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I'm building a farmhouse trestle dining table and am having trouble staining the table top. I've already finished the base (made from douglas fir) and stained it a dark walnut color. The tabletop is made from Hard Maple and I would like to stain it a dark color so the entire table matches but every test I've done on scrap pieces have turned out poorly. First I tried straight stain (with stain conditioner) and it looked like I had painted it - the grain was completely covered. I did some research and found that dyes were said to be more transparent than stains and show the grain of the wood more. So I purchased some dark walnut stain and tried mixing it with hot water. The results were better but still too similar to staining. My third attempt was to mix the dye with alcohol which results in a better application of the dye but still hides the natural beauty of the Maple.

Could anyone please advise me on what techniques or products I should use to achieve a dark tint to the maple while retaining the natural beauty of the wood grain? I've carefully chosen each board for its grain patterns and would hate to cover it up just to achieve the right color. My other option is to stain it a lighter "golden pecan" which looks great but I'm not a huge fan of two-tone furniture.

**I was hoping to post pictures of my tests but that doesn't seem to be possible.
 

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I'm building a farmhouse trestle dining table and am having trouble staining the table top. I've already finished the base (made from douglas fir) and stained it a dark walnut color. The tabletop is made from Hard Maple and I would like to stain it a dark color so the entire table matches but every test I've done on scrap pieces have turned out poorly. First I tried straight stain (with stain conditioner) and it looked like I had painted it - the grain was completely covered. I did some research and found that dyes were said to be more transparent than stains and show the grain of the wood more. So I purchased some dark walnut stain and tried mixing it with hot water. The results were better but still too similar to staining. My third attempt was to mix the dye with alcohol which results in a better application of the dye but still hides the natural beauty of the Maple.

Could anyone please advise me on what techniques or products I should use to achieve a dark tint to the maple while retaining the natural beauty of the wood grain? I've carefully chosen each board for its grain patterns and would hate to cover it up just to achieve the right color. My other option is to stain it a lighter "golden pecan" which looks great but I'm not a huge fan of two-tone furniture.

**I was hoping to post pictures of my tests but that doesn't seem to be possible.
With maple it would be necessary to use a wood conditioner even though the conditioner would make the wood more difficult to get dark.

What I would recommend for stain is a combination of oil stain and an alcohol based aniline dye. Dyes are too cold and over time are prone to fade. It takes the oil stain to give warmth to the wood as well as more permanence to the color. This is the dye stain I use: https://www.mohawkproducts.com/Mohawk-Ultra-Penetrating-Stain-p/m520.htm
 

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...I'm building a farmhouse trestle dining table and am having trouble staining the table top. I've already finished the base (made from douglas fir) and stained it a dark walnut color.
Hello AJones,

First, so you or I don't waste our time...I only really do traditional work and I'm only responding because your asking about a traditional design that I happen to specialize in (aka folk architecture and furnishings) with your "farmhouse trestle dining table" (aka Harvest Table) which comes in many forms from several cultures.

To start, I have to ask more questions than give good answers...so...if these seem to be going down a path you wish not to follow, I fully respect that. Just disregard this post.

My guidance is going to come from the tradtional context only for the most part, and not modern methods. I follow those means, methods and materials that actually built these tables from scratch...

...The tabletop is made from Hard Maple and I would like to stain it a dark color so the entire table matches but every test I've done on scrap pieces have turned out poorly.
Sounds like its got the potential of being stunning and something your family will pass down for generations!:laugh2:

I can start by stating that "staining" (in the modern context) something like this was seldom done...Milk Painted...and/or coloring/faux graining in some way may have taken place in some forms, but not staining in the modern sense...

...First I tried straight stain (with stain conditioner) and it looked like I had painted it - the grain was completely covered. I did some research and found that dyes were said to be more transparent than stains and show the grain of the wood more. So I purchased some dark walnut stain and tried mixing it with hot water. The results were better but still too similar to staining.
Oooh...Hmmm..."stain conditioner"...again, not really something that was done as those today do it per se...or...if it was, it was "home made" for a specific task and that was dependent on a given coloring modality...

Your real challenge, as you are learning, is going "dark" on a light colored (super hard!!!) wood with subtle but stunning grain patterning. Not loosing that character yet also "turning it dark" is a serious challenge to do well.

You've selected a Black Walnut affect to the motif and that further makes things a real challenge even for the best of us since Black Walnut can have fantastic grain...but!!!...it evolved that way...Maple did not...its subtle in most regards including tone.

Traditional coloring of wood is as much "art" as it is alchemy, and each culture, guild house, and/or craftsperson had there own methods. I've learn many, some of those passed down from my own mother from our family...

I believe your goals are achievable, but its going to take more testing (most likely?) and evolve more time/patients...and maybe (?) perhaps...some adjustment to your "concept design" goals.

...My third attempt was to mix the dye with alcohol which results in a better application of the dye but still hides the natural beauty of the Maple.
Much more viable (big picture) as this is getting into the more traditional modalities of coloring wood like Maple..if...one even goes down that path to begin with? It typically was not done or even thought about for these most beautiful but also utilitarian tables.

