Make This Humble Wood Look Like A Million Bucks

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Antique pine often lias a dark, mellow color. Unfortunately, when woodworkers try to duplicate that color on new pine by using stain, the results arc usually disappointing. It's easy to end up with mega-blotches and it's hard to avoid "grain reversal," a peculiar effect that makes stained pine look unnatural (photo below), h doesn't have to be that way, though. If you follow the process presented here, you can give pine deep, rich-looking color without losing its natural appearance.

Pine is hard to stain for a couple of reasons. First, its grain is unevenly dense. Typical wood stains cause grain reversal because they color pine's porous earlywood, but can't penetrate its dense latewood. Second, pine's surface is usually loaded with randomly occurring figure and super-absorbent pockets that suck up stain and look blotchy.

T his staining process includes four ingredients, glue size, water-soluble wood dye, dewaxed shellac and oil-based glaze. Our process isn't fast, because there are several steps. But it isn't hard, and it's home-shop friendly. You don't need any special finishing equipment, just brushes and rags.

In a nutshell, the glue size partially seals the wood's surface to control blotching. Dyes penetrate both the early-wood and latewood, so they minimize grain reversal. Shellac and glaze add color in layers, creating depth and richness. This coloring process works on all types of pine, although the end result varies from one \ species to another.

Staining usually causes blotches and always makes pine's porous earlywood darker than its dense latewood, just the opposite of unstained pine (inset).This transformation is called "grain reversal."

52 American Woodworker

Staining usually causes blotches and always makes pine's porous earlywood darker than its dense latewood, just the opposite of unstained pine (inset).This transformation is called "grain reversal."

Grain Reversal Pine

Look Before You Leap

Before you touch your project with a brush or rag, get familiar with the materials and the process by practicing on good-sized pieces of scrap. Experiment on end grain, face grain and veneered stock. Practice until you're comfortable with the process and know what to expect.

Fix Loose Knots

Before you sand, stabilize any loose knots b\ dribbling epoxy into the gaps (Photo A, at left). To make cleanup easier. keep it off' the surrounding wood surfaces. After the epoxy has set, sand it flush with the surface. Clear epoxy transmits the dark color of the knot. If \our epoxy cures milky-white, color it later with artists oil, after you've dyed the wood and sealed it with shellac.

Sand Thoroughly

A good-looking finish always starts with .1 thorough sand-ingjob. especially with a soft wood like pine. Here are some guidelines:

Sand with a block. Orbital sanders leave swirl marks that make the stained surface look muddy. After power sanding, always sand by hand, using a block, before you go on to the next grit (Photo B). Sanding with finger pressure alone wears away the soft eat lvwood, creating an uneven surface.

Change paper often. Pine gums up ordinary sandpaper with pitch-laden dust that quickly renders it useless. Dull paper mashes the wood fibers instead of cutting them, which also creates a muddy appearance when you stain. Stearated sandpaper, such as Norton 3X, lasts longer.

Sand up to 220 grit. First, level the surface with 100-grit paper. Then work through the grits to create finer and finer scratch patterns. 220-grit scratches are fine enough to disappear when you stain, as long as they don't go across the grain.

Raise the Grain

Invariably, sanding leaves some fibers bent over. Water-based finishes swell these fibers so they stand up, leaving a

2 Dissolve powdered dye in hot water. When the powder is completely dissolved, transfer the dye solution to a lidded container and let it cool.

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  • felix nagel
    What causes blotches when staining wood?
    9 years ago
  • Aristide
    How to build wooden humbler?
    9 years ago
  • Keiran Watson
    How to color pine without grain reversal?
    9 years ago
  • emppu
    How to minimize grain when staining pine?
    1 year ago

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