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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everybody,

I am new to any type of staining or woodworking in general. I am to replace our kitchen cabinets, we want to stain our own unfinished cabinets because it will be the cheapest and we want to make it our own. I am having extreme difficulty.
I have bought exact side panels and doors that will be from the cabinets to test stain colors and technique.
It is oak, and every piece I stain following the same exact procedures, based off what I had seen on youtube or read on the cans, turns out different and I do not understand what I am doing wrong. The door and side panel looked extremely different from each other, and I do not understand which type to use for better uniformity, gel stain, oil based, water based. I am at this point utterly confused and lost, I have spent many dollars just to practice and determine which stain to use and I am lost. The following is the procedure I have used, but the wood has been turning out different, I do not know how people get the same great results with such uniformity

-sand panel/door with 220 grit sandpaper.
-suck dust off panel/door with vacuum.
-Wipe with shop towel.
-Apply oil based wood conditioner with foam brush, wiping excess with shop towel
-Let door/panel sit for 30 minutes
-Apply in the direction of the grain oil based stain on the door/panel
-Let it sit for 5 minutes
-Wipe excess stain, this is where I start to get discouraged, as it does not look right, i am not applying loads of pressure
-Let dry for several hours.

It seems no matter what type of stain I use or technique, it always looks different, color wise and uniformity
Am i just terrible? Wrong technique? I do not know where else to turn for help/advice. The wiping of the excess stain is where I think i may be messing up, but every video I have seen they just wipe it off like nothing, but it seems to act different when I do it, the videos are so uniform in color and look, I am just lost
 

· The Nut in the Cellar
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I suspect the differences are due to the side panels being veneered plywood and the doors being solid wood. The veneered side panels will absorb stain less than the solid wood due to the thinness of the veneer and the glue bonding it to the plywood substrate blocking absorption of the stain. If the side panels are solid wood, please let us know.

And welcome to the forums.
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
They are veneered plywood with oak as the veneer, however the panel seemed to absorb better than the door. Thank you for response, I understand what you are saying, and that is another reason I am confused. I cannot get anything to stain smoothly or uniform
 

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Oak can be difficult to stsin because of its open grain. I think a gel stain will work better, recommend General Finishes. They also have a video on how to apply. Sometimes sealing prior to staining can help. But not matter what you do, variation in color can occur when the wood is random and coming from different trees.

Veneer can stain differently but as long as it’s the same for all doors it will look intentional.

Have to ask, tho, how picky are you? 😁. Post some pics.
 

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Hi everybody,

I am new to any type of staining or woodworking in general. I am to replace our kitchen cabinets, we want to stain our own unfinished cabinets because it will be the cheapest and we want to make it our own. I am having extreme difficulty.
I have bought exact side panels and doors that will be from the cabinets to test stain colors and technique.
It is oak, and every piece I stain following the same exact procedures, based off what I had seen on youtube or read on the cans, turns out different and I do not understand what I am doing wrong. The door and side panel looked extremely different from each other, and I do not understand which type to use for better uniformity, gel stain, oil based, water based. I am at this point utterly confused and lost, I have spent many dollars just to practice and determine which stain to use and I am lost. The following is the procedure I have used, but the wood has been turning out different, I do not know how people get the same great results with such uniformity

-sand panel/door with 220 grit sandpaper.
-suck dust off panel/door with vacuum.
-Wipe with shop towel.
-Apply oil based wood conditioner with foam brush, wiping excess with shop towel
-Let door/panel sit for 30 minutes
-Apply in the direction of the grain oil based stain on the door/panel
-Let it sit for 5 minutes
-Wipe excess stain, this is where I start to get discouraged, as it does not look right, i am not applying loads of pressure
-Let dry for several hours.

It seems no matter what type of stain I use or technique, it always looks different, color wise and uniformity
Am i just terrible? Wrong technique? I do not know where else to turn for help/advice. The wiping of the excess stain is where I think i may be messing up, but every video I have seen they just wipe it off like nothing, but it seems to act different when I do it, the videos are so uniform in color and look, I am just lost
220 grit is a little fine for oak, usually 180 grit is enough. Sand everything with the same grit or it may stain a slightly different color. The cabinets may be new and look perfect but if someone handled the cabinet, even at the factory with a wet hand it will raise the grain and cause the wood to stain darker there. Even a drip of sweat on the wood will make a defect in the stain.

You don't need or want to use a wood conditioner on oak. There are many different kinds of wood such as maple which have hard and soft spots in the grain which stain blotchy and the conditioner helps the stain stain more uniform. Oak isn't one of the woods that stain blotchy.

