how to get this to-die-for gray-stained effect?

feisty68April 29, 2014

Stunning right?

How would you get this stain effect DIY?

What would you ask a cabinet front manufacturer for if you wanted this effect?

What species of wood would you need?

Just to be complicated, I would want a custom colour shown below (paint chip) - but I would expect the wood colour and grain to be distinctly showing through as above in my inspiration photo. I need the green undertone because a blueish gray would clash with the River White granite counters.

I am very confused after talking to a cabinet door finisher so I need some vocabulary here. Advice would be appreciated!

Here is a link that might be useful: A Downton Abbey-Worthy Kitchen

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I don't know what wood has that kind of grain pattern, but the finish might be some sort of weathered or whitewashed stain, perhaps with some glazing.

I saw a Plain & Fancy door sample in "Walnut Driftscape" finish the other day. When I held the sample flat above the countertop under bright daylight, it had a warm creamy gray look. When I held it vertically under the countertop, there was not as much direct daylight and it turned into a colder gray, like the kitchen you posted above.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:33PM
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What you're looking at is a weathered or driftwood type finish. That will give you grey, and often subtle green undertones. It will be influenced by the color undertones of the specie of wood it is applied to, so, for example, yellowish undertones if yellow pine, etc.

You can get this using a stain such as minwax "driftwood" or by treating the wood with other aging techniques such as the steel wool/vinegar mixture.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:37PM
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Washed gray oak?

Here is a link that might be useful: welcoming gray oak

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:39PM
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Funny a gorgeous driftwood kitchen was just shared on the other thread, the one about painting cathedral arched doors!

That is a fabulous look, feisty. Hope you can pull it off!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:57PM
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It's the kitchen I linked to above (welcoming gray oak). There are two more pictures.

1 Like    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 6:23PM
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they did this sort of thing on the Cambridge house ceiling on This Old House (episode 11, 2012). They did it with pine boards, oil based paint painted on and wiped off with a rag.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 6:49PM
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Could be a white oak with a hardwax oil finish. Looks like some cool flooring I've seen like the attached Rubio Monocoat finished with fuming and white precoloring. Ciranova (another hardwax vendor) makes a really nice range of colorants too.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:27PM
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This is very achievable and durable with dilute latex paint of your choosing and a satin polyurethane top coat. Have him dummy up some boards for you.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:47PM
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Thanks for the input ILoveCookie, Beautybutdebt, Greenhaven, Nosoccermom, Detroit_burb, and Zeitgast!

I also thought it was a weathered/driftwood stain at first. I tried Varathane Wood Stain in "sunbleached" colour - similar to the Mixwax driftwood. It didn't create that effect at all - it was much more transparent than what I was looking for and wasn't adding enough opaque pigment to be a colour. I had to use wiped off latex paint to get even close to the opacity I was looking for. But that was obviously just fooling around, not how you do things properly.

Beautybutdebtfree, I've seen the steel wool stains in internet photos - they are much darker than I am looking for, and again there is no control over the actual colour. Unless they are used in a multi-step process?

ILoveCookie, I just looked at the Plain and Fancy finishes - I see what you mean about the Walnut Driftscape being similar. They also had other gray stains.

Greenhaven and Nosoccermom, that "Welcoming Gray" kitchen does look like a similar finish, doesn't it? It definitely looks like there is white in the grain (limed/pickled effect). Not sure what "washed" means?

Detroit_burb, that makes sense to me because the best effect I could get was wiping off latex paint - oil-based paint would penetrate and behave properly I'm guessing. Pine, huh? I wonder why they picked that species (since it is so soft).

Very interesting Zeitgast! It looks like some of the coloured hardwax oils may create similar effects.

The world of finishes is complicated. The guy at the cabinet front fabricator told me that he recently took a training course at a university to learn about the latest and greatest in that realm. It concerned me though, that he didn't seem to understand what I meant when I described it over the phone...I guess most customers aren't looking for that kind of thing.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:56PM
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Wood looks like old pine to me.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:57PM
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It's oak, IMHO. After stripping so many antique doors, I've gotten pretty good with wood grain! You can easily DIY this, but it's not a one step process if you want it to look authentic.

The vinegar idea is great, but it completely reacts to the tannins in the wood. Pine and cedar react and become one color, whereas maple goes dark gray.

If you had a hardwood, such as mahogany, you'd need to put some tannins into the wood. This can be done by painting the wood with several coats of dark, strong tea. Let it soak in and dry, then vinegar it.

Be careful with a polyurethane, because it'll yellow. Polyacrylic will not.

Another thing to look at is that this is a matte finish. If you look at sealers, the lowest sheen they go is satin. After much reading for a couple of years, I've learned that a gorgeous matte finish can be had using FLAT, latex DARK paint base. It's a 4 or 5. I also chose exterior because it would be more durable. It goes on white and dries ... nothing. It's so matte it looks like nothing. I'm currently using it on 2 of my antique doors I've stripped to keep the raw wood look. But had to seal them somehow!

Anyway, this definitely looks like oak with a nice, wipe-on-wipe-off treatment. I have use the Varathane 'Sunbleached' and I've used several coats of very watered gray paint.

On my oak kitchen cabinets, I used the Varathane, wiped it off and sanded lightly. This exposed more wood. I vinegared it. Oak doesn't react much, but it did give the wood another gray color. I then a layer some very watered down (with mineral spirits) 'Jacobean' Minwax stain and wiped it down. One more light sanding and another coat of the Varathane. Sealed them with the Behr, flat, exterior dark paint base. I just stare at them I love them so much!

All a kind of ceruse finish. Very gorgeous! Love these pictures.

(Thanks again, writersblock! Love this editing feature.)

This post was edited by CEFreeman on Mon, May 5, 14 at 15:37

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 8:15PM
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I could just go out and strip the barns. ;) There is a little cabinet place three minutes down the road that has been advertising barn cabinets, and they look just like this.

I do really like the look. Driftwood or barn wood cabinets would be nice but seems like a matte finish would be needed.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 8:23PM
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Now I soooo want to do this on the cabinet/hutch I am envisioning for my microwave and various and sundry other things.

Where do you think they got that chandelier? I am totally diggin' that, too!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 8:34PM
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So the jury is out on what species :) . Seems like pine or oak are the most likely candidates. Thanks for weighing in Rocogurl.

CEFreeman, great information. I will re-read your post until it sinks in!

I get a bit frustrated with trying different things because the "testing" adds up! For example, Benjamin Moore would make me a custom stain...for CAN$90! It would be a gallon, and a wasted gallon if I wasn't happy with it. And both the BM custom stain and the cabinet finishing guy said that I have to show them what I want, and they will match it. How am I supposed to create a custom stain to make a sample for them to copy? I'm missing something here. I think my next step might be a pint of oil paint in Hardwick White - to try the wipe off technique.

