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How can I darken my stain?

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Forum topic by Wheely34 posted 03-25-2020 10:49 PM 284 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Wheely34

6 posts in 11 days


03-25-2020 10:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip trick stain espresso sanding

Hey guys, beginner here, so bear with me. I inherited an old dresser, probably 30-40 years old, and decided to refinish it. Not positive of it’s exact makeup, but it’s pretty heavy. I’m thinking it’s made of some type of wood, and then has wood veneer on top of it. I now know I didn’t prep the piece properly before staining, but just trying to see if I can correct it at this point. I sanded the entire dresser with 180 grit on an electric sander. I then blew it off with compressed air, wiped it down with a wet rag, and wiped on my first coat of stain. Using Minwax Performance Series oil-based stain. It’s an Espresso stain, so it’s supposed to be darker. What I found is the unfinished parts of the dresser soaked the stain right up and it’s the exact color it should be. On the veneer parts, however, the old color is showing through and the stain is no longer espresso, but more of an amber/brown I guess. Is there anyway I can correct this at this point? I though maybe after the first coat dries in, I could put a second coat on and it may darken up. I’m also thinking I made a mistake in my sanding. I should have hit it with a much coarser grit to get any kind of finish coat off, then work up to 180-220, then stain it. Is that still a possibility at this point, even though I already have a coat of stain on it? Sanding it down with a coarse grit to expose the wood, then stain it again? I need it to be Espresso to match the rest of the pieces in the room. Just spit balling. Any suggestions on how to get this stain to darken up and actually look Espresso would be greatly appreciated.


This is the dresser. See how the veneer is showing through? Doesnt really look espresso.


This is the backside of a drawer, which does not have the veneer. This is more of the color I was going for, just darker.


18 replies so far

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

2701 posts in 2174 days


#1 posted 03-25-2020 11:03 PM

Use a few drops of dark dye as ‘toner’ in your top coat?

Challenge is you don’t have scrap samples to test your finish schedule on,
that is unless you use he inside of the case?

Best Luck.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Wheely34's profile

Wheely34

6 posts in 11 days


#2 posted 03-25-2020 11:51 PM

Well the inside doesnt have the veneer on it. The veneer is the problem part. I think I’m just going to take my electric sander with some 80 grit paper to it and get it down to the unfinished wood, then build up to 180, then stain it again. I dont think I want to take it to 220 cause I’m looking for a dark finish and I’m think 180 will absorb more pigment and still give a good level of smoothness.

Open to any opinions on that.

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

1039 posts in 1782 days


#3 posted 03-26-2020 12:00 AM

When dealing with veneer, be very very careful with your sanding. you can quickly sand through the veneer. Then your options are very limited and not pleasant. If I understand your post, it appears that you were not able to remove all of the old finish. If so, this is the main reason that your stain is not as dark as you would like. The wood is not able to absorb the color in the stain. I see two options. Try using a gel stain over what you have already applied. A gel stain is intended to mostly stay on top rather than being absorbed and it may do the job for you. If that works, put on a coat of dewaxed shellac over the stain and then your finish of choice. If that doesn’t work. I see no option except to use a chemical stripper and remove all of the old finish and start over. Just be careful with that veneer.

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Wheely34

6 posts in 11 days


#4 posted 03-26-2020 12:35 AM

Yeah, that’s exactly what’s going in. In being the novice I am, I didnt realize that putting stain over veneer that hasn’t been completely stripped would prevent the stain from seeping in amd hence, giving me the color I desired. I hear you about the gel stain, but I’d hate to buy that amd it not work, then have to go back to the drawing board again. I feel like stripping it is going to be my best option, unless you feel the gel will actually work that well…

Is a chemical stripper my best option? I’ll be doing this outside, so I’m not worried about the fumes. I’m just looking for the most effective, and preferably, least time consuming way to get the finish off this veneer.

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

1039 posts in 1782 days


#5 posted 03-26-2020 02:49 AM

You, of course, have to decide for yourself how you want to proceed. If I was doing it, I would want to avoid the messy and tedious job of stripping. I would pay for the gel stain to avoid that, especially since you are dealing with veneer. Because of that, the work will be even more delicate and tedious. I can’t promise that the gel stain will give the results you want but, to me, it’s worth a try. In my experience, the oil based gel stains work better than water based. General Finishes works well. I think you can get it in the small (1/2 pint, I think) cans which will cost less and will probably be enough for what you are doing.

If you do decide to strip, get the strongest stuff you can get. Don’t bother with the so called environmentally friendly stuff. Kleen Strip makes a good product. It also comes in a semi-gel that works better on vertical surfaces. Be sure to use lots of protection; gloves, glasses, and protect your skin from splatters.