The wood will either accept the stain or reject it. Letting stain stand for an extended length of time isn't going to help and can hurt the finish. If some of it dries on the surface it will prevent the adhesion of the finish you put over it. Then open grain wood such as oak the stain deeply penetrates into the pores and can start bleeding out and making spots hour after you have wiped off the stain and think you are done with the process. You might leave it and come back to find black spots all over which have dried on the surface. At that point it would take a solvent to clean the spots off and then you would find out the wood will no longer accept the stain. Try the stain you use on some scrap wood which has been sanded the same as your project and see if the color is right. If it isn't dark enough then you need to modify the stain you are using or purchase a darker color. I suspect the problem you are having getting the wood to stain is from using the wood conditioner. It may be if you are using an especially light color the wood itself may be the problem. With most wood each board will stain a slightly different color. The professional finisher will stain everything and then go back with a sprayer and a dye or toner and shade in the lighter boards. I use this dye. Mohawk | Ultra® Penetrating Stain MA520-2036 This dye is more like ink and won't interfere with the finish. If there is places you missed that you see when you start topcoating the wood you can use the dye between the coats of finish. I prefer a dye to a toner because a toner is more like thinned down paint where a dye is very transparent. Unless you just put way too much on you can't see that the color was altered.

When you choose a stain, Minwax stains are very forgiving and easy for a beginner to get a nice job. This convenience comes at a cost because the stain is prone to fading. If you think you might someday be adding cabinets to what you are doing this may be an issue matching the color. Even if you know the color you used after a few years the color may not be the same, especially if your kitchen is sunny. One other note, with most stains you can add colorant to the stain to alter the color. With Minwax stains you can only alter the color by mixing other colors of Minwax stain to it.
 

· where's my table saw?
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I have bought exact side panels and doors that will be from the cabinets to test stain colors and technique.
This is a very good idea and what we would recommend. I use Minwax stains almost exclusively and have pretty good results.
I have made my own colors by mixing them together and I keep a "sample" board of my combinations:
Font Wood Rectangle Parallel Newsprint


I don't use a wood conditioner on Oak, only Pine.
Here's an example of Red Oak with a Red Oak Minwax stain. AS you can see the different grains take the stain differently, but the overall color is pretty similar:
Rectangle Wood Fixture Wood stain Flooring
 
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Hi everybody,

I am new to any type of staining or woodworking in general. I am to replace our kitchen cabinets, we want to stain our own unfinished cabinets because it will be the cheapest and we want to make it our own. I am having extreme difficulty.
I have bought exact side panels and doors that will be from the cabinets to test stain colors and technique.
It is oak, and every piece I stain following the same exact procedures, based off what I had seen on youtube or read on the cans, turns out different and I do not understand what I am doing wrong. The door and side panel looked extremely different from each other, and I do not understand which type to use for better uniformity, gel stain, oil based, water based. I am at this point utterly confused and lost, I have spent many dollars just to practice and determine which stain to use and I am lost. The following is the procedure I have used, but the wood has been turning out different, I do not know how people get the same great results with such uniformity

-sand panel/door with 220 grit sandpaper.
-suck dust off panel/door with vacuum.
-Wipe with shop towel.
-Apply oil based wood conditioner with foam brush, wiping excess with shop towel
-Let door/panel sit for 30 minutes
-Apply in the direction of the grain oil based stain on the door/panel
-Let it sit for 5 minutes
-Wipe excess stain, this is where I start to get discouraged, as it does not look right, i am not applying loads of pressure
-Let dry for several hours.

It seems no matter what type of stain I use or technique, it always looks different, color wise and uniformity
Am i just terrible? Wrong technique? I do not know where else to turn for help/advice. The wiping of the excess stain is where I think i may be messing up, but every video I have seen they just wipe it off like nothing, but it seems to act different when I do it, the videos are so uniform in color and look, I am just lost
First, be easy on yourself. If your cabinets are red oak, which they likely are, you will not really close matches without toning them instead of staining. Red oak can rub from a grayish similar to white oak, all the way to pinkish. Second, do not sand to 220. Sandpaper becomes finer as you sand and the 220 can end up polishing the wood. In most cases you do not want to sand beyond 150 prior to staining. This will give you much greater success. Third, others may disagree but I have never seen the need for a pre stain conditioner with red oak. Do not over sand, and I recommend hand sanding in the direction of the grain. If the doors were already machined there should be no reason to use a power sander. So your schedule will look something like this;
1. Hand sand in grain direction to 150
2. Vacuum and wipe with lint free cloth
3. Stain as per instructions
4. Test for dry stain by lightly wiping with a white soft cloth. Little to no stain should come off
5. Seal with shellac or a thinned coat of your topcoat of choice
6. Lightly sand with 320. You do not want to break through the seal coat, just knock off the nibs and give teeth for bonding. This is actually more like wiping than sanding.
7. Vacuum and wipe
8. Apply topcoat
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I can't thank all of you enough for your advice and comments. I appreciate the thought that went into it, it is a great feeling. I am trying some things, and will keep you posted, also with pictures. Any and all thoughts are very much appreciated!
 