CEFreeman, and Iowacommute - I totally agree that a matte finish is critical to the look. Something shiny or waxy would take the look in a different direction.

Iowacommute - they did rip off barn boards in the kitchen linked to below!

Greenhaven, you have the DIY skills to pull it off!

Here is a link that might be useful: A Napa Valley Kitchen Makeover, Ikea Cabinets Included

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 8:39PM
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Feisty, don't forget about artists' paints in tubes. No need to invest in tons of stuff.

Paint: There is NO reason not to go to Sherwin Williams and get their samples. Their's is 3x as much paint for very little money! You're going to seal it, so it doesn't matter about it's durability.

For the matte finish, I've used the Behr, Flat, exterior, dark base and the Olympic. Again, it goes on white causing a panic, but dries invisible. Incredible.

The trick to these finishes is multi color layers. It's not hard, just time intensive.

Guys, don't forget that you can dismantle a pallet or old fence panels much easier than tearing apart someone's barn. Chances are, they'll notice.

I did my Tansu in my MBR with pallets. Gorgeous 34/" oak, actually. Some boards I bleached first, some I just sealed, some I put some stain on and wiped it off, some I grayed.

Edited to attach photo.

This post was edited by CEFreeman on Wed, Apr 30, 14 at 11:07

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:06PM
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OK CEFreeman, you've encouraged me to try more. I need to find oil paint custom colour testers - not sure if they're available locally here in Canada. I need to work with bigger sample boards too.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:11PM
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I do like the barn wood, but I would probably walk past expecting a crazy farm cat to jump out at me.

Feisty68 have you looked at the semi-transparent stains like Cabot and Minwax? There are lots of companies now that have semi-transparent pre-made stains for the driftwood look. Most of the DIY's I've found just use the pre-made driftwood look stains.

There is also a link below that looks great from Woodweb.

Here is a link that might be useful: Weathered finish

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:23PM
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Oops! I forgot to agree with CEFreeman on the species. It looks like oak to me, too. :o)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:27PM
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There are a couple of barns on our farm that could come down by the time we build and the Amish place next door just lost their big barn so lots of wood to go around. ;)

The pallets we get on the farm (and the ones I would get while I worked at a big grocery store) are just not great. Most of them are made of the crappiest wood with huge knots and half falling apart. Believe I look for the good ones for my gardening boxes.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:29PM
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IowaCommute, those driftwood stains are only good, IMHO, as another layer. If you use just that, you've got a stained board, not something aged or authentic.

Woodweb is only one of about a million sites I've read on different finishes. I still read everything I come across in case there's a new, great method. I can tell you the ones that least appeal to me are those that are painted and sanded. Thick paint and fake distressing.

To each his own, of course, but I'm willing to invest the time (and go do something else while it dries/cures) to get something you can't tell isn't right out of the dirt off a farm. And my 36" drawer front in my MBR is a board out of the mud from my friend's farm!

Edited to add photo of 36" drawer front.

This post was edited by CEFreeman on Wed, Apr 30, 14 at 11:09

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:32PM
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Iowacommute, I guess I should try some of the other translucent stains. I thought the Varathane sunbleached would nail it, but it was too transparent so I gave up on that type of product.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:32PM
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CEFreeman, I agree about the stain as a layer which is why I didn't post any actual pictures. The ones I found looked nice in a picture, but I bet you would be able to tell it just wasn't right.

I too am willing to invest the time which is why I have been trying to pin down a specific period of American architecture for our next home. DH would laugh at me if I said I wanted to bring in the sliding door barn hardware from the barn when it comes down for inside. I see barn or farm related things being put into suburb houses as kitsch if it's done in a certain way. I think the pics above are done well and transcend the specific look of barn or beach 'junk.'

Now that I live on a farm I couldn't have farm related things inside unless it was really special like a big sign from DH's great grandfather when he sold seeds. I'm an archivist though, and my love for old things is really because of the story they tell.

Euphemisms. Eh.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:07PM
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I agree with both of have to walk a fine line with aged/distressed looks. Fabulous...or tacky - both are possible. And one's home architecture matters a lot. Which why I'm not quite going the barn board look. My "soft modern" condo kitchen doesn't really allow that. But I still think it's possible to combine colour (Hardwick White) with the organic feeling of a bit of grain and wood colour showing through. I just think that could relate really well to the honest materials of steel, granite, and oak flooring. We tried a painted slab front, and with no mouldings it does look quite dull.

This was another photo that inspired me:

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:16PM
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Gorgeous picture!

I admit, I don't know what "soft modern" is, but there are so many gorgeous modern places with aged or raw wood accents or pieces.

Lots of them turn out to look somewhat Gustavian in their colors, but with a clean, modern edge.

I also admit, this thread has gotten me all excited because I've been working on these finishes for a long time. Next, ask me how I create and keep an actual, authentic chippy finish. No milk paint, no obvious sanding, just me being totally cool.

That was my inner voice.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:27PM
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Took a look through that page for the top picture you posted. Can I just have that whole house? Please and thank you.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:27PM
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That is a great kitchen and really brings it full circle for me. Its elegant but with an earthiness that makes it feel like it really belongs instead of being forced.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:35PM
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Be careful with old barns. Back when I was making a lot of specials for a new house, architect bought an old barn, had me build a door from it. First it had to be run through joiner and planer which removed the lovely surface patina, could have done it better for less starting with new wood, went through six sets of planer blades due to grit in the wood.
Part way through started to run into pockets of dust- powder post beetles!! They had also put down a couple thousand feet as floor to be sanded in place. Found the dust and beetles when they did. Had to rip it all out and have house fumigated, not good.
As to the finish - there are some lovely grey stains being used lately by mfg; semi- cat varnish is available in matte (check Campbell) ; when I worked on boats knew a guy who aged woods with an assortment of chemicals and learned to control it;

finally Zeitgast mentioned Rubio, good choice and matte finish. QCCI does cabinets with something like it, about to put in a white oak done in silver gray. Have been putting in Engrain wood counters with similar oil for a fe years. Stuff holds up really well. Both have a proprietary mix though. May drip up a pic or two later.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 5:57AM
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The Atlanta Lifestyle magazine article says:
"Washed grey oak cabinetry by Block & Chisel renders the kitchen coolly Belgian. The counters are Calcutta gold and the tixle backsplash is Ann Sacks."
No source for the chandelier.

However, if you go to the full article and click on each picture separately, maybe you can find more info. For the LR it's by Dessin Fournir

Here is a link that might be useful: Atlanta Home with gray oak kitchen

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 7:31AM
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Could either be PS white oak or PS white ash, I am leaning towards ash based on the wide grain pattern....