...Could anyone please advise me on what techniques or products I should use to achieve a dark tint to the maple while retaining the natural beauty of the wood grain?
Short answer...yes.

But not sure you may care for the path I would offer be taken?

For one matter...there will be no big-box store solutions (for the most part) you will make your own finishes and/or used traditional blends...or used traditional source vendors...

You may have to adjust your design goals for the finish?

And...(this is the one I usually loose modern woodworkers on...LOL...:vs_laugh::vs_laugh:) there will be not "plastic finishes" on the project at all...ever!!! I like antiques and I like there evolved patina...Those only come with traditional methods and means applied to the materials...Plastics can achieve this...It's just not in there chemistry to do so...

...I've carefully chosen each board for its grain patterns and would hate to cover it up just to achieve the right color.
Not only would I hate for you to "cover it" up...I wouldn't help you facilitate that!:|

I've had folks replace a top with pine just because a wood they had (real story) was something like Birds Eye Maple (they didn't no wood at all) and there plan was to "paint it!!!!"

As such, you preserving the grain is the mandate...I get that and respect it!...However this may take some time to achieve to do it well?

...My other option is to stain it a lighter "golden pecan" which looks great but I'm not a huge fan of two-tone furniture.
I like that...I like the contrast...and its following more a traditional design motif for such tables...

...**I was hoping to post pictures of my tests but that doesn't seem to be possible.
Hope you figure that out? It can be confusing at first but I'm sure you will get it...

I'll help where I can, and expand on anything you may have questions about...I won't feel bad if you want to stick to "modern methods and finishes.":vs_smile:

Regards,

j
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Farmhouse Trestle Table

Hi Jay,

Thank you for your reply! I must admit I have been using power tools on this project since they are pretty much the only tools I have, but I am happy to say that all the joinery is all traditional, even down to the wooden pegs holding the mortises in place. The table top is a breadboard design I borrowed from a youtube video on the subject. Anyways, while my craftsmanship may not be traditional I would love to, at the very least, learn the methods you're proposing and see if they will accomplish my goals.

Sounds like its got the potential of being stunning and something your family will pass down for generations!
I like that you mention this, I'm only 2 weeks from graduating college, (so much too young for that yet) but in the back of my mind, I have been thinking about that idea as I designed and built it. It's taken me over a month to get this far and I'm purposely taking my time so it turns out well enough to pass down.

And...(this is the one I usually lose modern woodworkers on...LOL...) there will be not "plastic finishes" on the project at all...ever!!! I like antiques and I like there evolved patina...Those only come with traditional methods and means applied to the materials...Plastics can achieve this...It's just not in their chemistry to do so...
I'm not a fan of "plastic" finishes either, unless of course what I'm about to say changes that stance. I'm a huge fan of the Amish furniture both my parents own, the finish is glossy smooth and strong. I was able to achieve this through multiple coats of polyurethane and superfine (1500 grit) sandpaper to finish it off. Whether or not that how the Amish actually achieve their finish is beside the point. I don't consider that plastic finish but we may have different definitions of plastic. That was my original plan on finishing the tabletop so hopefully, that doesn't change or you may have a better way to achieve that same Amish finish? I'm hoping so since they're known for their traditional woodworking and you're advertising a traditional method. :smile2:

But not sure you may care for the path I would offer be taken?

For one matter...there will be no big-box store solutions (for the most part) you will make your own finishes and/or used traditional blends...or used traditional source vendors...
I'm all ears, and would truly like to learn more traditional methods, even if it doesn't work out. I've been patient thus far with the project and want this to be excellent when I'm done, so I will try anything you throw my way. I have lots of scrap cutoffs, some with beautiful grain orientations, so I can do plenty of tests until I find something just right.

I like that...I like the contrast...and its following more a traditional design motif for such tables...
When it's all said and done, assuming we can't find a finish I'm happy with, I don't mind this direction. The golden pecan test I did looked beautiful, so I'm reserving it as my backup plan.

By the way, figured out how to upload photos, you should find 3. I'm wondering if I hadn't unlocked that yet since the previous was my first post on these forums. I'm fairly new to woodworking so please excuse any potentially poor craftsmanship! :icon_rolleyes:
 

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...Thank you for your reply! I must admit I have been using power tools on this project since they are pretty much the only tools I have, but I am happy to say that all the joinery is all traditional, even down to the wooden pegs holding the mortises in place. The table top is a breadboard design I borrowed from a youtube video on the subject. Anyways, while my craftsmanship may not be traditional I would love to, at the very least, learn the methods you're proposing and see if they will accomplish my goals. ...
Hi AJones,

You are most welcome...Thanks for using traditional methods! :smile2:

I find the "faux versions" a pale example of what they could be...

As time passes I sure you will pick up more hand tool skills and learn not only their benefit, but that many of them are actually faster that modern machining methods of wood...

