Staining Questions

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Forum topic by RickL posted 03-01-2008 03:01 AM 1263 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View RickL's profile


253 posts in 4448 days

03-01-2008 03:01 AM

Youngest son sent a plan of an entertainment cabinet, the plasma screen will sit on top and the components behind frosted glass doors, nickel legs/feet and hardware, etc. What D-I-L wants is “black” wood. I believe she wants to see the grain of the wood so that rules out laminate, and I’m sure she wants a deep black. So:

What wood is suggested for the cabinet? Maple?

What stain to use? Store bought or a mix?

Appreciate the help, Rick

-- Rick, Union,KY

12 replies so far

View Bill Butler's profile

Bill Butler

74 posts in 4270 days

#1 posted 03-01-2008 03:33 AM

I was just looking at a project on LJ earlier today described as an ebony bookcase. Look for it, he gives the stain recipie, which includes Speedball India Ink.

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4274 days

#2 posted 03-01-2008 03:38 AM

Maple with ebony stain looks nice. The amount of grain showing through depends on the number of coats and whether or not you seal prior to staining.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Justin's profile


36 posts in 4264 days

#3 posted 03-01-2008 04:36 AM

I think I have seen the look your D I L is looking for before. The cabinet I seen looked to be Oak or a Oak like grained wood under the paint.


View GunnyKip's profile


2 posts in 4644 days

#4 posted 03-01-2008 04:44 AM

Just finished one like that last year. Used birch ply instead of maple because it doesn’t blotch as bad. Use generals water based black stain, three coats and top coat with three coats of generals oil/urethane blend. Turned out real well. The trick for me was using the birch instead of the maple. Went a lot faster. Good luck

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4329 days

#5 posted 03-01-2008 05:50 AM

One note on the birch ply is that it is almost indistinguishable from maple and is a lot cheaper.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View jcees's profile


1077 posts in 4306 days

#6 posted 03-01-2008 05:56 AM

If she wants grain, think—ring porous. Oaks, mahogany, ash, you get the picture. Leave the pores open. Your finishing schedule might proceed as follows: Stop hand sanding at 180 grit. Dye the wood, remove nibs, dye again, seal w/shellac, stain using a pigment in oil w/poly blend, Minwax et al or a possibly a gel varnish blend. Allow to dry completely. From here you have to decide whether you want soft sheen or shiny. Soft sheen is easiest using pigmented wax, Black Bison et al applied with 0000 steel wool and buffed by hand. For a higher luster you can buff out the wax with a soft furniture brush not unlike the kind your dad used on his shoes. Simple and easy to maintain, viola!

The idea behind dyeing first is to subdue the wood’s own color, to take any tint or tinge and make it a shade of gray. Two heavy coats should be enough if your mix is strong. India ink works, wood dyes and NGR stains work too. Don’t be tempted to stop after applying the shellac sealer. The color will deepen dramatically from muddy gray to near black. The final staining with a pigment in oil/varnish blend will really settle any further arguments over whether your piece can be called black. Give it a couple of full strength coats at least. Go by the directions. The dark pigmented wax adds another dimension to the finish as well as a bit of protection but it can be forgone. Hope this helps.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View RickL's profile


253 posts in 4448 days

#7 posted 03-01-2008 01:34 PM

Thanks to everyone. all good advice. The comment by JC made me grin, ”not unlike the kind your dad used on his shoes” JC believe it or not I still have the brush I had in the Air Force back in the late 60’s and while I don’t spit shine my shoes anymore, I still use it :) Now there is a lost art! Appreciate the help and will post pictures when the project is completed and delivered to Cincinnati.

-- Rick, Union,KY

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4251 days

#8 posted 03-01-2008 04:25 PM

One other thing you might want to consider, the color fastness of the dye you use. Water based dyes hold their color a little longer than oils or alcohols. I use the Arti brand aniline dyes. You can get them from Highland Hardware . I did a black maple table for a client using this and followed with tung oil for a sealer and several coats of varnish on that. The grain still shows through and you can get it as black as you want. Plywood comes in all the flavors, so just pick out how much grain you want to see.

View jcees's profile


1077 posts in 4306 days

#9 posted 03-01-2008 04:55 PM


I still have the brush my father used. And I have to admit, it sees more action on furniture than shoes. My dad was a trucker with shiney shoes. He was a standout amongst his peers, pressed shirts and pants and polished work shoes EVERYDAY! I have only to crack open the shoe shine box he left and catch the aroma of Kiwi shoe polish and man, I can conjure many of those small moments of him taking care of business while watching All In The Family or earlier still, the Red Skelton show. Whew, I’m showing my age here.

Ditto on the Arti dyes, good stuff. Keep us posted on the finishing. Take pics of the process along with any discoveries you might make along the way. Good luck, mon ami.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4306 days

#10 posted 03-01-2008 06:13 PM

I would use inexpensive wood like birch ply, band it in poplar and then go with a good dye. No sense wasting the fancy figured woods when you plan to go black.

-- making sawdust....

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4725 days

#11 posted 03-01-2008 07:23 PM

Well, I gotta tell you, there is an easier way depending on what she wants. Plain old black enamel paint over oak/oak plywood really highlights the grain and gives the look a lot of the younger females seem to like these days. (my daughter included). I recommend semi-gloss, but you could ask her how shiny she wants it.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4806 days

#12 posted 03-01-2008 07:35 PM

It’s hard to do a good job staining maple.

It depends on the style for wood choice, possibly Mahogany, birch, cherry, Or oak.

Maple looks best with a clear finish.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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