I would probably start with a scrap piece of each, sand with 120, give a quick wire brush to clean out the grain, apply a thinned down gray latex paint, once completely dry put on a thinned down coat of monocoat, again let totally dry, light scuff with 320, then use a heavy body liming paste or even a non-thinned latex paint, let that sit for a few hours and rub it off, then another coat of monocoat

That will give you the cerused look as in the picture "welcoming grey oak", obviously you would have to play with the strength of colors in both the base coat and the liming coat to get what you want

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:01AM
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If you go down further to the comments section of the kitchen site, they tell you what the cabinets are. They are limed oak. They used liming wax on the oak. A poster there also said you could use white eggshell paint rubbed onto the wood to get the effect. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:29AM
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Here's a step-by-step procedure used to achieve similar look that might be helpful to you.

Here is a link that might be useful: DIY Sofa Table

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:52AM
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So, CEFreeman, how do you create and keep an actual, authentic chippy finish with no milk paint, no obvious sanding, just you being totally cool?

:o) I am giggling. But I really want to know!

Regarding using old barn wood in ANYthing, (I know feisty is not planning this) it can be kiln-dried to remove all the necessary moisture and kill off any unwanted critters. It is absolutely recommended that this happens, for exactly the reasons jakuvall shared. The trick is to find someone local to you who can do it, or you have to source already-treated lumber from a reputable source.

I have a huuuge old barn beam with the mortises still intact that I got as part of a load of old wood in trade for my beater pickup. You can bet your sweet bippy it will get treated in the kiln before it gets used. I am fortunate to have a local guy who specializes in this stuff.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:05AM
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Try looking at Rubio Monocoat. It is an oil based hard wax finish that apparently works great on countertops and cabinets as well as floors. I haven't tried it yet but did tons of research on it when I was redoing my bathrooms a few years back. It is completely non toxic and can be reapplied as needed. Google Rubio monocoat and cabinets if you are interested because the website mostly shows pictures of floors. Houzz has some Rubio kitchens too. The colors are amazing or they do custom for you.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:25AM
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Greenhaven, you'll laugh at me more.
It's all about me being cool, picky, and having no life. (I believe I alluded to that once or twice! :) Get some coffee & sit down. You're going to be sorry you asked!

Here you go:

Chippy Paint Method #1. (Least labor intensive and most interesting):
Put your item in the yard, in the sun for a year or so.
Ignore it. Turn a deaf ear to it's whining and screaming about rain and sun. Ok, I had to glue a bunch of veneer back down, but that antique stuff is almost 1/8" thick and took a beating well. I have pictures. The expose wood on these doors grayed into the exact beautiful finish we've been discussing in this thread. You can't beat nature!

With this method, I actually decoupaged over the chips, because they were SO chippy. Then I used my el-cheapo yet brilliant matte finish which succeeded in gluing them down without being visible.

Chippy Paint Method #2.
Take that drywall tape that's a yellow adhesive mesh. Press it down firmly, smoothing with a credit card or something to adhere it WELL to the wood. (I left this outside in the heat for awhile, to ensure it was really stuck.)
Then, either paint it with a nice, thick paint. Homemade chalk paint or pour some latex paint into a bowl and let it thicken by drying. Stirring every so often so it doesn't get a skim on it. When the paint is almost dry, slowly peel off the drywall mesh. Whoooaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh (Picture below.)
Chippy Paint Method 2b.
Paint it with Citristrip. It'll bubble the paint then dry out. Once it's dry, carefully peel off the drywall mesh. Whoaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh..

Chippy Paint Method #3.
I took a wide bristle brush. The throw-away kind. I trimmed the bristles to look somewhat like a comb. (A comb didn't work.)

Thin Citristrip with some water and almost drybrush this onto a horizontal surface. Experiement with how thick to make the Citristrip, because humidity and heat will make it behave differently. If it's too thick, it'll go on like egg white (or the less P.C. term: snot.) Too thin and it'll dry before it does any work on the paint.

Chippy Paint Method #4.
Either using the original paint layer as a base or painting your own color first, put that same drywall mesh on your piece & press it down.
Carefully, so as not to move the mesh, smooth baby or mineral oil, Vaseline, or wax onto the tape. Blot it if you're using an oil or Vaseline. Wait until it looks like it's drying and pull the mesh off carefully. Paint it with anything you want. When dry, use a scraper to gently remove the resisted paint. You could sand, too, if you'd prefer.
I used my matte finish again.

This mesh is magic. You can stretch it diagonally to change the shape of the chips. You can use it over other paint methods. I also used it over Elmer's glue crackle, the Behr and Martha Stewart's crackle, and my own craqueleur concoction. (For the latter, read pennies vs., $$$.) IOW, you can layer the heck out of this as is, or with different resists and stains, and it continues to look great!
I told you I've been playing with this for a long while!

Oh - my matte finish also dries in a manner that you can't see what topcoat is on the chips. i.e. you can't see some satin sealer gummed up on them. They look like they're ready to fall off. But NOT! [waving arms wildly] BRILLIANT!

Are you sorry you asked yet?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:49AM
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A fairly known blogger, Brooke Giannetti, gave her garage a gray weathered look by using Superdeck Stain in Weathered Gray. I love the color that she did on cedar. Have been meaning to try this on some samples, along with the liming that others mentioned. I love the cerused oak look too!

Here is a link that might be useful: Weathered Gray Stain

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 3:55PM
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Glad to say I read that one, too. :) She does some lovely work.

Interestingly enough, had she actually power washed her cedar, then sprayed it with Baking soda and water, it would have grayed naturally, without stain. If it weren't stained red, of course.

That's one of the elements I think a lot of DIYers don't take into consideration. Some wood (with the nice tannins) grays beautifully with vinegar, baking soda, or anything acidic. I've seen lemon juice used on elm. Why put yourself through all the finishing work when all it takes is a little bit 'o pickle juice!?

I'm going to use fencing for my kitchen floor I think. I can get raw, 1" oak at the lumber yard (vs. home store) for about $10 for 16' x 6" pieces. I can vinegar it, then maybe stain checks on it with a darker stain. Perhaps using espresso grounds!

Just thinking out loud.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:26PM
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Thank you very much for all the ideas - I'm at camp with my children but I will definitely be looking into all of the links and techniques.

CEFreeman, love the chippy fabulousness. Looks like you have it down to a science!

So the Rubio Monocoat that Zeitgast and Cleo_2007 pointed me to (thanks!) sounds *quite* interesting. Check out the article linked to below where a floor refinishing company reviewed it in detail. It actually sounds like it may be a DIY-able product. And most importantly, it sounds like it has the delicious matte look that is so critical. And possibly enough colours that something might work. Very interesting reading for folks who want to learn more.

The basic oil samples are only US$8.55!
That is very helpful.

