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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
We have maple kitchen cabinets with what I would call a natural finish. The cabinet doors and faces appear to have darkened over time the way my solid-maple furniture has. That's fine.

The problem is there are panels on the few exposed "sides" to the cabinets, as well as the front face of the kitchen island, that are much lighter (and obviously not solid maple).

I don't believe these facing pieces are even actual wood, but my husband disagrees. He thinks they are wood veneer. I think they are basically wallpaper made to look like it has wood grain, but that's another story.

We are going to replace the facing on the kitchen island with maple veneer panels (the existing panels are just damaged and need to be replaced), and also need to replace one of the kick plates (I think that's what they're called). What I hope to do is to finish the new maple veneer panels with the proper stain/varnish/whatever so they will darken over time and eventually be a fairly close match with the cabinets (closer than what they are now).

How on earth can I figure out what to do to make this happen? Do I just need a non-UV finish and no stain? Or is there such a thing as light maple stain?

I'm attaching some photos; they're not cooperating and showing up in the proper order, so I'll do the best I can with descriptions.

  1. The first photo shows the crap I want to replace that I think is not wood veneer.
  2. The photo with the labels shows the crappy panel next to the obviously real maple trim piece; you can see a little of the difference in color here.
  3. My third photo shows the maple cabinet front against the side panel of unknown makeup; this is where you can really see the color difference.
  4. The final photo is the same cabinet front with the new, unfinished maple-veneer kick-plate underneath it, so you can see the actual color of one of the pieces I'll need to stain, along with what I hope to match.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.
 

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If you look at only one door frame you see the verticals on the frame are lighter than the horizontals.
This variance in tones is not uncommon on this type cabinetry. I believe you want more uniformity and less variance in color tone. Unless you're a professional, this will be difficult to achieve. Yes, it can be done, but it will require much patience on your part to get it right. Some may feel you should start by stripping the old finish.
If it were mine, I would clean the cabinets and prep for a new finish that would basically match the darker woods by using a Toner. It's easier to go darker than going lighter.
 

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The fake board is probably a vinyl covered particleboard or MDF. The solid wood is probably finished with a nitrocellulose lacquer which has yellowed over time. It's going to take a lot of tinkering to match the color. The best thing to do is take some scrap maple and sand it as though you would the cabinets and just put a clear nitrocellulose lacquer over the top and see what it looks like. It might very well be whiter and lighter than the old cabinets with a slight yellow cast to it. If that is what happens you can reproduce the color with some amber shellac and then put lacquer over the top. It may just be a thin trace of the amber shellac but it will give the finish the yellow from the aged lacquer. Again it will take tinkering to come up with the right amount of shellac to use. I think the shellac may be enough but if it still comes out too light it might be necessary to use a dye stain too in order to make it darker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
"f you look at only one door frame you see the verticals on the frame are lighter than the horizontals.
This variance in tones is not uncommon on this type cabinetry. I believe you want more uniformity and less variance in color tone. Unless you're a professional, this will be difficult to achieve. Yes, it can be done, but it will require much patience on your part to get it right. Some may feel you should start by stripping the old finish.
If it were mine, I would clean the cabinets and prep for a new finish that would basically match the darker woods by using a Toner. It's easier to go darker than going lighter."

This doesn't answer my question, but I appreciate you taking the time to reply! Thank you!
 

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"f you look at only one door frame you see the verticals on the frame are lighter than the horizontals.
This variance in tones is not uncommon on this type cabinetry. I believe you want more uniformity and less variance in color tone. Unless you're a professional, this will be difficult to achieve. Yes, it can be done, but it will require much patience on your part to get it right. Some may feel you should start by stripping the old finish.
If it were mine, I would clean the cabinets and prep for a new finish that would basically match the darker woods by using a Toner. It's easier to go darker than going lighter."

This doesn't answer my question, but I appreciate you taking the time to reply! Thank you!
The difference in color between the horizontals and verticals is just the wood. Wood from one tree doesn't necessarily match wood from another tree even though they are the same species.

I don't know if I would get involved in using a toner. It takes a lot of practice to be able to use a toner and get the color uniform. That kind of needs to be left to an experienced finisher. Another product that would be easier to use is an alcohol based dye stain such as this. http://www.mohawk-finishing.com/catalog_browse.asp?ictNbr=178 It's a lot more transparent than a toner and therefore easier to get more uniform. The finish would need to be scuff sanded first for it to bond to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The difference in color between the horizontals and verticals is just the wood. Wood from one tree doesn't necessarily match wood from another tree even though they are the same species.

