Staining Figured Soft Maple

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by 2013dbusko posted 01-16-2017 01:54 PM 959 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 2013dbusko's profile


4 posts in 1410 days

01-16-2017 01:54 PM

Hello fellow woodworkers. I have recently finished gluing up a table top made out of soft maple. It is 3.5ft by 5ft. The figure in the grain pattern isn’t very aggressive but it will still be beautiful once I apply finish. I want to stain it a darker color, about a medium brown. I already tried to stain it (or “pop-the-grain” as they say) once using Transtint dye and Bullseye shellac with a brush. It turned out terrible. It was incredibly blotchy because the finish would absorb to fast before I could cover the whole table. I found plenty of info on how to pop-the-grain on small pieces of maple but no advice about on how to do it with a large piece. Has anyone had success with staining a large piece of figured maple? I have already used a card scraper to take off the coat that didn’t turn out. Would spraying the finish be my best bet? Or would a differant type of finish work better? Thank you all

-- Art is when an object imparts an emotion unto you.

6 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


5889 posts in 3266 days

#1 posted 01-16-2017 02:33 PM

Use a pre-stain conditioner like Charles Neil sells, it is the best blotch control I’m aware of. You should be working out your finishing schedule on scraps before doing anything on the table.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1663 days

#2 posted 01-16-2017 03:04 PM

I just went through the same difficulty with dye and Maple. First, I found that the Charles Neil blotch controller worked real well. Then, after much testing of this dye blend and that dye blend. I finally found a combo I really liked. After the blotch controller was applied and dried, I used a Coffee Brown dye (Transtint or JE Moser. I forget) and followed that with JE Moser’s Dark Wine Cherry that had some Transtint Dark Walnut mixed with it. It came out really nice, being dark but not too dark.

View OSU55's profile


2658 posts in 2904 days

#3 posted 01-16-2017 04:37 PM

Info on blotch control. There are 2 separate aspects to grain pop. One is chatoyance, getting a cat’s eye ot halographic “glow” in raking light. Shellac, oil based varnishes, and lacquer can all do it. No water based product except Target’s WR4000 oil emulsion stain base can do it. The 2nd aspect is color gradient. This can be achieved with separate colors, applying a dark color, sanding back leaving some of the color, then applying a lighter color.

It sounds like you want to do the 1st. There are many ways to do this. You dont say what your topcoat will be or how you will apply it. Shellac needs to be sprayed on a large surface because of the short open time. If applying by hand you need a dye base with some binder and a long open time. Knowing your topcoat will help to guide you. As others said test the entire finish schedule on scrap before proceeding.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6231 posts in 3728 days

#4 posted 01-16-2017 05:09 PM

On your first trial, was the dye in water or alcohol?
I always use water if I am going to dye a project, because it is slower drying. Sure you have to scuff the raised grain, but sometimes it’s worth it.

If you want to use a pre-stain conditioner… Bullseye Seal Coat thinned 50/50 with denatured alcohol works great. Thinner mixtures will let you get a darker color, and thicker mixtures will give you more protection against blotching. Brush it on and scuff sand once it’s dry.
Then you can dye or stain and you’ll be amazed how evenly it applies.

As always – Sample Boards! Sand, stain and topcoat them just as you plan to do with the real project.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View 2013dbusko's profile


4 posts in 1410 days

#5 posted 01-26-2017 03:56 AM

Thanks for the advice! I did test a small section on a piece of scrap to see if I liked the color but since it was only a small section i didnt foresee the issue with the blotching. The dye was mixed with shellac which I believe is always alcohol based. I really appreciate all the advice since I am still a novice. I just bought a used, but nice, sprayer from a friend and i think i am going to be using the Charles Neil Blotch control first then used a light mix of coffee color dye in a water based finish then finish it with a top coat. Any more advice on a good top coat that can withstand lots of wear but still look beautiful. Thanks again for the advice!

-- Art is when an object imparts an emotion unto you.

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1663 days

#6 posted 01-26-2017 02:33 PM

I used Waterlox Satin over the dye on that toy chest I made. It seems to be a fairly tough finish, once it’s cured. I worked my tail off to make that toy chest as nice as my skills would allow, and apply a great finish. It came out real nice. We drove from central Texas to Sewanee, TN to deliver it, and the little girl I made it for immediately climbed on top of it and was dancing and laughing. I almost fainted. The Waterlox showed no signs of being damaged.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics