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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I am new to this forum. I am working with a cabinet maker to build kitchen cabinets for us using rift white oak. We would like the wood to keep the same look with minimum color changes as much as possible after all the finish is applied. Our cabinet maker is using Sher-wood Water White Conversion Varnish as the top coat. Here's the link:


He said the "water white" here will yellow/amber the wood as if the wood is wet with water. When I called Sherwin Williams finishing facility, they claim it should not amber or yellow the wood. Can someone with experience with this conversion varnish confirms or denies this?

My cabinet maker is currently doing samples using his approach of applying wood conditioner and stain but because the wood conditioner and stain are oil based, they amber the wood. He is trying different stain color to try to reverse the effect but it ends up just looking artificial and very different then the "raw" unfinished wood. Has anyone with success achieving a finish with this conversion varnish while minimizing color changes?

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
He previously gave me three samples, one of which he said has no stain and just the CV and it had an amber color to it. I didn’t know anything about the wood conditioner so I didn’t ask. I just found out today after several attempts and not getting the color right that he used an oil based wood conditioner. I reached out to get clarification whether the no stain sample had any wood conditioning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
@Jim Frye We would be happy with "just barely darker". It doesn't have to be exactly the same as unfinished. Sorry for not being more clear.

@Steve Neul Thanks for the info about not needing wood conditioner on oak. I did do a lot of research and have heard that water based finishes will be the best to maintain the original color. We want something that is as durable as possible though with young kids and all. This SW Water White CV seems like our best option here in California. We also didn't want to risk having our cabinet maker try out a completely different finish system from a company he haven't worked with before.

The cabinet maker replied and said he will make a sample with just the Water White CV and nothing else. I am guessing by that response his original "no stain" sample was pre-finished with the oil wood conditioner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Conversion varnish will make a very hard finish. It will just be a little more difficult to touch up should the finish be damaged. I do think it will darken the wood a little more than a water based polyurethane but not a lot more. Since it dries quickly it will be easier for the cabinetmaker to finish with. Since it is a catalyzed solvent coating it surprises me it's available in California.

Now, white oak is no difference than any other wood. It will vary in color a lot from board to board. One of the characteristics of white oak is a lot of it looks amazingly like red oak. Sometimes you almost have to get a magnifying glass to tell the difference between the two woods. You may want to get an actual finisher to finish the cabinets to make them more uniform. A finisher can use dyes and toners to even out the differences in the wood.
We have white oak floor so I am aware that white oak does vary drastically in color from board to board. Our veneer is actually random match to simulate the random planks so we actually don't care for them to be uniform.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
@Txwelder35, I have came across Rubio Monocoat too and have seen some work that used them that is part of our inspiration. I have you seen various tests that show they are not that strong of a finish (especially for the kitchen) though so decided to pass.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@DrRobert, yes, our cabinet maker have been trying out different stains. We're not looking for uniform. I agree that some white oak veneer can be bland. Ours happen to look pretty good unfinished to us. We are going with the random plank look. Here's our inspiration photo to show what we are going for:

Countertop Cabinetry Property Furniture Kitchen


I actually did reach out to the wood shop that did this and the only thing they would tell me is that they used a "clear" coat. I understand from my research that not all "clear" coat is really clear. I don't get why the industry uses that term.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
@epicfail48 Our cabinet maker thinks just spraying on the white water CV will amber the wood so he is trying to use stain to get back to the original color.

Can anyone with direct experience with the Sher-wood White Water CV comment on whether the finish changes the wood color much if it is the only thing that is applied to the wood?
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
I agree with Sherman Williams

Generally speaking, sometimes the terms can be confusing.
The term "Clear" usually means a slight amber tone.
The term "Water White" means completely clear like water. Usually used over a stain piece when you dont want to alter the color.
If you want your wood to be "Water White", then I have no idea why he is using a conditioner and stain.

The thing to be considered is that the wood will age and get slightly darker over time and also a Water White" finish is not usually desirable because it looks lifeless, unless over a stain. That's just personal preferences.

The only time I have ever used Water White over raw wood was on Birds Eye maple when I wanted to give it an ancient relic look and protect the surface of the wood.

