How to Stain Wood for Even Color

How to Stain Wood for Even Color

Tips and guide to preparing wood for staining, how to stain wood to achieve an even colored look.

Craftsman Style

¶ The wood trim and cabinet work of the average building is stained without much thought about preparing the wood to take the color evenly, but there is no doubt about the better results to be gained by more attention to this detail. Some finishers, it is true, coat very soft, porous woods with a very thin shellac before staining and that has the effect of stopping the suction in the very porous streaks, when oil, water or spirit stains are used. Some prefer to brush on a coat of oil, about one-fourth boiled linseed oil and three-fourths turpentine, before the staining is done. The oil should dry before the application of the stain. Sometimes the whole surface is treated with the shellac or oil size and sometimes only the excessively porous boards.

¶ Before the application of water stains the wood is sponged over with water and allowed to dry. This to raise the grain of the wood as the water stain would do anyway. The wood is then sandpapered and. cleaned up before the water stain is applied. The object of this procedure is to avoid the sandpapering on top of the stain color because that necessarily removes some of the color. On some woods, the grain of which is' raised excessively by water, it is also necessary to sandpaper after staining, even though a sponge coat of water was put on, but this sanding on top of the color is very lightly done and so does not remove color.

¶ A water sponge coat is also used to make a water stain color the surface more evenly when there are great variations in the absorbing characteristics of the wood surface. In that case the water is sponged on and before it dries the stain is brushed on.

¶ Old time finishers use what is called white sparkle, a size coat to be brushed on to soft open streaks in pine and other woods so the stain color will produce an even effect. White sparkle is mixed with a little good cabinet glue, warm water, dry whiting, white lead in oil, varnish and plaster of Paris. It is mixed very thin and brushed on to the porous streaks. When dry after two days it is sandpapered. Considerable skill is required in the use of this to avoid filling the wood up so much that it will not take tie stain color and will not give a muddy appearance on the streaks treated.

¶ The end grain on table tops, cabinets, etc., also the porous knots where they show end grain, are touched up by the furniture finisher before staining. He uses a very thin glue size made with the best cabinet glue and warm water. This must be done carefully. If too much glue is used a water stain will not take, will not penetrate through it. This glue size treatment serves for water, oil and spirit stains alike.

¶ Resinous knots and streaks of sap wood do not take stain sometime,, or they take the color very much lighter than the balance of the wood. To overcome this condition brush over these areas two or three times with a solution of water and potash, a 1 percent solution (1 ounce of caustic potash to 99 ounces of water). After this treatment wash up in a few minutes with clear water. When this treatment is not successful one or more coats of denatured alcohol may be brushed on to the surface to cut through the resin or pitch. Benzole, 160 solvent naphtha, is also good.

¶ Before using spirit stains some finishers dilute a little of the stain very much with denatured alcohol and use that as a coating for the knots and sap streaks which are likely to come out a lighter color if not so treated.

¶ Sap streaks, knots, etc,, in wood to be finished with oil stains are treated before staining by some finishers with a mixture of turpentine, benzine and japan drier. Turpentine and benzole (99 degree or 160 degree solvent naphtha) are preferred by others, to be used in equal parts.

¶ Woods which are generally resinous, like pitch pine, can be made to take a stain more uniformly, as to color, and to take a darker color if washed over with a soda and water solution. The sal soda alone, however, will stain the wood a bit, so a little yellow laundry soap is used with it to overcome that tendency.

¶ Mix this soda wash as follows:

¶ 4 ounces sal soda,
1 gallon warm water,
1 ounce yellow laundry soap.
Sponge the surface with this wash, let dry and then clean up with clear warm water.

Next Page: Brushing Stains.

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