Here's a cool table that shows various 2-colour combinations. So there are MANY effects possible. There are also various additional effects like fumed, smoked, etc.

The manufacturer states it is water-resistant and suitable for kitchen/baths:

Here is a link that might be useful: The Hardwax Oil Experiment - Part 2

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 9:54PM
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Feisty, one serious thought for you: Oil finishes yellow.
I don't care if it's moncoat, Cabot Australian Timber OIl, General Finishes urethane & oil, just plain vegetable oil.
Oil yellows!

If that's a non-issue, these finishes sound incredible!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:25PM
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Sophie Wheeler

''Water resistant'' industry code for will let water bead up for a bit, but you'd better hurry up and wipe up that puddle because it will get through the coating and damage the wood underneath if spills aren't immediately taken care of.

There are plenty of cabinet lines that offer a greyed finish on their products. Schuler/Medallion has Appaloosa, and Dynasty/Omega has Porch Swing.

Fininshing to a high quality consistent level is one of the most difficult of all DIY tasks. It's difficult to get the same reproducable results across a whole stretch of cabinets without a lot of experience with samples to develop your technique. For a specialty finish like this, you need to practice even more before you touch the real thing. Practice means same wood, with the same types of door profiles, with the same materials, and same action. What usually happens is that end grains and profiles take the process differently. So, you have to develop a different technique for them, even though you have to do them at the same time as the flat stock.

By the time you spend the money and time on the samples of wood and product, and tools to apply it, the factory finished ones with that tough factory top coat won't be a whole lot less expensive.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 7:35AM
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As I noted earlier I have both a wood counter company and a cabinet company who offer a proprietary version of it, have run into kitchen floors done with it and about to use the exterior version on my deck. While not waterproof (no wood finish is), water is not an issue, neither is yellowing, it is not like tung oil. Not sure what the companies I deal have added, think it is wax.

I had sample blocks sent from mfg, took one home to abuse and passed two others out to a cabinetmaker and a custom furniture guy to do the same. Both are now using it.
You can get sample jars from monocote.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 8:26AM
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Thanks for the additional comments jakuvall, hollysprings, and CEFreeman! Jakuvall, so cool to hear that the Monocoat seems like a feasible cabinet finish product!

Further thoughts on Rubio Monocoat -

Another review -
A detailed review from a floor finisher who has used Rubio Monocoat on their store floor.

Yellowing -
"The vegetable oils used in the finish are claimed as being non-yellowing so you don’t have to worry about that ugly “old” look after a couple of years that you can get with polyurethane oil modified finishes.". Minor yellowing would not be an issue in my kitchen since I did want a slight green undertone.

Resistance to Water (and other) -
Manufacturer testing indicates that water left sitting on the finish (horizontal) for 24 h did no visible damage to the finish. Here is a chart explaining the testing process and how the finish performed with various substances - pretty impressive. Also, the review above discusses that many spills were not an issue in their testing.

DIY-ability -
This is the first finish I've seen that I think is feasible for us to DIY. Read the instructions here - they are very simple. Sample pots are inexpensive and we can obtain the exact wood material for testing purposes. Cloths and brushes or sponges should not cost much. It should be possible to figure out if our results are acceptable. Testing does cost money in materials, but I don't know how to get around this since even cabinet front manufacturers would expect samples for them to replicate if they do custom colours.

Other cabinet manufacturers
Thanks for the recommendations of cabinet manufacturers. I already have IKEA cabinets installed and we have already decided to do custom fronts. The only issue now is whether we DIY the fronts or have a custom cabinet front manufacturer do it. I am pretty convinced that standard grey stains will look too blue against my River White granite counters, which have a distinct greenish undertone to the predominately grey pattern.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 8:58PM
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Check. This. Out. It's just a little square, but the Rubio Monocoat effect of the Urban Grey precolor followed by the White Oil, looks *so* similar to my inspiration photo! Rubio does their samples on White Oak.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rubio Monocoat Precolor Easy

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:24PM
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That is lovely!
What's in store for your kitchen?

I can't help thinking that some of those so ready to get rid of their Golden Oak should simply Citristrip 'em and use something as lovely as this finish.
Can you imagine that finish with something as interesting as navy?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:44PM
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CEFreeman, we definitely are thinking about DIYing the cabinet fronts at this point. I've got a separate thread called "take a peek at my "soft modern" small kitchen design?" where I just uploaded a new mood board if you're curious about the overall layout and look.

I agree that it would be really interesting to see older oak cabinets freshened up using hardwax-type finishes. Sounds like preparation would be pretty critical for success, but the steps involved are far fewer than many finish instructions I've seen.

This thread has been invaluable.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:02PM
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I'll take a look.
Feisty it was surprisingly easy to ceruse my oak cabinets. Someone here gave me the word, "ceruse' actually.

I stripped 5 Quakermaid 1992 beaded inset cabinets, in place, over the weekend. I didn't need to, but I lightly sanded then stained it with Varathane 'Sunbleached.' I got a case at h4H for about $30.
Then, to expose a little wood so a second layer would soak in, I sanded lightly and stained with Mixwax 'Provincal."
One more layer, Mixwax 'Jacobean.' I left the last on very briefly, because I didn't want it to darken them a lot.

That was it.
Oh - my now-favorite top coat of the Behr, Flat, exterior latex dark base. Dries absolutely and completely matte! :)

Those were the ones I posted a week or two ago.
Right now I'm working on some cherry cabs.

(Thanks Writerblock!)

This post was edited by CEFreeman on Mon, May 5, 14 at 15:31

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:20PM
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Just FYI, it's "ceruse". Cerise = cherry. Not being a spelling nazi, just wanted to make it easier for anyone reading this thread who wants to do a search.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:45PM
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All fixed!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 3:45PM
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I would caution on the use of exterior products indoors. They have noxious chemicals that can offgas. Not just paint but wood products too. They are intended for outdoor use.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 5:33PM
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So I just talked to Rubio Monocoat customer service in Georgia and the man was very patient about answering my questions in his cute accent.

* Rubio Monocoat is recommended for kitchen cabinet fronts

* the oil is NOT expected to yellow (like polyurethane would), but the underlying wood may

* pH-neutral cleaners would be a necessity - acidic or caustic cleaners would be damaging. he recommended their proprietary soap or a pH-neutral hand or dish soap diluted.

* for vertical surfaces, he recommended against using the catalyst version of the oil - he said that without the catalyst I would have unlimited open time but the time to fully cure would be 21 days

* he says the oil is very easy to DIY and that the most common mistake is not removing excess oil from the wood surface (excess oil doesn't bond and just becomes gunk)

* he said that I could mix colours with either the precolor or the oil

* he said that application of the precolor is like applying the a water-based stain - care would need to be taken with overlap, etc - that would need practice for a beginner like me

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 1:25PM
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I tried to order samples from my local dealer in Canada, but they wanted me to pay for shipping and wait because they don't stock the precolor samples AND go to their store to pick up and buy the samples. Yeah right. And people wonder why retail is dying.

