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Forum topic by keninblaine posted 01-09-2014 12:09 AM 1329 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View keninblaine's profile


130 posts in 2607 days

01-09-2014 12:09 AM

Topic tags/keywords: spray gun maple toner stain

After obtaining ludicrously high quotes for fabricating a built-in desk with file drawers and overhead cabinets, I decided to do it myself. I knew my biggest challenge would be to match the style and finish of the other (maple) cabinets in my 7 year old home, all of which were done by a nearby cabinet shop. I did get a quote to have them make just the drawer fronts (4) and doors (3), but at over $1000 I nixed that idea too. I spent many hours experimenting with stains to try to reasonably match the existing cabinets. After thinking I had found the right combination of Varathane oil-based stains (a coat of Provincial, then a coat of Maple) that pretty closely matched the color and tone of the other cabinets, I subsequently became dissatisfied with the difference in grain detail. The professional cabinets were more muted, with a more consistent color and texture across all doors, whereas the more noticeable (and richer) grain in my new pieces appeared too variable and distracting.
After spending another 2 hours at Lowes yesterday while their expert patiently experimented with about 10 iterations of tints to get to a suitable match using water-based minwax, I decided I was fighting a losing battle. So today I drove to the original cabinet shop to see what colors they now offer on their cabinets. To make a long story shorter, I found a current color that is very close to my cabinets, and they agreed to sell me a liter of it, consisting of a half liter of “toner” and a half liter of “stain”. Their finishing guy came out to explain the process:
1. After final sanding of the bare wood, spray on the toner with a minimum of 2 passes. This provides 80% of the color.
2. After drying in about 15 minutes, spray on the stain and wipe immediately.
3. After the stain dries in about 15 minutes, spray on the finish lacquer.
4. After drying, Sand
5. Spray on final lacquer topcoat and let dry.

I’m curious if anyone here has used this process and, if so, do you have any words of wisdom including a recommended spray gun for the job. (I’d like to think the $16 gun at Harbor Freight would do the job, but would prefer to pay more if cheaper guns have problems).
Thanks in advance.

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

11 replies so far

View Ltwud's profile


24 posts in 2948 days

#1 posted 01-10-2014 04:26 AM

I have learned how to spray dye and prefer lacquer over slow drying brushed finishes in my dusty woodshop. I would recommend you practice on a couple “story” boards where you spray a thin layer over a whole board cover 1\4 then spray all and cover 1/4 repeat. This will show 4 layers of toner then split the board half or thirds and practice with lacquer. Cover 1/3 repeat… So you end with 12 samples with 1-4 layers of toner and each with 1-3 layers of lacquer. You will probably have to sand with 220 or less if bumpy between coats

Regarding the inexpensive spray gun. If you’ve never done it you probably couldn’t tell the difference but after experiencing a finer tool you don’t want to go back. If you have a big enough compressor to push a cheap gun you can manage on a small job. Anyone who does it very often has a 220 compressor but you can do a small job with any compressor if you are patient enough so just practice till you are confident before staying the final product

Good luck

View Kryptic's profile


294 posts in 2665 days

#2 posted 01-10-2014 04:36 AM

Im laughing out loud

do really think its just that easy ?

View Kryptic's profile


294 posts in 2665 days

#3 posted 01-10-2014 04:46 AM

if it was easy, and if was profitable ? …saved ya a dime, so to speak

do you think, or at least I “think” pepo will chime in yes ?

View Kryptic's profile


294 posts in 2665 days

#4 posted 01-10-2014 04:56 AM

a $16 dollar gun at HF should come with a bullet proof sock

View realcowtown_eric's profile


638 posts in 2942 days

#5 posted 01-10-2014 05:17 AM

welcome to the alchemy of finishing!

there was a caution about cheap spray guns, and I’ll echo that. you just cannot get blocls and pins to suit your finish if you need to.

A simple 110 volt compressor ain’t likely gonna provide the air you need, and you don’t necessarily have to go the larger compressor route, you can manifold two basic pancake compressors together, but you still may fall short of air on larger items.

Like the previous fella said…good luck,

For colour matching, I go to the pros, and they provide me with the solutions, and it’s not always cheap, sometimes its a spray or a wipe stain, followed by maybe a shading laquer. but you gotta provide samples of wood sanded to the finish grit, and they might wanna know how yer spraying it too, airless or air, what your clear coat is. ETC

BTW what do you have for a spray booth, that’s gonna figure real big in your safety if yer spraying solvent based stuff. As well in the quality of finish. Every year in Calgary there’s a coupla garages blow up real good, and its likely from folks who don’t pay attention to this stuff!

