. I have used transtint dyes a lot also, works well with Maple but I don’t like using transtint dyes. If you run out, then you need to try and remix more and hope you have enough transtint dye on hand or you will have to run to woodcraft or order more online. I always mixed transtint 50/50 water and denatured alcohol. I always tended to run out, and have even mixed a second batch that turned out just a shade different than the original batch. To me it was a pain. Not a cheap route either at around 19.00 for 2 ounces.

I love simple does it. I have had great success with staining maple. I always will sand my maple with 120 grit and no higher than that. The grain is already tight and going higher will close the grain further, reducing the ability to get good stain penetration. Careful with your sanding technique, it really needs to be flawless, if you leave sanding marks they will jump out at you after you apply the stain. When using ROS sometimes you might get swirl sanding marks and so forth. Your sanding has to be even and perfect throughout. I then have my customer pick out a sherwood stain color of their choice. I apply the stain with spray or brush or rag, whichever is most efficient at the time. Then I personally finish it off with a lacquer process, but beyond getting an even stain color you could choose to finish with whatever method suites you fancy. I personally do not like poly because I don’t like the high gloss and I don’t like the slow dry times. However I have sprayed on poly in the past for customers desiring a high gloss look.

As mentioned before, stain will only go so dark, beyond that you will have to look at dyes. If you look at my webpage at the ‘media cabinets’ under products page, you will see maple cabinets finished using transtint. Looking under ‘cabinet refacing’ you will see some maple finished with a sherwood stain. Also you can look at the ‘wall unit entertainment center’, that piece is maple and was stained expresso, but looks simply black, using transtint dyes.

Have fun!

-- .

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 4119 days

#8 posted 11-05-2009 08:12 PM

Depending on how dark she wants to go, you are going to have to use an aniline dye. Also, the finish that is on the set now can also cause you headaches. Most furniture pieces are now being coated with catalytic varnishes, which is a whole other issue. Also, a real good respirator should be used with aniline dyes during mixing and application.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View bruc101's profile


1384 posts in 4461 days

#9 posted 11-06-2009 07:10 AM

Thanks guys for all your repsonses. I’ve got some time on this and she brought me a coffee table made by the same company and purchased at the same time. It had been in storage for about 20 years, nothing special so we’re going to use it to practice on. She’s got some really nice hard maple furniture including a buffet and china cabinet that matches this table and can’t imagine why she wants to change the table. I asked and she made the comment, because I want it, She’s 82 years old and known me all of my life so I sho not argue with her. lol
I think I”m going to have to dye the table top to get the color she wants and I’ll do plenty of testing before I sock it to the table top. I’ll post some pics of it when I get started on it. Once again, thanks for all you recommendations and I will consider each and everyone of them

-- Bruce Free Plans

View LesB's profile


2677 posts in 4362 days

#10 posted 11-06-2009 08:19 AM

Have you thought about using varathane (water base) and adding the color to it. Seal the Maple and then top coat with the colored (stained) varathane. You can build up coats to get the darkness you need and then clear coat that to protect it.

-- Les B, Oregon

View eastside's profile


97 posts in 4180 days

#11 posted 11-07-2009 02:12 AM

Hay Nathan, how do you apply the waterlox? Brush or rag? Do you wipe it off to leave a thin coat.

-- Mike, Westport MA.

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