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Making Poplar look like medium walnut???

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Forum topic by TheHeyMan posted 09-10-2019 05:42 PM 500 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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TheHeyMan

12 posts in 367 days


09-10-2019 05:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: poplar chocolate finish staining stain color wood conditioner minwax technique

Edited
Fellow Lumberjocks!
Recently had an order for a round table, 72” diameter, 36” tall. The only wood I could find that was kiln dried at a decent price was Poplar. The client wants it to be a milk chocolatey brown color. see legs of table in image What color stain or dye would work best for this? I’ve tried special walnut and red oak by MinWax, but the color isn’t dark enough the client. Thanks so much in advance for all of your suggestions and advice!

-- ~If you have wood when you wake up and wood when you sleep, every day is good.


22 replies so far

View Bill_Steele's profile

Bill_Steele

556 posts in 2212 days


#1 posted 09-10-2019 05:48 PM

Dye or stain I would think.

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

821 posts in 1583 days


#2 posted 09-10-2019 05:55 PM

Others may have an exact formula or pre-mixed product for you. Lacking that, I would have to do some experimenting on scrap poplar with different mixes of stain or dye. Start with some pre-mixed colors that look close to what you want and add other colors to adjust. Start with measuring spoon quantities and when you get what you want proportion it up to the quantity you need. You will need a little understanding of the color wheel and color theory to do this. Be sure to coat your samples with a couple of coats of your final finish in order to get properly represent the final project.

View jutsFL's profile

jutsFL

191 posts in 322 days


#3 posted 09-10-2019 06:06 PM

Or try to find all sectiins of the dark green heartwood of the poplar to use. Then go through the suntanning method to turn to shades of brown. Take a look at my dog bed I made a little while ago to see the transformation from greens to browns w the method. No stains or dyes involved.

Link:
https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/410525

-- I've quickly learned that being a woodworker isn't about making flawless work, rather it's fixing all the mistakes you made so that it appears flawless to others! Jay - FL

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile

wildwoodbybrianjohns

184 posts in 28 days


#4 posted 09-10-2019 06:53 PM



Others may have an exact formula or pre-mixed product for you. Lacking that, I would have to do some experimenting on scrap poplar with different mixes of stain or dye. Start with some pre-mixed colors that look close to what you want and add other colors to adjust. Start with measuring spoon quantities and when you get what you want proportion it up to the quantity you need. You will need a little understanding of the color wheel and color theory to do this. Be sure to coat your samples with a couple of coats of your final finish in order to get properly represent the final project.

- bilyo

Copy that. I never use premixed color, always make my own. Takes some practice.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: It is wiser to find out, than to suppose (S. Clemens)

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

8749 posts in 3057 days


#5 posted 09-10-2019 07:07 PM

Farm it out.

If not, work up some Samples for the clients’ approval and have them sign off on it.

I’d use Charles Neils’ conditioner first on all 6 sides and then use the best looking formula you had after
practicing on scraps.

We used to write the formulas on the backs of scraps as we tested different ideas and finishes.

Works well it’s just a little time consuming.

Best of luck

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

1762 posts in 1975 days


#6 posted 09-10-2019 07:33 PM

1) Your post reads like a beginner question? We have all been there. :)
If you are taking commissions, and coloring wood;
Suggest you fix it with some education, not questions in random forums.

If you don’t already own one of Bob Flexner’s books on finishing, might want to got look at them:
https://www.amazon.com/Wood-Finishing-101-Step-Step-ebook/dp/B005JEKJX0
https://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Wood-Finishing-American-Woodworker-ebook/dp/B01MFH3J0O
https://www.amazon.com/Flexner-Finishing-Finally-Answers-Frustrations-ebook/dp/B0046H9KP4

While not perfect master source of wood finishing information, they will get you started. My only fault with Bob’s work is he commonly glosses over the actual science of finishing. Once you learn the science/chemistry of finishing; it is really easy to understand commercial marketing as well as DIY solutions easier.

When it comes to changing color of wood, I often use my color wheel to help me visualize what is needed:
https://www.woodcraft.com/products/finishers-color-wheel

2) Sorry, but IMHO Popular is good choice for painted items, or with natural finish; not stained/dyed items. If you want to use cheap wood, use alder, maple, oak, or ash; they all are much easier to strain dark like walnut.