...I like that you mention this, I'm only 2 weeks from graduating college, (so much too young for that yet) but in the back of my mind, I have been thinking about that idea as I designed and built it. It's taken me over a month to get this far and I'm purposely taking my time so it turns out well enough to pass down. ...
Congrats of finishing school...

I'm sure many will enjoy sitting at this table in many generation to come...:laugh2:

...I'm not a fan of "plastic" finishes either, unless of course what I'm about to say changes that stance. I'm a huge fan of the Amish furniture both my parents own, the finish is glossy smooth and strong. ...
Don't get me started on Amish...LOL...:vs_laugh:...That most likely is a plastic finish...Its what the "English" tend to like buying and they are willing to sell it to them...

I grew up with them and still work with many..."tradition"...is not really something many of them do a very good job at today in there crafting skills. Its part of my role within the community today as the next generation is trying to "go back" to even more of what they once had in the way of traditional living skills.

I started in my "working knowledge" of timber framing by apprenticing with Old Order Amish from the time I was 13 til 23 (on and off) as a Barnwright. So, I have a pretty strong knowledge base of them, Mennonite, River Baptist et al, and how there loss of trade craft occurred...

...I was able to achieve this through multiple coats of polyurethane and superfine (1500 grit) sandpaper to finish it off. Whether or not that how the Amish actually achieve their finish is beside the point. I don't consider that plastic finish but we may have different definitions of plastic. That was my original plan on finishing the tabletop so hopefully, that doesn't change or you may have a better way to achieve that same Amish finish? I'm hoping so since they're known for their traditional woodworking and you're advertising a traditional method. :smile2: ...
Yep...:nerd2:...that is a plastic finish...

If you would like to explore traditional modalities I'm glad to discuss those...and to be clear, and respectful of the craft...most (almost all actually and sadly) of the Amish today practice modern "wood machining" and cut corners wherever possible to speed assembly up. Few of the Old Order sects follow true traditional formats like there Grandparents and forbears from the old world did...Though this current generation is trying to change that in some of the groups...like the one I'm working with currently...


...I'm all ears, and would truly like to learn more traditional methods, even if it doesn't work out. I've been patient thus far with the project and want this to be excellent when I'm done, so I will try anything you throw my way. I have lots of scrap cutoffs, some with beautiful grain orientations, so I can do plenty of tests until I find something just right. ...
O.k...that's great...When the hour isn't so late and I have more time, I will post some links to consider and maybe offer some suggestion that you can try that should get you where you wish to be...

...When it's all said and done, assuming we can't find a finish I'm happy with, I don't mind this direction. The golden pecan test I did looked beautiful, so I'm reserving it as my backup plan...
I'm pleased you like that and have something in the back of your head to fall back on that you know...you like...as the pleasure of crafting something is part of all this and shows in the work itself...

Till later, thanks for the photos and I really like what I see!!!:grin:
 

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Things to start with...???

Hello AJones,

I'm not 100% certain where to start, so the basics seem apropos...What finishes I work with most often...

First is my "day to day" finish...which is a blend of flax, tung, citrus oil blended with pine rosin and beeswax. It's used enough that 50 gallon barrels are secured for the work to be done...LOL...:vs_laugh:

I use to (many years ago now) blend these myself, but for the past 30 or so I have gotten them from a great vender (and friend) at Heritage Finishes. Autumn sells all these oils and other food grade and/or pure ingredients and more...

The other vender, and perhaps of more use at this time for supplies and/or advise would be another great vendor I have used since he started the business in the the 90's. The Real Milk Paint Company.

Now for the matter of coloring that Maple a tone you are aiming for without loosing the striking grain pattern...

I know if my Mother was still alive she (most likely) would do this by hand with each individual grain strike as it presents itself. Kind of a cross between "faux graining" and "staining." Its more selective and does exactly what your trying, however its not a fast process nor one that doesn't take a degree of focus and practice to pull off well. She started me off on it with the idea that its a cross between a "coloring book" (stay inside the lines...LOL) and a "paint by numbers" craft. In my family we did "extreme crafts" so that meant things like making our own brushes from different plant and animal fibers and carving our own graining tools. I have no expectation of that from anyone! Plus now, much of this can be purchased.

Now this isn't true "faux graining" but rather individually coloring the fields between the different natural grain patterns to achieve the level of dark or light you wish to achieve. Since this is a traditional Harvest Table style the contrast of top and the trestle underneath really is not out of context. Blending your own pigments with alcohol and/or finishing oils to diluted levels to get your effect is a process of experimenting with sample boards till your happy with the color and the technique as you develop it. Again, this is much art as it is craft and the materials will teach you more than most teachers ever could. Our job is just to point someone in a direction, show them the means and materials...then step back till called upon...

Note again, I don't do the "plastics" or "modern method materials." I don't like them, how they age or the companies behind there manufacture so really have no experience with them, other than sanding them off projects, fixing them when the go bad (and they do go bad) and other challenges with modern finishes that are ever present...

Let me know if I can be more specific on anything?

:laugh2:
 
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