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Like others have mentioned, Red oak plywood and red oak solid usually stain differently. Since the plywood and solids aren't usually next to each other, most people wouldn't notice. Also once the clear topcoat is applied, the "tones" will blend together. If I'm concerned about it; I will spray a "wash coat" (a little dewaxed shellac and denatured alcohol) on the plywood so it takes less stain than the solid wood. Another option is once everything is stained, you can spray a toner on the lighter faces. A toner is basically a stain (I use die) mixed with the top coat finish. Lots of youtube video's out there with great advise. I have never tried it but I don't see why "toning" wouldn't work when brushing the topcoat.
 

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First, be easy on yourself. If your cabinets are red oak, which they likely are, you will not really close matches without toning them instead of staining. Red oak can rub from a grayish similar to white oak, all the way to pinkish. Second, do not sand to 220. Sandpaper becomes finer as you sand and the 220 can end up polishing the wood. In most cases you do not want to sand beyond 150 prior to staining. This will give you much greater success. Third, others may disagree but I have never seen the need for a pre stain conditioner with red oak. Do not over sand, and I recommend hand sanding in the direction of the grain. If the doors were already machined there should be no reason to use a power sander. So your schedule will look something like this;
1. Hand sand in grain direction to 150
2. Vacuum and wipe with lint free cloth
3. Stain as per instructions
4. Test for dry stain by lightly wiping with a white soft cloth. Little to no stain should come off
5. Seal with shellac or a thinned coat of your topcoat of choice
6. Lightly sand with 320. You do not want to break through the seal coat, just knock off the nibs and give teeth for bonding. This is actually more like wiping than sanding.
7. Vacuum and wipe
8. Apply topcoat
I'm all about different grains of scotchbrite for final "sanding". Purple-brown is my go to for lighter finishes.Similar to 350-400 I guess.
 

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I'm all about different grains of scotchbrite for final "sanding". Purple-brown is my go to for lighter finishes.Similar to 350-400 I guess.
I never use scotchbrite on bare wood. Here, the maroon color (purple-brown) is a medium grit. I have used the grey pads, extra fine, between coats. I sand bare wood with Mirka Abranet or 3M purple paper.
 

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I've found oak solid lumber to be extremely forgiving to staining in general. I have not used oak plywood before.

I've used General Finishes oil based gel stains on oak always with outstanding results and low effort from me. Super easy with a foam brush and do not need to let it sit for 5 minutes.

Looks even better with General Finishes satin Arm R Seal oil based finish or even their water based finishes.
 

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I sand oak ply and solids the same, My whole housed is oak. I’ve built most of the furniture pieces for my house, hardwood floors etc..Everything is sanded to 150, even the hardwood floors..
 

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Hi everybody, I am new to any type of staining or woodworking in general. I am to replace our kitchen cabinets, we want to stain our own unfinished cabinets because it will be the cheapest and we want to make it our own. I am having extreme difficulty. I have bought exact side panels and doors that will be from the cabinets to test stain colors and technique. It is oak, and every piece I stain following the same exact procedures, based off what I had seen on youtube or read on the cans, turns out different and I do not understand what I am doing wrong. The door and side panel looked extremely different from each other, and I do not understand which type to use for better uniformity, gel stain, oil based, water based. I am at this point utterly confused and lost, I have spent many dollars just to practice and determine which stain to use and I am lost. The following is the procedure I have used, but the wood has been turning out different, I do not know how people get the same great results with such uniformity -sand panel/door with 220 grit sandpaper. -suck dust off panel/door with vacuum. -Wipe with shop towel. -Apply oil based wood conditioner with foam brush, wiping excess with shop towel -Let door/panel sit for 30 minutes -Apply in the direction of the grain oil based stain on the door/panel -Let it sit for 5 minutes -Wipe excess stain, this is where I start to get discouraged, as it does not look right, i am not applying loads of pressure -Let dry for several hours. It seems no matter what type of stain I use or technique, it always looks different, color wise and uniformity Am i just terrible? Wrong technique? I do not know where else to turn for help/advice. The wiping of the excess stain is where I think i may be messing up, but every video I have seen they just wipe it off like nothing, but it seems to act different when I do it, the videos are so uniform in color and look, I am just lost
Give it up, pal. You've probably got white oak--very hard but very open; stains very irregularly. Not your fault. You want to keep in mind that a lot of 19th Cy oak furniture was made in New England and almost all of it was painted because of the staining problem.
 

