alder or maple?

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Forum topic by kem75 posted 08-12-2009 08:07 AM 16099 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 3481 days

08-12-2009 08:07 AM

Topic tags/keywords: alder maple question

I am not a woodworker so I need some advice.
We are getting custom cabinets and the painter only uses one coat of stain and one coat of sealer (this could be negotiable). They use Sherwin-Williams products
My choice is alder or maple and I would like the stain to look dark chocolaty brown and uniform, I’ve had trouble with both woods in samples I’ve had done
Which wood will stain more uniform on cabinets?
Thanks so much!

10 replies so far

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3861 days

#1 posted 08-12-2009 08:35 AM

Maple is harder then Alder but is a PIA to stain. It doesn’t absorb the stain as well, and will take a lot of coats to get it dark. You may even need to glaze it or tone it to the desired color.
Alder is softer and more prone to damage, but it stains very well and can be a cheaper alternative to Cherry. It does blotch some, but any good finisher can over come it.
Are you hiring a painter?

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View lobro4's profile


207 posts in 3484 days

#2 posted 08-12-2009 09:29 AM

The only way Maple can be colored effectively and without blotching is with dyes. Dyes are not as light fast as stain and over time, any of them will fade as opposed to stain. Plus, when you use a dye, you are limited in your choice of top coat. Toners and glaze may get you a darker color but Maple doesn’t have a distinct grain and can start to muddy under a lot of layers. If you are married to a dark color, forego the maple. If you can stand Maple in it’s characteristic pale-creamy color (beautiful in it’s own setting), don’t stain it and just topcoat it with a water-base top coat. Think basketball court.
Alder is a fine wood and will take stain well but it must be conditioned in some form to prevent blotching. I have built a couple of benches with Alder. Sand well! I prepped the wood with a mixture of 1 part Boiled linseed oil to 5 parts mineral spirits and let it dry and then applied a dark stain… looks great. Other “wood conditioner” recipes both home made and commercial exist out there. Prepping the wood slows the stain down a little bit and will “lighten” the color a bit so a darker stain may have to be used to get your desired color.
Good luck.

-- Rock Chalk Jayhawk Go KU!!

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4517 days

#3 posted 08-12-2009 01:00 PM

I have natural colored solid hard maple cupboards and I’ll never regret it. Anything goes with it, we got all black appliances and a black corian counter, but the whole thing just melded when we added terra cotta tile floors. It just made it beautiful, if I were you thats the way I’d go. Like lobro said some clear topcoat is all you need. With black door knobs. Just a thought.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Chiefk's profile


163 posts in 4042 days

#4 posted 08-12-2009 03:12 PM

I believe a glaze is your best bet if you want a dark chocolate color. I made a table from maple for my daughter. She also wanted a dark stain. I sprayed a coat of ML Campbell lacquer followed by ML Campbell’s stain( I believe it is called miracle stain, but am unsure). The stain comes in many different colors. When spraying, you spray until you get the color you want. The stain dries quickly and I followed that up with another coat of lacquer. By using a glaze you shouldn’t have to worry about blotching. The down side is the wood itself is not colored. Hope this helps. pkennedy

-- P Kennedy Crossville, TN

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3557 days

#5 posted 08-12-2009 06:42 PM

Are you talking about hard or soft maple. There is a big diiference in how they both take stain. It’s hard to get a dark stain on hard maple without some kind of glaze or shading. Then you run the risk of chipping the color, as the color is on top of the wood, or the finish, or both. Soft maple is typically blotchy. If you painter is not willing to do more than a quick coat of stain, you may have problems. Alder does tend to stain more evenly, and absorbs stain better than hard maple.
I would suggest you get samples of both woods and experiment before making you decision.

Good luck


View kem75's profile


2 posts in 3481 days

#6 posted 08-18-2009 06:03 AM

Just wanted to thank everyone for their helpful responses…we ended up going with maple due to discovering it would be an extra $1000 for alder…homebuilding is expensive!
So far, using a Sherwin-Williams Sherwood BAC stain in a darkened Chestnut. 2 coats with gloss spray appears to be doing the job, the builder says he’ll let me preview the stained cabinets before the gloss spray is applied.

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3861 days

#7 posted 08-18-2009 06:26 AM

the 1,000 bucks would have made up my mind too. LOL. I look forward to seeing the finished project

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4370 days

#8 posted 08-18-2009 06:37 AM

I like and use the BAC wiping stains from Sherwin. They take a bit different than the DIY stains like Minwax, Bher, and the like.

This is something that I try to explain to woodworkers because pro level products behave a bit differently. I do not experience the same level of trouble with stain and finish that woodworkers do and anybody can buy the same products that I do.

Sherwin Williams stores are more prevalent than Woodcraft. I am also a big fan of the ML Campbell line.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 4024 days

#9 posted 08-18-2009 07:22 AM

I posted on my website western red alder stained in a number of finnishes. These are sample board that I finished and then set on the scanner. Good Luck with the maple..

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View grumpycarp's profile


257 posts in 4017 days

#10 posted 08-18-2009 07:45 AM

>We are getting custom cabinets and the painter only uses one coat of stain and one coat of sealer

I’d look for a different painter. There’s no way one layer of topcoat is adequate for cabinets. It won’t properly seal the end grain on the stiles, just for an example.

Just my .02

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