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Uniform Staining on red oak

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  • Uniform Staining on red oak

    Hi there, Just wondering if anyone could shed some insite on a staining problem that I am having. I am trying to stain red oak and achieve a uniform colour for both the grain and surrounding wood part (if that makes sense). I am definately a novice at finishing and woodworking for that matter, however my wife and I have seen oak that was stained a really dark walnut colour and the grain was not any darker than the wood that surrounded the grain. I have tried a few different stains, liquid and gel, but no dice... the grain still gets quite a bit darker than the rest. The gel stain did work much better that the liquid for this effect but is still not what we are looking for.

  • #2
    Re: Uniform Staining on red oak

    I'm sure that some of the veterans will step in here and offer their more experienced advice. But from my limited experience, let me tell you that you need to use a proper sealer on red oak, as it's very porous. Penetrating stains would be a disaster and even with a gel stain, if the grain isn't properly sealed, you'll get bleed-back and a blotchy looking finish. Unfortunately, I can't site you specific product details as I haven't really done any staining of red oak, except some trial and error experimenting on scraps. In the end, my red oak refurb (wainscoat surrounding our new kitchen) went with just a natural finish.

    I will be doing a walnut or chestnut stain on the red oak fireplace mantle and surround, which will be this summer's project. So, I've been doing a lot of reading.

    Sorry this is so basic, but hopefully you'll get much better details with today's posts,



    • #3
      Re: Uniform Staining on red oak

      I think it's a tough problem with red oak, especially if you don't want the grasin to stand out darker. First of all, with red oak, there's a lot of variation from board to board in the wood to start with so I always try to pick and chose my pieces to match at the hardwood lumber yard. A good sealer or shellac is important. Even so, I think it's a tall order to get grain not to stand out. A lot of musical instruments are made by filling, sanding, sealing & sanding the wood, then actually tinting the lacquer with something like an aniline dye for color, then clear topcoat over that. They have the opposite problem, much of the time they fill the grain with a dark filler to bring out the contrast. But if you skip that part it should look pretty uniform - still won't be perfectly uniform because the grain in your red oak is darker than the surrounding wood to start with. Just something to try, but I've never done it to get the effect you're looking for. Take a look at Stewart- MacDonald, or Luthier's Mercantile for materials if this sounds interesting. The dyes they use probably work on other than instrument (nitrocellulose) lacquers, too.

      Personally, I like red oak exactly because the grain is so pronounced. If I was looking for uniformity, I would pick something else like mahogany (for a dark finish) , or birch (for a light finish). Seems like a shame to fight with that splintery miserable red oak and then hide the grain, its best feature. But if you're after a specific look I can see that.

      Good luck, post later on how it turned out.



      • #4
        Re: Uniform Staining on red oak

        I've had good luck using Zinsser Universal Sanding Sealer. Apply it to the end grain only as the last step prior to staining. Care must be taken to make sure you only apply it to the end grain but when properly done I've been able to achieve good color matches.
        I decided to change calling the bathroom the "John" and renamed it the "Jim". I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.


        • #5
          Re: Uniform Staining on red oak

          I would say don't use red oak for this purpose...


          • #6
            Re: Uniform Staining on red oak

            When you see a uniform color with very little grain definition, you are looking at wood that has been dyed, not stained.

            You can mix a dye to acheive a base color on the wood and after that you can apply stain to "pop the grain" and give your wood more depth and enhanced color.

            Dyes are usally a powder mixed with alcohol or water. You mix a set of primary colors and then you mix these to get the tone or color you desire.


            • #7
              Re: Uniform Staining on red oak

              agree with the above poster, dyes are the way to achieve this if you want uniform look, then splatter it with little black paint and it will look like the cheap bought furniture that is now sold,

              really when it comes to wood IMO, find a wood that you love and let the beauty of the wood show, don't cover it up with stains and paints,

              when I first started I stained a lot of wood and none of it looked like walnut, ( as that is what I thought I was to do, partly do to my High school teacher), and most of it really did not really look good either,

              (yes I have some pine stained wood work on a few rooms, but the wood variants do show through, and that is what I think makes wood beautiful it does not look like a painted or fake surface,

              but if you need a uniform surface the dyes are the way to go, you will get a even hardly no variance in the tone, one will need to practice some tho,

              some of the jell stains are a combination of dyes and stains, and some of the all in one stains could work as well for your purpose, and like said sealing the wood will result in some what the same effect as "extra" stain will not be absorbed in to the pours or the softer grains, as it is sealed, on the Ali in ones (I would only use it on the first coat and then use a clear on the second or additional coats,)
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