My opinion is get rid of your cabinet maker. He is confused by some pretty basic finishing principles.
Thanks for the explanation! My understanding talking to our cabinet maker is that with stain, the water white CV will be clear but if the CV is applied to just raw wood/veneer, it will amber the wood as if it is "wet". I am still waiting on a sample from him with just the CV without any conditioner and stain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
A lot of finishers I’ve worked with will use a “very diluted” white pigmented stain to UV protect white oak under CV which also offsets any potential longer term ambering of the clear coats, plus it inhibits the yellowing of the underlying oak.
That's very interesting. I heard the same thing from a General Finishes's rep. He said something like 10% white mixed in with the finish. The Sher-wood Water White CV said it comes with UV absorber already so I don't know if adding the extra white is needed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I reached out to the people who made the cabinets in our inspiration photo asking about ambering effect of a "clear" finish and they responded to clarify that they actually did "a white washed clear coat". Can someone that understand what this mean translate? These cabinets don't look white washed at all. Do you think they meant some white pigment to tint the clear coat to counteract the ambering effect?

Here's the inspiration photo again for the rift white oak:

Countertop Cabinetry Property Furniture Kitchen
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Both are right. The finish should not shift the natural color of the wood. But what you are seeing when the wood is dry is not the natural finished color of the wood. If you want to see the natural color of the wood wipe it with mineral spirits (or water). While it is wet, that is close to the natural color of the wood. Therefore there is a shift from the color of the wood unfinished, but that shift is due to having a film on it. CV will have a minimal shift since in general the coatings are very thin compared to poly or other finishes.
I am learning that the "wet" look is actually the true color of the wood like you said. We just prefer it to be less intense.
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 · (Edited)
I just got a sample from my cabinet maker that only has the SW White Water CV on it with no stain conditioner or stain. Like my cabinet maker said, it definitely added yellow/amber compared to the unfinished veneer. I am pretty disappointed considering that SW claims this is "water white" clear. I expected a little darkening but not this orange look. The finished piece of the right is actually slightly more orange and darker in person.

Wood Rectangle Flooring Wood stain Floor


On the other hand, I am experimenting with Minwax Simply White stain and out of the can, it looks pretty nice. A little whiter then I would like so I am going to play with diluting it a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Also I looked into water based finishes but there is not much option where I am at (San Diego, CA) which is surprising. Sherwin Williams said they don't carry any water based industrial grade finish here. The only water based finish here is from General Finishes. I am considering their Enduro Clear Poly but have read that its chemical resistance is not as good as CV. My main concern is from ammonia based cleaning product.
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
Hello to the original poster,

I recently stumbled upon your thread trying to find the right finish for white oak to prevent it from ambering or looking to yellow/orange. I too am working with a cabinet maker (that i like) but is having a lot of trouble with the finish. I have been going crazy trying to figure this out with him and knowing nothing about wood. I would be extremely grateful if you could share what you finally ended up with? or could make a recommend the finish you used?
I would be happy to share. It turned out a lot easier then I expected. First you want make sure that your cabinet maker does not use any pre-stain/conditioner on the wood.

For the stain, based upon what some folks have suggested here and elsewhere, I started experimenting with Minwax Simply White and diluted it with Minwax Natural. I would recommend starting with a ratio of one Simply White to three Natural and see how you like it. I highly highly recommend trying it on a piece of scrapped wood from the actual wood you are using for your cabinet. White oak can vary quite a bit from piece to piece so this will give you a more accurate idea of the final color. For me, the ratio of one Simply White to three Natural yields the least color change from the bare wood but it does have a slight cooler undertone. We ended up liking the ratio of 4 Natural to 2 Simply White to 1 Golden Oak the most as it yields a slightly warmer undertone. You can experiment to see what looks best under your kitchen lighting.

Finally, for the top coat, you want to use something that is “water white” that doesn’t change the stained wood color. We used Sherwin William Water White Conversion Varnish for our cabinets. Note that even though it doesn’t change the color of the stained wood, if you simply apply this top coat on top of raw wood without the stain, it would result in an ambering effect.

Good luck!
 
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