I don't know if I would get involved in using a toner. It takes a lot of practice to be able to use a toner and get the color uniform. That kind of needs to be left to an experienced finisher. Another product that would be easier to use is an alcohol based dye stain such as this. http://www.mohawk-finishing.com/catalog_browse.asp?ictNbr=178 It's a lot more transparent than a toner and therefore easier to get more uniform. The finish would need to be scuff sanded first for it to bond to.
Also -- the difference in color the responder is talking about is just due to the lighting and the camera angle anyway. ;)

Another question for you, though. Now that we have identified the side panels as vinyl-covered particle board, my husband is asking what we can do about those. The problem as he describes it is that you can't remove those panels, so they cannot be replaced, and they also cannot be covered with a veneer-covered plywood because that would be too thick. I suggested we look at just using that super-thin, paper-like wood veneer (http://www.rockler.com/psa-pressure-sensitive-veneer-new-sizes-24-inch-x-96-inch). (Actually, I suggested we leave it alone, then when he pushed, the paper-thin veneer was my next suggestion.:grin:) He wants me to ask you about it, though. Is that something doable on a cabinet end? All I can find online is article after article about painting that crap, and I do not want painted cabinets ever, but especially not just to deal with three small end panels! Covering those vinyl panels with thin veneer or leaving them alone are, in my opinion, the only viable options, but as usual, he doesn't trust me.

Is there another option I'm missing? And with that thin veneer, do you finish it first and then apply it, or apply it and then finish it?

I hope this makes sense!
 

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I wouldn't recommend the peal and press veneer. It's one of those things that should be un-invented. While easy to use it doesn't stick permanently and you end up with endless repairs. What would give you better results is what is known as a phenolic back veneer. What it is is formica with a real wood veneer on the face of it. Any lumber company which can order formica for you should be able to order the veneer. Both Formica and Wilsonart make it. The reason I recommend this veneer over another is because the sides of the cabinet have a finish on them and contact cement is needed to apply the veneer and other veneers don't do well with contact cement.

You might also consider using a dye stain on the vinyl sides. Unless you just can't stand the vinyl print the dye should give it the color of the rest of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I wouldn't recommend the peal and press veneer. It's one of those things that should be un-invented. While easy to use it doesn't stick permanently and you end up with endless repairs. What would give you better results is what is known as a phenolic back veneer. What it is is formica with a real wood veneer on the face of it. Any lumber company which can order formica for you should be able to order the veneer. Both Formica and Wilsonart make it. The reason I recommend this veneer over another is because the sides of the cabinet have a finish on them and contact cement is needed to apply the veneer and other veneers don't do well with contact cement.

You might also consider using a dye stain on the vinyl sides. Unless you just can't stand the vinyl print the dye should give it the color of the rest of it.
Thank you for the warning about that veneer! I'm going to stay away from the dye also -- that sounds too risky. I'd be afraid of getting it uneven.

I've looked up the phenolic backed veneer, and am finding all kinds of different things. Is this something that is already finished, or is it an unfinished veneer? I saw some listings on eBay that list the thickness as anywhere from 1/16" to 1/30" -- so this comes in different thicknesses?

All I found on the Wilsonart site was woodgrain formica, and the phenolic backing by itself. I'm still looking, though.
 

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Wilsonart's website is terrible but this is it, https://www.wilsonart.com/woodgrain-laminate-vs-veneer It's just like any other veneer except instead of having a flimsy paper back on the veneer it has formica. For what you are doing if you order this be sure to get what is known as a vertical surface laminate if it is still available. Regular thickness laminate is about 1/16" thick where the vertical thickness is about half that.
 

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Wilsonart's website is terrible but this is it, https://www.wilsonart.com/woodgrain-laminate-vs-veneer It's just like any other veneer except instead of having a flimsy paper back on the veneer it has formica. For what you are doing if you order this be sure to get what is known as a vertical surface laminate if it is still available. Regular thickness laminate is about 1/16" thick where the vertical thickness is about half that.
You are wonderful, Steve -- thank you so much for all your help!
 
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