I called the nice Rubio man in Georgia at (877) 928-9663 and he will ship the samples directly to me via Fedex. Hopefully the shipping charges won't be horrific.

These are the products that I hope will accomplish the look of my inspiration photo:

Natural Oil Finish
Size: 100 m​l Sam​ple
Color​: White

Precolor Easy
Color​: Urban​ Grey
Size: 100 m​l

I find it a bit painful to pay and wait for these, not knowing whether the colours will work. And overwhelming because they have SO many colours in both the oil and precolor (which also can be mixed within product). But I think that once I see how the products behave on red oak, I'll have an idea how to tweak. The counters should be installed in about a week so I will have a better sense of the colour/pattern vibe that the granite will be contributing to the kitchen. That will definitely be something to work around in terms of cabinet finishes.

I'm a bit concerned because we've decided to go with solid oak - in spite of the well known warping issues. I know that the cabinet front fabricator has generously padded prices in case pieces need to be replaced due to warping. My concern is that with solid oak, the grain has to follow the length of the piece so I'll have a mix of horizontal and vertical. It will mostly be horizontal because of so many drawers, but it sounds like bookend horizontal grain matching that I found so appealing may only be realistic with veneer. I think that our "rough on things" family will do better with solid wood given the many drawers. We actually did have a maple shaker drawer front break in our former kitchen.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 4:34PM
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below: Rubio Monocoat Urban Grey "Pre-color Easy" + White Oil (without accelerator). Easy stuff to work with. IMO quite similar look to my inspiration photo. You can use this stuff on floors and counters and furniture! So many colours and effects. There was some seriously awesome advice shared in this thread :)

I might tweak the precolor to be lighter and more green.

This post was edited by feisty68 on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 22:17

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 7:00PM
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"Stunning right?"

Yeahhhh, I'm Stunned, alright.

Here in Calif, (and probably elsewhere), all the newer cars are Grey~~~~now Kitchens to match~~~~~~szzzzzzzz.

The best name for the "Current Generation" is the
"Grey Generation"~~~~~~~

Too bad they are all color Blind!!!!!


    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Woah!!! What's wrong?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 7:44PM
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I think I'd ignore that hooo-ha.

I think it is Gorgeous
Do you mind a suggestion? Wipe it back with a clean rag a little sooner. IMHO, it's getting a little shiny.

Isn't it just the best when someone works not only like it should, but like we want it to?

Oh - I swear people in champagne colored cars are following me. Every. Single. Time. I look out the window and actually pay attention, there's one beside me. Passing me. Following me. Parking next to me. And what goes through my mind? What if I'm the only one who can see them?

So I'll think about finishes. :)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 9:31PM
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Love it, nice work….and yes I agree it is stunning, love the grey with cerused effect!

CEFreeman….not sure what you are seeing that is shiny, and what do you mean by "wipe it back with a clean rag a little sooner"?…wipe which part of the process sooner?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 8:32AM
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Thanks for the laugh!

What does it feel like when you touch the wood? Also, is this something that soaks in like a stain/oil or is it on the surface?

This post was edited by nosoccermom on Sat, May 24, 14 at 8:45

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 8:39AM
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Happened upon this while surfing GW this morning, LOVE the inspiration pic and all the knowledge in this thread. I can't wait to see your new kitchen!

CEFreeman--you mention that cedar would age naturally if acidity was added--we have a cedar sided house that was restained typical brown (cape cod style) last year before we bought it. I don't like brown houses, but do love weathered gray houses. ;) I think if I just leave it, it will naturally age over time but will doing the baking soda+water help it along? I love the weathered gray stains and if we ever re-did it we planned to do a gray stain so that we could achieve a more uniform look. If this baking soda+water is an option, please advise. I'll be outside spraying it on this wkd!

And apologies to the original poster for the threadjack. ;)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 9:05AM
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In the comments on the kitchen, Julie 'Remodelista' answered a question on the cabinets, saying 'The cabinets are limed oak; you can use liming wax or white eggshell paint, rubbed into the grain, to achieve the same look.'

I've put a link to Briwax liming wax below, if anyone would like to try that method.

Here is a link that might be useful: Briwax Liming Wax, 8 ounce

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 9:38AM
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Portia, you have nothing to lose with the bakingsoda and water thing. Brown will fade to gray, but not as quickly as the wood itself. I doubt it's going to have much effect, since the stain is in the wood pores. Now, if you cared to lightly sand a section then baking soda and water it, you could see if that would make a quicker change.

I've never understood staining cedar (or cherry) red. Plus, you're using a wood that's meant to weather, why incur maintenance by staining it? Rhetorical, I guess.

AJC71, when you apply a stain, you leave it on a bit, then wipe it off. Believe me, you don't want to leave it on to dry. I'm dealing with a messed up mahogany front door because I didn't know better and my passive aggressive, POC-now-ex-GC-DC didn't bother simply say, "You gotta wipe it off." The longer you leave it on, the more it soaks in.

Stain is a much nicer finish if you do it in light coats, I believe. You can always apply more to get the depth of color you want, but it's hell to try to get it back out of the wood. I don't believe in sanding. Or I avoid it at all costs. Whichever.

I'm not hip to liming wax because it's white. I prefer gray, which you can make yourself or use stain as Feisty is doing. I used a different stain with a light sand and Provencal overtop. I can't stop staring at how good it looks.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 1:13PM
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Sorry I neglected this thread! Sometimes I get notifications, and sometimes I don't...not sure why.

CEFreeman - "Do you mind a suggestion? Wipe it back with a clean rag a little sooner. IMHO, it's getting a little shiny."

IRL, it's not shiny at all. Actually, I don't think you can control that with Rubio Monocoat.

Nosoccermom - "What does it feel like when you touch the wood? Also, is this something that soaks in like a stain/oil or is it on the surface? "

The finish feels quite similar to the bare part of the wood. But water beads up and it is definitely finished. I don't really get the sense that it soaks in, but it also doesn't come across as a separate plasticky finish like a lacquer or urethane.

My3dogs - "In the comments on the kitchen, Julie 'Remodelista' answered a question on the cabinets, saying 'The cabinets are limed oak; you can use liming wax or white eggshell paint, rubbed into the grain, to achieve the same look.'"

Not sure how that could be the whole story, as oak is not gray :)

I still need to order more samples. I'd like something lighter and greener. Looking at the Mint White Precolor.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:18PM
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feisty- I think the rubio MC turned out great on your oak. You might try the Smoke also.
Since the conversation took a turn in that direction I thought I'd put in my experience. I ordered several samples of RMC from the GA distributor in search for a finish for pine floors and I was disappointed. They were horrid on pine!! Just for kicks I grabbed a piece of oak and it was a different story, looked great. Doesn't help me, but just a word of advice, if you're considering a species other than oak, you may not get what you expect.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 8:32PM
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Sweet-tea, I'm interested in the Smoke colour as well.

