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In the coming weeks I have to build a new vanity for our bathroom and the wife decided she wants it to be dark dark brown stained, something like espresso or java or mocha or whatever its called. A long time ago I tried a dark stain on a piece and it came out horrible. I think it was #2 pine and minwax dark walnut. I never went back.

What I've researched so far points to spraying on a few coats of dye stain, maybe different color combinations to achieve the end product. Does anyone have a favorite recipe? What about a top coat?

I plan on using birch ply for the carcase. With this dark of a stain and multiple layers, can i use select pine for the face frame/ doors/ drawers? Or should I pick up something else, I've got so much of it sitting around.

Thanks for your help guys!
 

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Minwax is garbage. You want a STAIN. Not a tinted topcoat. Go to a real paint store. NOT ACE, Lowes or Homeless Despot. They should have samples showing the stains applied to different types of wood.
 

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Check out dye stains. You won't find them at Lowes or even paint supply stores. Check any online wood worker supply outlet. I have used both the powder and liquid types and got really good results. Paired with a pigment stain like a general finishes product you can get stunning results with cheaper woods like poplar. Most dye stains are either water or alcohol soluble so you need to choose whether you want to contend with raising the grain or a very fast drying stain.
 

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With the birch ply carcass I would use poplar for the face frames and doors. It will stain very similar to the birch and it is fairly cheap. Cut some extra small pieces and experiment with whatever stain you want to try. One tip I would add is to not sand to to high a grit. If you sand with a random orbit sander go to 220grit then go back over with 180 grit by hand. You will eliminate swirls from the sander and you won't burnish the surface so much it won't absorb stain. On your test pieces if the stain seems light putting on another coat of stain won't help. You'll need to re sand with a lower grit and the stain will absorb better leaving a darker hue. With the dye stains they will look dull until you apply a topcoat, then they will pop.
 

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Yes a dewaxedshellac will work. As far as a top coat, it's what you feel comfortable with and yes poly will work just fine.
 

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The dye stain is a good idea in that it will allow you to stain the cabinet dark without the blotchiness associated with oil stains. Shellac though isn't a good finish for a vanity though. It isn't any more water resistant than nitrocellulose lacquer. I think you would be better off using an oil based polyurethane for a topcoat.
 

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Your wash coat and top coat should be the same. The shellac should not raise the stain and you could even thin the shellac down and use that for a top coat. I wouldn't use the Zinzer stuff straight from the can without thing it some with denatured alcohol. Shellac is a great top coat as each application will flow into the previous one. Laquer will do the same but the fumes are pretty strong. Poly just builds layer on top of layer and can be hard to repair. Chip off some finish with shellac and just touch it up with some new shellac. The finish will reflow around the damaged area and the repair will be hard to spot. With poly it's another story.
 

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I have used Rustoleum "Kona" with pretty decent results. Mostly on white pine which stains dark. It dries fast so you have to wipe it on and wipe it off pretty quickly.

Below are pics using this stain, white pine and Deft Clear Wood Finish (Satin).

Good luck with your project.
Mike
 

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