Popular is light cream white that has yellow/green/brown tone across it, that varies enormously between growing regions. Coloring it to look like anything else requires color testing for every batch of wood. It’s a PIA.
So gather some patience, and put on your color testing smock/gloves; your going to spend many hours figuring out how to get right color for the spectrum of colors in natural wood.
Making matters worse, Popular color is often due mineral stains. The mineral stained areas absorbs color differently, than rest. Easiest way to color popular is old school pigment stain. But oil based stains tend to just it on top of mineral areas and mask the grain. Dark strained popular often will end up looking like brown painted wood. :(

3) IMHO – On small projects it never pays to use cheapest wood and color it to make it look like something else. Never.
Considering the common difference in price between popular and Walnut of about $3-$4 per board foot, and cost of quart of Dark Walnut color using either Mohawk Ultra Penetrating Dye stain ($25) or Transtint Dark Walnut ($22); plus all the extra testing, and finishing effort; massive color changes to wood are often a money losing decision (unless you do it all time and buy stains by gallon).

4) Solutions:

a)Am big fan of NGR dye stains for coloring wood.
https://www.finewoodworking.com/FWNPDFfree/011190044.pdf

Either make my own NGR dye using Transtint dyes with 50/50 alcohol/acetone, or use Solarlux/Mohwak Ultra Penetrating Stains (they are same thing). Both these folks offer a Dark Walnut color. Buy some, try different concentrations, and test till your happy. If you want lighter color, reduce it with solvents; or try the lighter Medium Walnut color from Mohawk, or coffee brown from Transtint.
Can reduce the color with a solvent blend of Alcohol/Acetone, and retard/slow the evaporation rate to better allow rubbing out or adjusting the color by adding 3-5% of Propylene Glycol.

My favorite part about NGR dye is you can even out color with rag using nothing but solvent blend. The dye is easy to push around from light/dark spots when wood absorbs unevenly, as long as the problem is not end grain or blotching that needs a sealer coat first.

b) If the popular has dark green areas, might need to adjust these before staining everything? Either suntan the wood to make it brown, or selectively apply reddish brown or medium brown transtint dye stain on it. it’s more work, but it’s only way to even out colors if things get wonky.

PS – #IAMAKLUTZ, not an expert. Generally you can only believe half of what you read in any online forum.
The challenge is figuring out with half is true for your situation!

Best Luck!

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

3629 posts in 1055 days


#7 posted 09-10-2019 07:48 PM

First and Foremost. test any finish schedule on some scrap that you have prepped to the exact same prep as the project. I am so crazy on that point that I take the off cuts from my initial breakdown of the boards I start with, and plane, joint, sand, them right along as I move through the build. That way I know I didn’t miss a step. It’s those sacrificial pieces of wood that can save your bacon. Unfortunately we have all read those threads where a guy totally messed up a project he had a lot of time, and $$$$$ into. It’s human nature though, we are driven to see stuff done.

WAIT!!!!! why that’s a 4 letter word…..

I like dye a lot more than stain, gel or otherwise, so my choice is WD Lockwood I have always gotten mine from Joel from TFWW, so I don’t know if all Lockwood sellers mix and match their dye into color groups, but that link is to Joel’s “Walnut” group.

Black makes anything darker, Blue, Yellow, Red, and Green, can tone a mix. If you can name a specific color, put it to a Goofle search, and you will get a plethora of Artists using colors to make anything you can think of. I have used that to great success when trying to “make” a color.

Choices are Water, Oil, and Alcohol based, so you can use that to go with other factors.

Good luck, and have fun, don’t rush when you get to the most important step.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Rich's profile (online now)

Rich

4823 posts in 1070 days


#8 posted 09-10-2019 08:00 PM

I agree with the Captain. Poplar is a bad choice for anything other than paint. I generally explain to my clients that trying to make lesser woods look like walnut is a false savings. The time it takes me (which they pay for) to do the coloring will wind up costing enough that they often choose to just go with the real thing. Plus, I don’t care how talented you are, it’ll never look as good as the real thing. Walnut has a depth to it that you can’t achieve with dye, and especially not with stain.

If you’re determined to go with a less expensive wood, at least use alder. It takes a dye beautifully if you treat it to prevent blotching, and at least has some grain that the dye will not hide. Finish it off with an oil based finish like Arm-R-Seal, or with lacquer, and it’ll look beautiful. Just not as beautiful as real walnut.

As for dyes with rich colors, go with TransTint or W. D. Lockwood.