Thanks for the warning about the species of wood. I am definitely going with red oak for durability and also because we want the interest of a strong grain showing.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 10:16PM
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Driving myself crazy with this. Dh says I'm OCDing, but as the daughter of an artist I suffer extreme opinions about colours! Ordering the following to experiment more:

100 ml ALPACA WHITE Monocoat Precolor Easy

100 ml MINT WHITE Monocoat Precolor Easy

100 ml STONE Natural Oil Finish 2C Part A (no accelerator B)

It's really hard to know what the colours actually look like - especially the precolor/oil combinations. All the online photos are with white oak, whereas I'm using red oak. Also, the degree of sanding and water popping affect how much pigment goes into the grain so there is an infinite range of effects even within a single product. I am convinced that this system could give me an awesome look, but ordering samples is getting expensive! Ordering two 100 ml samples from Georgia cost me CAN$81 including shipping :( . I'm telling myself that this is part of the cost of saving money to DIY this.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rubio Monocoat Precolor & Oil Colours

This post was edited by feisty68 on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 14:31

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 2:30PM
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Just dealt with the annoying local dealer. I have to wait for 3 weeks to get samples in if I don't want to get gouged for shipping for these *tiny* samples, I have to scan and send him my actual credit card and driver's license (both sides), and I have pay double the US price for the oil sample. Then he went on to explain to me how he finds it very inconvenient to deal with members of the public. Sigh.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:59PM
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This is a long shot, but I came across this paint a few months ago at a local shop that happens to be a dealer. I was surprised at how it changed the wood in the samples displayed. It may be worth a look if you have a dealer nearby (check the "Retailer" link at the Web site).

Here is a link that might be useful: Amy Howard Paint

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 11:11PM
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Cool product peony4! I believe that's a form of chalk paint, and work considering for another project. I decided that chalk paint isn't durable enough for my purposes, even with waxing. I like that Rubio Monocoat is durable enough for flooring - that tells me that it will do well on cabinetry in a small, busy kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:51AM
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I've been playing around with more Rubio samples. I made some progress today. I bought some red oak architectural veneer to mock up a cabinet door. It's too hard to judge with tiny pieces.

This is Rubio Oil in "Stone" over Rubio Precolor Easy in "Alpaca White". I think it works really well with the River White granite because it is light in colour but has the distinct greenish beige cast that the stone seems to have.

This time I applied the Precolor with a brush and didn't wipe afterwards. That is giving me a more opaque, paint-like finish which allows me to control the colour more. Before I was having trouble with too much of the oak pink coming through. The oil is not much darker than the Precolor so the grain is not contrasting much here. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.

What do you think?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 8:04PM
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I think the color works with your granite but it looks more opaque and less gray than your inspiration pics. I'm seeing more of a whitewash effect rather than a grayed finish with a prominent grain.

I really like the finish you posted on May 23rd.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 1:10AM
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Thanks for letting me know what you think juddgirl :) . Yes, the grain is definitely more prominent/contrasty in the Urban Gray/White (May 23) version. The problem with that was that the grey undertones of that version didn't work well with the granite (too blue/cold) - it was easier to see IRL than in the photo.

I wish I could just play around with a bunch of samples. The problem is that the cost really adds up and they take a long time to get here. So I'm having to guess what colours will work and how the colours of the oil and precolor will work in combination.

The current Alpaca White/Stone version definitely is straying from my inspiration photo. Dh likes it, but maybe he is just done with the whole issue ;)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 2:19AM
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So, I just talked to a Rubio Monocoat representative regarding my plan to use Rubio to finish my custom cabinet doors. It turns out that this plan that I posted above may not work:

"This is Rubio Oil in "Stone" over Rubio Precolor Easy in "Alpaca White". I think it works really well with the River White granite because it is light in colour but has the distinct greenish beige cast that the stone seems to have.

This time I applied the Precolor with a brush and didn't wipe afterwards. That is giving me a more opaque, paint-like finish which allows me to control the colour more. Before I was having trouble with too much of the oak pink coming through."

The problem is that the Oil needs to be in contact with the wood in order to bond and cure. If I apply the Precolor as thickly as above, it may prevent the Oil from curing properly. Rubio recommends that no more than 60% of the colour come from the Precolor. They suggest that I should apply the Precolor, leave for a minute, then wipe off as much as possible. They also commented that I might be better off with a two-tone lacquer finish process if I want a heavier colour.

Sigh. I feel silly about how much time I have spent on chasing this unicorn!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 2:00PM
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Oh no! That's very disappointing, but best that you found out now rather than after doing all of your cabinets.

Have you figured out a new plan of action?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 3:20PM
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Hi Errant :)

I think either

1. get an actual cabinet door sample and do a sample Rubio finish (as recommended) to evaluate properly the opacity (I have used a variety of red oak wood pieces as samples, not an actual door in ready-to-finish condition)


2. take my Rubio sample to the cabinet door fabricator and ask for a quote for a custom two-tone matte finish

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 3:38PM
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Well, my husband's health problems have continued and that combined with financial stress certainly has put a damper on things.

This is where I'm at with things. The photo below is still the look that I want, as long as it has grey-green undertones to play nicely with my River White granite. Whenever I talk to a pro about how to achieve this, I get asked for a physical sample of exactly what I want. Obviously, as an amateur if I knew how to achieve this, I would not need to hire a pro! It's a frustrating catch-22. I can get people to create sample stains and doors for me, but I have to pay horrendous costs each time they go through an iteration. At this point, paint seems VERY appealing, but my husband really prefers the stained look and I see his point. A painted slab door could be very dull without the interest of detail in the wood.

I am still planning to order custom solid oak slab fronts and I believe this will cost $1075, which I find reasonable. The finishing options I see are:

1. DIY custom stain with durable topcoat. The stain would be a custom tinted pickling stain (semi-opaque) - that would cost $70 for a gallon (what I would need) but if their attempt at achieving the look I want did not work and could not be tweaked by adding pigment/etc to it, I would have to pay $70 for each gallon that they remixed. The topcoat gallon would be $80-140. After looking at my photo the custom stain mixer said that absolutely cannot guarantee that I will be satisfied with what they can mix for me.

2. DIY Rubio finishing ($241 plus shipping and border charges) using the colours I've already selected. But, husband has now said he does not like how matte it is (!!!) and is concerned that it will accumulate an unattractive patina of children's greasy smudges and fingerprints (good point).

