Painting Oak

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Forum topic by RiffRaff posted 09-18-2019 12:51 PM 331 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 623 days

09-18-2019 12:51 PM

I am restoring an old hockey table for a guy. All the wood is solid oak…legs and upper frame are a solid 2” thick x 8” wide. It is super well built and very heavy. He wants this thing black, no grain. I know its almost illegal to spray paint this type of wood and I am trying to think of a way to achieve the blacked out look but dont want to look like a fool for spray painting this gorgeous wood.
I have it sanded down to bare wood, tried a few coats of the darkest black penetrating stain I have in an inconspicuous area and Its not cutting it.
All I can think of is spraying it with a satin black spray paint. (krylon 2 in 1 primer plus paint)

Any thoughts or advice?

Thank you!

9 replies so far

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile


300 posts in 55 days

#1 posted 09-18-2019 01:43 PM

Buy a black table cloth, and leave that poor oak alone:))

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

View theart's profile


132 posts in 1062 days

#2 posted 09-18-2019 02:41 PM

First, you need to be clear about what the client means by “no grain”. It could be no color variation or also no visible pores. Personally, I’m not a big oak fan (living through the 90s kind of ruined it for me), but I like the texture under a black finish. I’ve not had great luck getting even black staining on oak, so usually end up going with a brushed on acrylic paint and a water-based poly spray. If they client doesn’t want the texture either, you’ll need to fill the grain before painting.

View RiffRaff's profile


10 posts in 623 days

#3 posted 09-18-2019 04:21 PM

I like the table cloth idea…lol.
Seriously, the brush on acrylic would work, I want to leave the texture, just don’t want grain contrast…a little would be fine but it’s not working.. Sure wish I was set up to spray…don’t really like the thought of brushing.

View ArtMann's profile


1435 posts in 1324 days

#4 posted 09-18-2019 04:23 PM

My policy has always been to give the customer what he/she wants. You are going to have to use grain filler with oak. I can almost guarantee that the porous oak characteristic will print through any finish you spray on without it.

View Toller's profile


43 posts in 2108 days

#5 posted 09-18-2019 07:01 PM

I had someone insist on solid cherry with a dark dye on it. It hurt to do it.
But oak?!

View Lovegasoline's profile


85 posts in 546 days

#6 posted 09-18-2019 07:12 PM

My experience with oak is limited so bear that in mind. Filling the grain and applying a pigmented topcoat seems like it may come the closest to the look your client is after?

If you want a stay with a stain to achieve the black tone look around a bit there’s some resources and youtube discussions on this. Understand that ‘black’ is just a label and the actual pigment used is going to determine the hue; additionally each pigment also has different qualities such as masstone and undertone: the mass tone is the apparent color when it’s applied more densely and opaque; the undertone is the color tone when it’s diluted or applied more transparently. These two qualities of a color can appear significantly different in the same pigment. So the way you apply it will dictate the color/hue and opacity.

As mentioned ‘black’ is just a label (to quite Hunter Thompson’s cynical riffing on Nixon’s sophistry, “Black is just a darker shade of white” or something like that) but the actual appearance of the color is going to depend on the pigment(s) it’s comprised of. If you are staining you’re going to be dealing with the undertone unless you apply enough multiple layers so that the pigment becomes denser and starts behaving like a masstone … but even then it may retain some of the undertone color due to the transparent nature of stains … after all they are not paints. Undertones with blacks can vary a great deal, some are brownish looking (warmer/reddish) and other’s are cooler/bluish and span that spectrum with some being closer to neutral. So you’ll need to try some samples and also view it under the right lighting that will give you good feedback (natural light is a good place to start). Another ‘stain’ option is to source the product at an art supply store in the form of India Ink. Some India inks are made with a binder containing shellac and others containing acrylic polymer. They may need additional coats to get the finish really black and you will still need to deal with the possible issue of grain telegraphing through so you’ll likely need to do a very thorough job in filling the gain. There’s other products but I’ve only read of them (soaking iron nails in a solution to make a type of black? Fuming oak, which will likely just accentuate the grain, I’ve never done it) ... I’m not sure how successful any of these staining solutions is going to be in concealing the grain vs. a black pigmented surface finish.

I’ve used only two black finishes on wood, both on my own kitchen table (not made by me, not oak, not precious). One was a black pigmented conversion varnish sprayed and it looked great and wore well. When it came time to refinish it I didn’t want to deal with the toxicity of the CV and researched other options. None of the stains performed to my satisfaction. I ended up using a Minwax product called PolyShades in Classic Black, satin. It’s labeled as a ‘stain and polyurethane’ in one step, so basically it’s a pigmented polyurethane. This latter was a quick, dirty, and cheap job, so much so that I used a white tinted oil base primer (which I knew at the time would come back to bite me … I just never intended for the table to last that long before being replaced which hasn’t been the case). I brushed the polyurethane on and did a pretty good job of it … the only brush job more difficult than a satin black finish is a high gloss black finish. The table is in a room with a lot of raking sunlight … again, it looks pretty good and sufficient for my needs, but wasn’t at the level of a sprayed job. The brushed finish has seen a lot of wear and tear, has lasted five years, and just now some areas are worn/chipped away exposing some of the white primer (which I knew would happen). Impossible to retouch successfully. Again at the time I did tests with various stains as well as India ink and non of them gave me the dense & even black I was seeking.


I hope this helps in some way or stimulates some alternatives, best of luck to you.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


1886 posts in 2002 days

#7 posted 09-18-2019 10:02 PM

+1 Most commercial finish mfg produce pigmented versions. You can get pigmented sealers, lacquer, conversion varnish, and polyurethanes; most are available in water based and spray/sand much easier than rattle car enamel.
Look for Gemini, Mohawk, Chemcraft, Sherwin Williams, General Finishes Industrial, etc; at your local industrial paint supply. Even Target has pigmented WB finsihes, if you need mail order.

+1 No grain = grain filler. Oak is PIA to fill perfectly smooth, as it takes a lot of filler material. Suggest use of paste filler, followed by high build vinyl sealer compatible with top coat. If you sand the top seal coat down to bare wood it will print through the top coat. So finish the surface like a automobile; use side light and keep sealing/sanding till the surface shadows are gone, and see no exposed wood.

Best Luck.

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

View bilyo's profile


849 posts in 1610 days

#8 posted 09-19-2019 12:13 AM

This is a bowl and lid I turned from oak some years ago. When I was just about finished with turning it, it shattered into 3 or 4 pieces. Since I was doing it as a gift and I didn’t have time or materials to start over, I chose to glue it back together and paint it. To fill the pores and defects, I started with an automotive primer (the kind that builds a thick coat that is then sanded to fill imperfections). After sanding smooth, I coated it with several coats of automotive paint (what ever is in the spray cans; lacquer??).

In your case, you probably don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of using spray cans but, you can get the auotmotive paint and primer and use your spray gun.

There is nothing sacred about oak. You are not going to ruin it, just cover it. Some one in the future can always strip it and put something else on it. Go ahead and do what your client wants and don’t feel bad.

View DS's profile (online now)


3292 posts in 2928 days

#9 posted 09-19-2019 01:41 PM

The only time I’ve seen black painted Oak that looked like anything nice, they raised the grain with a wire brush to accentuate the grain, rather than try to hide it with fillers.

It turned out very nice—for painted Oak, that is.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

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