-- There's no such thing as a careless electrician

View TheHeyMan's profile

TheHeyMan

12 posts in 367 days


#9 posted 09-10-2019 08:36 PM

Captain, I can appreciate your opinion of my post as me being a “beginner”. And I do appreciate your honesty. However, I have had my fair share of education on finishing. This was just an odd request where I thought I would get some suggestions from other professionals that may have dealt with this situation and wanted a more in depth conversation to take place. Thank you for your advice, but we do not paint wood. As far as this being a random forum, I politely disagree. It was an honest question in a well known forum that I trust in very much. I can’t tell if you were being condescending or not. But again, thank you for your reply as I will weigh all options.

-- ~If you have wood when you wake up and wood when you sleep, every day is good.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2737 posts in 3402 days


#10 posted 09-10-2019 09:56 PM

Paint it! Poplar takes stain poorly and paint very well.

-- No PHD just a DD214

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

3877 posts in 1868 days


#11 posted 09-10-2019 10:00 PM

I am certainly not a pro so you can take this with a grain of salt but General finishes gel stains can be mixed to achieve just about any color you want. I remember seeing a chart with ratios for different colors somewhere but can’t find it now, though obviously the wood is going to be a factor as well. Unless you can find a chart you may have to buy a bunch of different colors and use bilyo’s advice to hone in on the color you want, though as long as you don’t have to exactly match a color, you may be able to get close with just 2 or 3 different colors. And for what it is worth, I have also used transtint dyes to modify a GF water based stain to transform it from a reddish hue to a browner one by adding TT walnut dye to it. GF water based stains can also be mixed to achieve custom colors.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

1762 posts in 1975 days


#12 posted 09-10-2019 10:06 PM

TheHeyMan
Certainly never intended to offend. Apologies if I did.
But after I looked at your LJ footprint: zero projects, 30 posts in 1 year of membership, and then you post asking to color a mostly paint grade soft hardwood like popular? Yes, it lead me to believe basic education was needed.

IME – Popular is an absolutely horrible wood choice for stained hardwood projects. If anyone tries to commission me for cheap stained wood, either use alder/maple/oak, or I refuse the work and send them to local furniture warehouse. YMMV?

As far as LJ as source of finishing information?
Can only believe half of what you read in any forum, and never know which half applies to your exact same temp/humidity/equipment/skills that your project entails. If you think otherwise, I feel sorry for you.

FWIW – As much as I like LJ and professional wood finishing forum on woodweb for finishing solutions; best place for ready to use hardwood finishing solutions is a local commercial finish supplier.
All of my local Mohawk, Sherwin Williams, Chemcraft (etc) wholesale suppliers provide me fool proof solutions in a single visit; and don’t need to decide which forum expert to believe.

Can even bring wood samples and target color into my favorite local Mohawk finishing supplier, and they will custom blend either an oil based pigment stain or water based dye stain to get job done; testing on my samples before I leave.
So my best advice:
When in doubt on finishing commercial pieces, use a local professional that sells you finishing supplies. They are not successful, unless you are successful!

Best Luck on project!

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

23601 posts in 3164 days


#13 posted 09-10-2019 10:15 PM

Hmmm…

Poplar…for a Stanley #45 box

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View DalyArcher's profile

DalyArcher

125 posts in 1600 days


#14 posted 09-10-2019 10:44 PM

i built this shoe bench using an old yellow cedar stair tread and polar for the base. I hit the poplar with a stain conditioner (I believe varathane brand) and then used Varathane brand gel stain in espresso I believe. IIRC I used two coats of gel stain before three coats of clear varathane.

The butterflies in the top are actual black walnut and play off the base quite well I think.

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

1762 posts in 1975 days


#15 posted 09-10-2019 11:11 PM

Bandit, Was waiting for someone to raise this argument.
Nice box. Thanks for the LOL.

Let me be clear:
STAINED POPLAR on COMMISSION project is poor choice.

Clear finish poplar can be really nice.
Even NGR dye can look good on figured pieces. IME – Popular takes pure red, blue, black, and purple DYE reasonably well. Yellow, orange, brown, and green have always color shifted for me. Shifted color requires 10x more work if trying to match a customer color choice on a commission.

IMHO – The problem with poplar is not CAN YOU make it look good; as given enough time anything is possible.
Problem is the time it takes to make STAINED poplar look like a darker wood .vs. just using the dark wood to start.
If you make pieces as hobby, then time is irrelevant and don’t care how long it takes.
But If you make pieces for sale, spending extra week to develop a poplar to walnut finishing schedule will be very expensive for someone.

Thanks for reading my opinions.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

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