3. go with the “two-tone” custom finish plan with the custom door fabricator - that would be $1797 for the finish alone. We would have to pay a deposit of approx. $500 to get a sample door which we wouldn’t get back if we didn’t like it. Expensive and risky.

I am still amazed that this is so complicated. We need to finish our kitchen...we started in early March :( . Input is still much appreciated.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2014 at 3:04PM
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I re-read this entire thread. Firsthouse_mp suggested looking into Superdeck exterior stain and it turns out they do promising colours - perhaps the two below mixed together? Not sure how it would look on red oak, but it is a durable one-coat product. I would need to investigate whether yellowing would be an issue. With alkyd, obviously I would have to expect off-gassing. OTOH, I am not impressed by water-based products that don't do the job (like the crummy granite countertop sealant that has utterly failed).

edited to add: arg. arg. arg. The local store that carries Superdeck does not carry the Semi-Solid Stain, nor do they have colour cards. This is getting to be beyond frustrating.

Here is a link that might be useful: Superdeck Semi-Solid Siding Stain in Juniper

This post was edited by feisty68 on Fri, Oct 10, 14 at 15:57

    Bookmark   October 10, 2014 at 3:31PM
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I just found this thread...great info. I posted a long time ago about my similar goal to achieve a gray weathered finish on my oak vanity. I am just now resuming my project, and although I haven't finalized my finish, here are a few thoughts:

- I don't want any pink in my oak either, and the key to this IMO is WHITE oak, NOT RED oak. I read the whole thread again and didn't see why you chose red oak. It is probably a little cheaper, but it has a very different color AND grain than white oak. Have you seen a sample door of what you plan to order? A solid red oak slab door will be made up of a bunch of skinny boards glued together. (And, there will have to be some sort of braces on the back side to minimize warping.) Red oak grain is much busier (in general) than white oak. A veneered white oak door would be a much better match for your inspiration look IMO. With veneers you can likely get beautiful slices of wide boards, like the inspiration pic. Back to color -- red oak has a strong pink undertone. Adding white, which is part of the gray/weathered look, emphasizes the pink. White oak, OTOH, has a yellow undertone and even some grayish green in the streaks, and plays beautifully with white and gray. IMO the inspirations kitchens pictured in this thread are white oak.

- baking soda has been mentioned, and I LIKE what it has done to my white oak cabinet door. Mine turned a light driftwood gray with a bit of blonde.

- Making your own custom stain is totally doable. Certainly do not pay someone this much money. Mix an oil-base finish with mineral spirits and add oil-based pigments, or just use the light-colored stain you already have that's too transparent and add more pigment. I have recipes somewhere but I have to look them up. I think one recipe uses white and a little black mixed with a little bit of dark brown stain (Minwax Jacobean?) and mineral spirits. You could probably use a dab of umber instead of the brown stain.

- WD Lockwood has some gray stains. I have like 100 of their various brown mahoganies and oaks, but sadly no grays. I bet their CS could help you find the right undertone. Water stains are very easy to use.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2014 at 1:56AM
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Thanks andersons! You understand my quest!

I am starting to understand why veneers are desirable for this look, however, this is a high traffic kitchen with rambunctious kids. I don't think veneer is the right choice for us. Plus, I think the cost would be much greater.

Red oak vs white oak: I liked the idea of the stronger graining of the red oak - partly to add some interest to the slab fronts, and partly to hide wear and tear. But good point that hiding the pink is a challenge. My logic was that any product would need to be semi-opaque to acquire the desired colour. I'll have to look into the price difference.

I'm pretty sure the oak doors don't have battens but I will have to confirm this. I am mostly doing drawer fronts, not huge doors.

I don't think I could create a custom stain the way that the paint specialists could. The custom stain route (DIY application) would involve using a pickling base where not only the colour but also the opacity could be controlled (and tweaked somewhat).

If I DIY the application I would have to order sample doors (min $75 to play around with - so there would be some commitment there).

Talked with dh about this. He is a perfectionist and he is worried that I would have trouble getting the staining perfect. Also he recognizes that I don't really have a lot of time for projects like this. He liked the idea of finding a furniture finishing expert who would work for us to create a look we like, but I think that would probably end up being insanely expensive.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2014 at 5:05PM
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Veneer is the best construction for slab doors. Solid boards may warp, and warping will look a lot worse than any dents and dings from the kids. With frame and panel, the frame applies force to the panel that doesn't allow it to bend. Solid boards are also going to swell and shrink a lot with changes in humidity. With frame and panel, the panel floats inside the frame, so that a lot of expansion is invisibly under the frame. You're going to need to leave larger gaps between the doors.

What kind of damage from kids do you envision that would look OK for solid wood but not from veneer? Minor dents and dings would look the same either way. (I don't see much of this in oak; oak is a relatively hard wood.) A deep gouge is going to look just as bad and be just as unrepairable on veneer as on solid wood. Surfaces left wet are more likely to warp solid wood than damage well-made veneer, I would think.

Second, white oak is better than red oak for this look. Red oak has a strong pink color. You can either mask it with more opaque pigment, obscuring the grain almost like paint, as you have found. Or, you can bleach it away with 2-part bleach, where Part A is sodium hydroxide (lye) and Part B is hydrogen peroxide. It may take up to THREE times to bleach away the pink to a nice pale blonde color, which is pretty much the natural color of white oak. I'm trying to attach a pic I have of one remodeler's quest for gray floors, where she had her red oak bleached 3 times to remove the pink, before applying stain. (Also notice in the pic the checkerboard effect from lots of little boards, some of which are much darker and some much lighter. Not like the more uniform wide boards in your inspiration pic.)

What do you mean that you couldn't make a custom stain the way that "paint specialists" could? The "paint specialist" is going to mix "pickling base" with some colorants for $70/gallon, 1 gallon minimum purchase, with no satisfaction guarantee? Believe me, you'd be paying through the nose for the unfounded belief that the paint mixer has something you can't get any other way. "Pickling base" is just stain, maybe with some white pigment.

To mix your own, this is just one of many things you could do. Might as well use the stain base you already have, the Sunbleached that's too light. Mix some white and some black artist oils till you like the value level of dark/light. (Get the cheapest big tube of paint you can find, or better yet, a cheap set of all the basic artist colors for color mixing.) Slowly add in a little of your Sunbleached stain at a time, so it won't clump. Test on your scrap board, wipe off with mineral spirits if you don't like it, keep adding the stain till you like the level of transparency.

