I built a bar top in my basement made of birch ply (picture attached). The under part of the bar is stock cabinets from Home Depot (Hampton, Cognac is the stain color, (picture attached)) In the effort to match the top as close to the cabinets as possible, I researched and found that Sherwin Williams makes the stain for this cabinetry (picture attached), and I obtained the stain for use on my bar top. I thought I would just take it home, wipe it on, take it off, and proceed like any other staining job. I was wrong.
The back story…. I used Zar wood filler to fill in the brad nail holes and joints. Now I know what you are all thinking, but believe it or not; I recreated the same use of filler, with sanding, on some test pieces and the wood filler itself stained perfectly fine. The problem is that the bar is rather large (100 square feet of stainable surface area) and I only hand sanded the wood fill areas (220) as the rest of the ply veneer took the stain nicely. The sanded wood fill and general area around the wood fill that was hit with the sand paper, did not. It deflected the stain like it was porcelain. I recreated a half dozen sections on a test piece using the wood fill and various coats, grits, washing with a cloth and water, and was unable to get the look I wanted…the stock cabinet cognac color. I know I hit the actual bar top wood fill areas hard enough with the sand paper in some areas that I can see a difference in the surface looking at an angle (pictures attached). But they are not all sanded to the same degree
Now after spending my entire Sunday trying to educate myself on the internet and youtube, I have a jumbled mess of methods in my head on what I should do from using water based conditioner, to cutting my own shellac as a preconditioner, to using a dye and then glaze. One supposedly reliable site claims birch should never get hit with anything higher than 150 grit, then another says to condition the wood and then sand it again with 320. Then another says to use sanding sealer. Each situation is different, I guess. So that’s what led me to turn to the message boards myself.
What are the proper steps for me, a novice finisher, to get get this bar top matching the stock cabinets as closely as possible, without disassembling it and spraying piece by piece?
The Zar or any other wood filler is like mixing glue and sawdust. It has a binder which is going to seal the wood. When using any wood filler it requires a major sand afterwards. I sometimes will mask off the surrounding wood prior to using a wood filler or when using a nail put tape on first and shoot the nail through the tape.
From where you are I would strip the stain off the areas where you used a wood filler and rinse the rest of the stain with lacquer thinner. From there purchase a random orbital sander and re-sand the entire piece before attempting to stain again. It's possible the areas you use stripper you may have to re-putty. Either mask around these spots or use an artist spatula to apply the putty so you don't get so much on the surrounding wood.
Thanks Steve, I think I need to clarify where I am at right now. I did not stain the bar top I only stained test pieces. so there's no need to remove any stain from anywhere the only thing I have done at this point is put the wood filler in and sand the wood filler which affected some of the wood surrounding the wood filler area. and that's where I am at right now. the bar top has not been treated or had any kind of water or chemical or anything of any form on it yet. Thanks
Since you are only on test pieces then I would just give the bar top a more thorough sanding. What is awkward is you already have part of it with a finish on it you are trying to duplicate. Birch is a wood prone to blotch. Normally when finishing birch a wood conditioner is used to prevent this however with a conditioner wood won't stain as dark as without the conditioner so it would be necessary to use a darker stain. You would have to test sample pieces with the wood conditioner to modify the stain you have to make the color match. What I normally do when matching a color is get close with an oil stain and supplement the color with a dye stain. With a dye stain you can add layer after layer until you achieve the color you want but it has to be sprayed. Even once you start putting clear on you can still add dyes to fine tune the color.
I don't have a simple answer for you. However, one thing I would do is to try to figure out what the finish is on the lower cabinets. I think that most of those 'production' finishes are different than a commonly available stain (like what you got).
I'd bet that they used a tinted lacquer to obtain the finish on the HD cabinets (or some other finish that can be applied in one or two coats total and that dries quickly.)
Maybe someone with experience in a production cabinet shop could give you some better advice on that. This might solve your sanding/blotching issues, because the nature of the finish is different.
Thanks guys. I'm sure the production finish was sprayed on also. I included a picture of the stain they used and the ingredients mixed. Its something I've never heard of… an alkyd. And who knows what type of wood it is. Since my bar is already assembled, and I dont have the proper tools to spray stain or dye, and have no experience spraying… that's not really an option for me here.
I also would have no idea where to start with a dye. Any ideas or tips there?
Go ahead and try the bac stain on some more scraps. Once you start with the stain on the bar you're pretty much committed. There is still the issue with the color going blotchy. The birch veneer varies in density from place to place so it's likely some spots will go much darker. You probably should use a conditioner even though the stain color will come out lighter. You could always have Sherwin Williams increase the volume of pigments in the stain making it more concentrated if this happens. If the existing bar had a wood conditioner used on it then it would be necessary anyway to use the conditioner.
I've had the best luck using a water-based dye topped with an oil-based clear coat. Any other combination has resulted in the problem of the dye creeping into the clear coat, then whenever you sand the clear coat, you end up removing some color as well.
Usually, water based dyes don't blotch as much as oil based ones. I've used the Transtint dyes with success. I usually like to do a few coats of dye, with the first coat being a bit lighter in color than the subsequent coats. This would be especially useful in trying to get the fairly dark color that you are going for.
You could also try a gel stain, as they can be easier to control the color.
Continue practicing on scrap until you figure it out.
Thanks pweller. Is it possible to have any color made into a dye or a gel stain? The reason being that I'm trying to match the stock cabinets, and that cognac color is a sherwin williams. Trying to match that color by picking random dyes or gel stains could be very time and money consuming, especially when I have the exact color in my hands already. I'm willing to try just about anything. But I don't have any substantial experience staining and no experience with experimenting. This is all new to me, I've only worked with oil or water based stains, never even knew there were dyes or gel stains out there let alone how to work with them.