View DMiller's profile

DMiller

527 posts in 1153 days


#6 posted 03-26-2020 03:07 AM



You, of course, have to decide for yourself how you want to proceed. If I was doing it, I would want to avoid the messy and tedious job of stripping. I would pay for the gel stain to avoid that, especially since you are dealing with veneer. Because of that, the work will be even more delicate and tedious. I can t promise that the gel stain will give the results you want but, to me, it s worth a try. In my experience, the oil based gel stains work better than water based. General Finishes works well. I think you can get it in the small (1/2 pint, I think) cans which will cost less and will probably be enough for what you are doing.

If you do decide to strip, get the strongest stuff you can get. Don t bother with the so called environmentally friendly stuff. Kleen Strip makes a good product. It also comes in a semi-gel that works better on vertical surfaces. Be sure to use lots of protection; gloves, glasses, and protect your skin from splatters.

- bilyo

+1
If cost is an issue, I can just about guarantee you that a can of paint stripper + a new finish will be more than a gel stain will. I work with veneered cabinets and believe me, you don’t want to sand through it. It’s up to you, but I’d give the gel stain a try.

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View DS's profile

DS

3423 posts in 3100 days


#7 posted 03-26-2020 03:12 AM

If I were doing it, I would scuff the current finish, seal with a neutral sealer, like vinyl sealer, apply a no-wipe stain product intended to lay on top of the finish. Then I’m applying my top coat after that, one or two coats sanding in between.

Not a cheap method, but will get the best results.

I am definitely not sanding down to bare wood.

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

View JCamp's profile

JCamp

1076 posts in 1230 days


#8 posted 03-26-2020 03:26 AM

If u put multiple layers of stain on it it might darken it up enough. Also I’m not sure how strippers will do…. my fear is that they may loosen the glue on the veneer and you’ll have a complete mess
Btw welcome to LJs

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

2815 posts in 3624 days


#9 posted 03-26-2020 04:25 AM

First of all, if it’s heavy, it may be particle under the veneer, which may be about 1/32 inch thick.

Long ago, I had to match a dark walnut stain on pine. I started with dye, which soaks in. That won’t work here, because the veneer is sealed. I’m not even sure we Joe averages could de-seal the veneer, or that even experts could.

It may be you’ll have to go the route of the commercial furniture – seal the wood, then apply a finish with a stain (surface coat) built in.

View Wheely34's profile

Wheely34

6 posts in 11 days


#10 posted 03-26-2020 11:14 AM

Cost isn’t much of a concern, really just trying to get the best results possible at this point. So what I’m seeing here is a gel stain may be the best route for this particular application. I’m also seeing that I may want to seal it first before putting the stain on? I bought semi-gloss polyurethane sealer as my top coat. Would I want to use that, then gel on top, then use the poly again as my top coat? Or am I okay to forego the sealer, put the gel on, then top coat with my poly? Remember, I already have a coat of regular stain on it.

And thanks JCamp!

View tvrgeek's profile

tvrgeek

621 posts in 2329 days


#11 posted 03-26-2020 11:21 AM

Mix stain and poly, spray. You can build up transparent darker coats. TEST first.

View Tony1212's profile

Tony1212

402 posts in 2414 days


#12 posted 03-26-2020 12:32 PM

The finish my wife and I settled on for a nice reddish brown from bright white maple in kitchen is:
  • a dark brown/red dye
  • a coat of Zinser Sealcoat shellac (dewaxed)
  • sand that with 220
  • a very dark brown gel stain as a glaze
  • another coat of the sealcoat shellac
  • sand again (220)
  • 3 coats of poly with sanding (220) in between

You can see the results here.

I got the “recipe” from Charles Neil, may he rest in peace.

You would want to skip the first step. and try to do some testing in an area that will be mostly hidden.

-- Tony, SW Chicago Suburbs

View Wheely34's profile

Wheely34

6 posts in 11 days


#13 posted 03-26-2020 01:18 PM

Thanks. A lot of great input here.

Not to steer this into a separate discussion, but what is the purpose of putting a sealer down BEFORE your stain? Again, from my novice level of knowledge, I thought it was prep your wood by sanding, put on your stain, then seal it in with poly or varnish or whatever sealer you choose. Not sure what the benefit is of sealing first, then staining, then sealing again…

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

2815 posts in 3624 days


#14 posted 03-26-2020 04:30 PM

The sealer is just to get and even stain. For example, pine is notorious for taking stain at different rates all across the face of boards. The sealer just evens the stage.

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

2633 posts in 1283 days


#15 posted 03-26-2020 05:02 PM

This thread made me think of Charles Neil. He would always respond with exactly what to do. I miss him.

Sorry. No point in adding my 2 cents worth to the suggestions already posted.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

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