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I have always struggled with store bought stain so I gave up on them.
I usually can get a look that I like with shellac. There are several colors to choose from from almost colorless (blonde) to dark colors (garnet). If I want more color or need to change the tone of the wood l will add dye to the shellac. I have also used dyes with tongue and boiled linseed oils.
Shellac nor oil will stand up to kitchen cleaning so you will need to clear coat it. I think shellac followed by polyacrylic might be easiest. Since polyurethane over oil will change the color requiring you to do more testing.
Last comment if you invest in or borrow some spray equipment any finish you choose will be easier to apply consistently in light coats. If you are willing to go that route then you could add lacquer to your finish options.
I used to french polishing with shellac even though I owned a spray gun. I thought it would fill pores and look best…all the books say so. I was six coats in to a curly maple table and didn’t wait long enough for the next coat and ruined the finish. In frustration I sanded back to wood and used the spray equipment. It was so much easier and looked every bit as good. I even had good results with sprayed shellac on pine without conditioning the wood first. I assume even light coats seal the wood so it can’t soak up too much finish in the soft spots. First coat can show slight differences but after three coats its all very even.
 

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After a while I kinda came upon this. Never had a problem after hundreds of gallons. Sand to 220. Purple garnet sandpaper. Used sandpaper for all edges especially molding. Topcoats don't like edges so they need rounding a bit and sliver control is mandatory with quality inspections on everything. Little soft children hands will be all over it, safety first. My daughter pulled slivers out of my hands every night for decade plus. Got to run your hands down around religiously. Then the topcoat won't be thin on the edges either, win win ouch.
I use an ol school scraper on everything to cut the little fuzz that sanding leaves and when you put a topcoat on they swell n stand up. This takes care of a lot but also increases the luster immensely. Makes those hollow grains in the red oak cut off nice n square to the surface so they act like a reflector with many fractures. Also never use a grain filler, conditioner, don't know what that is. I prefer to be able to feel the grain though the topcoat. Feels more natural, in natural state.
Minwax only stains. They have a blend of pigments and dies in it so no over lap marks. Cheap n available. Varathane topcoat on all exposed outside faces and all drawers included sides n bottom for better cleaning and wear. Laquer in carcus 3 coats min everything.
Simple right. Actually is. I use paper towel clothes leave fuzz in the grain. Soak up some stain keep mixing. Put it on n wipe. One n done. Wipe excess keep a towel in each hand. Applying towel wiping towel stuff. Pretty easy. Shot of whiskey n beers if you're doing your own is optional. Heck anywherds you want.
Vacuum pulls the sawdust up out of the open pores in oak. Take advantage of those natural open pores. Memory serves only 7 different open pore woods. Used to know them. Why I don't use fillers. After 2 coats maybe first coat if it layed down nicely that day. Tack it apply topcoat. Always gloss with no flatners gives great luster. Walk by n the whole surface changes like a prism. It is a prism.
Have fun building your dreams, if you have questions ask
 

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I definitely feel your pain. I've just completed refinishing all my oak kitchen cabinets. They were original to the house back in 1980 and are a combination of solid and veneered red oak. I sanded off all the original (awful) dark walnut stain and finish and started over with MinWax's Sedona Red. Lots of trial & error. I discovered myself what others have said about NOT using the wood conditioner. It was the biggest culprit (though there were others) to blotchy & non-matching colors. I sanded everything to 220 grit, but I like the others' suggestions about not going beyond 150 or so. I think that would have helped better stain absorption which I had some difficulty with. Along the way, I recognized how different the colors of the original wood were - even on the same door styles & rails, but especially among the veneered panels. Very difficult to get them to match when they're starting off with noticeably different colors.

I had the best success with 3 coats of stain wiping excess (sometimes more than once) and allowed to dry between, nothing else between coats. Then 3x water-based poly over the top (mine is gloss). Make sure to let the panels THOROUGHLY dry before applying the poly. If there's any moisture at all still in the panel, the poly with cloud.

I'll be building additional cabinets and will reduce the sanding grit per the above suggestions, but otherwise, this process has worked best for me.
 

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Give it up, pal. You've probably got white oak--very hard but very open; stains very irregularly. Not your fault. You want to keep in mind that a lot of 19th Cy oak furniture was made in New England and almost all of it was painted because of the staining problem.
Actually, most early white oak furniture was fumed with ammonia. Dangerous, but very cool looking. Most of the Stickley and Mission furniture of that period was fumed. I have tried to achieve that look with the awesome medullary rays using a combination of dyes, sealers, and gel stain. Got close, but not nearly as nice as the fumed stuff.
 

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Actually, most early white oak furniture was fumed with ammonia. Dangerous, but very cool looking. Most of the Stickley and Mission furniture of that period was fumed. I have tried to achieve that look with the awesome medullary rays using a combination of dyes, sealers, and gel stain. Got close, but not nearly as nice as the fumed stuff.
Not to derail the thread but I tried fuming a mantle for an Architect friend quite a few years ago, before YouTube. He collected antique mission furniture as a hobby so he helped a lot with the procedure. It turned out quite well and there's no way to match a fumed finish with stains and top coats.
 
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