I’ve switched over to water borne laquers a couple of years ago, so I had to go back to alchemist school to do that.

Like the man said…..good luck. and he did say “if you have the patience”

And if it’s a point of interest, before I could get reasonable finishes moderately efficiently, years ago after trying several low cost solutions, my entry level system cost me 1600$, hoses at a hunnerd bucks a pop, fine spray tips around 40 bucks each. Cheap don’t even enter the equation when it comes to finishing stuff.

Ever think of taking the project to a finishing shop?

OTOH, some folks just get lucky!




And in my experience with the borgs, any advice they give you ain’t worth sh*t.

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View keninblaine's profile


130 posts in 2607 days

#6 posted 01-10-2014 05:40 AM

Ltwud: Thanks for the suggestions and opinions.

Realcowtown_eric: Thanks for the pointers on spray booth. I had thought about that.

Kryptic: I wasn’t able to glean much value from your cryptic comments.

I’ll give it a try and see how it goes. The finishing shop approach may be a good alternative to check out if things go badly.

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

View Hartworks's profile


53 posts in 2603 days

#7 posted 01-10-2014 06:39 AM

Maple tends to blotch, may want to check out Charles Neil blotch control, works out very well for evening out dyes and stains.

-- Gary, California

View keninblaine's profile


130 posts in 2607 days

#8 posted 01-13-2014 07:41 PM

I’m still in the experimental stage. I’ve found that the result is too dark if I put on too much toner, but reducing the amount of toner is tricky without leaving insufficient coverage on some areas of the wood. I’m wondering if I can thin the toner (with lacquer thinner) so that less color will be imparted on the toner coat allowing me to ensure more consistent coverage.

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

View keninblaine's profile


130 posts in 2607 days

#9 posted 01-17-2014 12:56 PM

Follow-up: With the help of others on another thread, particularly Charles Neil, I’ve pretty well succeeded in applying my toner and stain. I purchased a $30 gun at Harbor Freight as it had a 1.4mm nozzle and a regulator. I borrowed a larger compressor to provide sufficient air, and I thinned my toner 50/50 to lighten it a little. One or two drops of toner fell onto the surface and had to be sanded out and re-done, which resulted in too much toner around the problem area. I sanded the excess toner with 600 paper to even out the tone. There were 1 or 2 places where the tone was still a little light where I had sanded out the blotch. So based on watching one of Charles Neil’s videos, I purchased an airbrush kit from HF ($10 on sale) and it is perfect for being able to dust on the toner in small places.
Bottom line, just lots of patience and persistence. Also, I found that there are big variations in final color and tone due to differences/variations in the wood. So paying attention to select wood products carefully to try to get uniformity in grain and texture is as important as finishing technique.

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

View Nicholas Hall's profile

Nicholas Hall

352 posts in 3111 days

#10 posted 01-17-2014 01:52 PM

Nice job! I’m glad that you were able to stick with it and get the finish that you were looking for. Finishing really is more art than science, and you tackled an especially challenging project. Congratulations on sticking with it. I think most of us here at Lumberjocks first got into woodworking when they had a custom idea, and a small budget. Some people tend to forget that over time.

I’ve never bought a Charles Neil product, but I’ve been really impressed by how often he’s willing to chime in personally to give guidance and advice to folks who need help. There are some people who have never posted so much as a cutting board who feel comfortable posting sarcastic/hostile replies to sincere questions; and then there are others like Charles Neil and many other on this site who are true masters of their craft who are unfailingly encouraging and never condescending. I’m glad you got the guidance you needed to get the job done.

The one thing I’ll tell you is that you will notice the lack of uniformity in the finish for as long as you own the piece, but everyone else who ever sees it will just see a beautiful cabinet.

I for one would love to see some pics of the finished product. I’ve built most of the furniture in my home, but I’ve always been too intimidated to move much past shellac and danish oil. I’d love to see what you were able to accomplish with a limited tool set, but plenty of patience and persistence. For me, that’s what this site is all about.


-- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

View keninblaine's profile


130 posts in 2607 days

#11 posted 01-17-2014 04:10 PM

Thanks Nicholas. I will post some photos of the finished product sometime in the coming weeks after I’ve tried dovetailing the drawers, and making the shaker doors and drawer fronts (I like challenges!).

-- Ken, Blaine Washington

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