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Staining multiple woods

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  • Staining multiple woods

    I am building a coffee table that is built primarily out of pine. The top and legs are pine but the skirt is made out of maple. I want to stain it a dark brown but I keep hearing about the problems maple and pine have with staining. Are there any issues with stainging the whole thing one color I should be aware of? Also, do I need to precondition the wood to avoid blotching?

    I've also heard that clear coats on top add a lot to the look of the piece, is this true?

    Any other tips/advice you can offer would greatly help- this is the first thing I've ever built and I've never stained.

  • #2
    Re: Staining multiple woods

    Wow, you've set yourself up with a tough plan.

    1) Maple is tough to stain dark. The pores are very small, so it's hard to get good penetration of the pigmentation.

    2) Pine IS very prone to splotching, due to the pitch in the wood and, unlike maple, soaks up stain with an appetite. Be particularly careful about the end-grain on pine. It can wind up significantly darker if you're not careful.

    I'd suggest you investigate Gel stains. Unlike many stains, it is actually a top-coating coloration. The longer you leave it on, the more of it dries and "adheres" and the darker result, but more of the grain gets obscured. You might need to do several coats on each wood in order to get them closely matched. You should do the maple first, as that will likely determine the limit on how dark you can get it.
    On the pine's end grain you can use sanding sealer (or a glue/water mix.. Google "sanding sealer") to prevent over-darkening the wood. Do this area last so you can ease into the color match with the maple.

    A top coat adds a tremendous amount of richness and sheen to stained woods. It also provides (depending on your choice) protection from moisture, abrasion, etc. Several coats of a high gloss can make your table look like a bar-table top. A few coats of satin finish will leave much of the "visual feel" of the wood, while providing protection.

    As long as your stain coat is completely dry and cured, you can use any type of topcoat. (e.g. water-based over oil, or vice versa).

    Since the top is pine, which is can be very moisture sensitive, I'd also suggest you put at least one coat on the underside, to help prevent back-side movement without top-side movement.
    Last edited by Wood_Junkie; 10-09-2009, 08:17 PM.


    • #3
      Re: Staining multiple woods

      Wood Junkie gave you some EXCELLENT advise. The only thing I would change is the amount of coats on the bottom side of the top. If it is open to the same elements as the top side, then I would use the same finish schedule, i.e. stain and same amount of finish coats. This will help to guarantee that all surfaces absorb and give off moisture evenly helping to keep the top flat.


      • #4
        Re: Staining multiple woods

        Thanks for the good advice, I never even thought about the expansion on the bottom side. Maybe that's why my table is already assembled. Does it matter that i won't be able to stain the wood hidden by the skirt and legs, or should I disassemble to get to those areas as well?

        Those gel stains you mentioned, it sounds like you apply it then wipe it off before it dries? Is there any sort of special technique I should use and just use a sponge, rag, or brush?


        • #5
          Re: Staining multiple woods

          It's always easier to stain and finish anything when you can work on mostly flat surfaces. If you can take the top off without much trouble, that would be best. Did you attach it so that the wood can expand and contract seasonally? There are special fasteners you can buy (available through any woodworking store, online, etc) that allow this action. Google Table top fasteners.

          Gel stains are pretty much all the same. You rag them on, wait a little bit, and wipe off the excess with the grain. I have used Bartley gel stains and finish (gel poly) in the past with great success. General Finishes has just about the same thing (copy) as Bartley. Just have to follow the directions.


          • #6
            Re: Staining multiple woods

            I don't know what experience others have had in staining different woods. I found out that on hard/close grain woods do not sand any finer than 150 and in some cases 120. This allows the wood to uptake the stain better.

            I just finished staining a new Misson coffee table. The primary wood is Red Oak and the secondary woods are Douglas Fir. I sanded the oak to 150 and the fir to 220. I did two coats of stain on the Oak and one on the Fir and they came out real close. Then finished with at least 2 coats of finish.