If the color isn't right, say it's too blue or lavender-blue, try a coat or 2 of Minwax oil-based polyurethane, which is a pale blonde color. This is what I'd try to do, mix up a stain which is a little too cool/blue that would than look perfect with the transparent yellow of the Minwax. It's got to be Minwax (though I need to consult my Fine Woodworking article to be sure I'm remembering right), because some topcoats are deep, dark orange/amber (like Waterlox). The reason I like Minwax is that it's cheap, readily available, easy to get a nice finish with the wipe-on version, and quite durable. I have finished 4 kitchen pieces in Minwax, and they've all held up great. Anyway, this first attempt at custom stain should only cost you 10-20 bucks. And if you don't like it, chances are that's because it's too opaque for the value of gray you want, then you buy some Transtint black dye and use that instead of the artist oil black.

Oh, and don't buy any sample doors just to work on your finish. Red oak is red oak. Just work on scrap boards until you have a finish you like. Then order your sample door from the vendor if you want to check construction, workmanship, etc (I'm sure a good idea). These fees are usually refundable if you then order, right? Or just order one small door you could actually use. Apply your finish to the back first to test it.

After typing all this, I then realized you have to bleach the pink out of the red oak anyway, so you could bleach your red oak scrap board with 2-part wood bleach, then try your Rubio products again, more transparently. Rubio sells a soap that's supposed to leave a satin sheen that may be more to your liking. (But that gray, weathered look is NOT going to look right with too much shine IMO.) At the same time, grab a scrap board of white oak and try the Rubio on it, as well as your custom stain, and find out for yourself why all Rubio's samples and the inspiration kitchens are white oak. :)

Finally, yet another way to possibly achieve this look on bleached red or white oak would be cheap to try. Someone up-thread already mentioned this too - dilute latex paint with water, wipe on, wipe off. Home Depot sells sample pots for a few bucks. First pick a gray that matches the color you want. Also pick one that looks a little more blue, if your wood substrate is that pale blonde color.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2014 at 1:25AM
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Thanks very much for your continued input andersons. I am implementing some of your suggestions and I will post the results soon.

Happy Thanksgiving to Canadian readers!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2014 at 3:14PM
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Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain

12 parts "Driftwood"
1 part "Onyx"

wiped on and off a couple of times
on red oak hobby board which was sanded, then wet, then wiped damp dry (to pop drain)

shown against my installed River White granite counter. floors are clear coated red oak.

comments welcome :)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2014 at 3:33PM
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See, you are mixing your own custom stains. :-)

To my eye on my iPad monitor, it looks too pink and too light (white). I would try more Onyx. If still too pink, I would add a dab of Phthalocyanine Green P.G. 36 acrylic paint or drop(s) of Transtint Green. There is a swatch of greenish gray tint in my color mixing book (Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green by Michael Wilcox) that would be my target color gray. It is a mix of Quinacridone Violet (a bright magenta) and Phthalo Green plus white tint. A pinkish gray matching your above sample is two steps away in the mix, meaning that you're only a little bit of Phthalo Green away from the perfect gray (to my taste anyway).

You should think about your topcoat before settling on your stain though. Basically, I always want to use oil-base topcoat like Minwax wiping poly if I can. It is a yellow color that could possibly be part of the gray in your inspiration photo or the gray streaks in your granite. (Remember black can be mixed from the primaries red, blue, and yellow.) It is cheap, easy to apply nicely, and very durable. Watco Wipe-on Poly is a very pale yellow. By contrast, Minwax water-base finishes (and Zar and a few others) are garbage. Durable water-base finishes are very expensive, and I believe they are harder to use. So, I would add a hint of Ultramarine Blue to my stain, then topcoat with Watco Wipe-On Poly.

One more thing -- you want to end up with a sample board that shows all the steps of your finish. You tape off a strip of the bare wood, then a strip with just the first coat of your bleach or stain, then a strip with the first two coats, etc, until your last finish coat. Then as you finish all these doors, you refer to the step in your finish you are duplicating to help keep it consistent.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Andersons, oil-based varnishes that are DIY-able turn yellow, don't they?

I am still thinking of getting the custom place to do the staining. They have very durable varnishes.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 1:43PM
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robo (z6a)

looks pink to me.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 2:25PM
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There definitely is a pink undertone IRL.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 3:06PM
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If there is natural light from a window, there will be little yellowing. The gray color in your inspiration pic definitely has some yellow in it. The gray in your granite has yellow. So you don't need a finish with the complete absence of yellow (like a pure cool white or natural maple). It might even be possible to add a little blue or purple to the poly and get a nice transparent gray. (See the products I would try, the lightest 3 yellows in the pic.)

Durability is a function of film thickness. An oil (like Rubio Monocoat) is not going to be as durable as a thin film-forming varnish finish. A thin film is not going to be as durable as a thick film. Waterborne finishes that are completely clear are not as durable as good old polyurethane. The more durable finishes are high solids so that they build a thicker film.

The tradeoff of the thicker, more durable film is the look. The cabinets in your inspiration pic do NOT have a thick film finish. The look is weathered and natural with the texture of the wood grain. You can easily achieve this with a few coats of wipe-on poly and still have plenty of water resistance durability. I have a tall pine cabinet in the kitchen I put a few coats of wipe-on finish on, and it's fine after 20 years, several moves, and a flood.

You seem to believe that the finish the professional would use would be better, but polyurethane is still the standard for durability. Flooring pros still use it. If you look at marketing for these expensive waterborne finishes, they may claim to be AS durable as oil-based polyurethane. The reason that the much more expensive waterborne finishes are now used is NOT because they are more durable. The quest has been for lower odor/health impacts, faster drying, and lower pollution. If you're a pro applying finishes all day every day, the fumes from the good old stuff will have negative health effects. And time is money. Pros want to minimize days waiting for previous coats to dry. For a DIYer like me, these factors don't matter. I'm not worried about health impacts from my occasional finishing projects done in my garage, and a few more days spent drying doesn't matter for furniture and cabinets that are going to live in my house for years.

I have learned that when a professional is not excited about your job, and quotes you a ridiculously high price, he really DOES NOT want to work for you. No good can come of it. $500 non-refundable deposit with no satisfaction guarantee for the color?? $1800 to finish $1000 worth of cabinet doors? He is doing his best to avoid taking on your job. You can spend maybe $100, maybe a few hundred bucks on the products you need to DIY. Granted, you have to do some work, but staining oak is easy (it takes stain beautifully, no blotching headaches), and wiping on poly is easy, and you're essentially paying yourself $1500 to do it. (In fact, you'd have to earn $1500 + your marginal tax rate to pay someone else to do it since you're paying him with after-tax dollars.)

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 6:16PM
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I have seen that white-ish gray color applied to red oak and reddish undertoned wood and it always has a pink cast to it. I would make sure that you use either white oak or bleach it as Anderson has suggested. For what you are saving, it might not be such a bad idea to invest in some larger woods to make sure that you have the technique down and can achieve the color you like over larger surfaces like the cabinet doors.

Hang in their Feisty! We are all rooting for you!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 7:46PM
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If you really want the true look, it's not going to be with stain or applied finish, but to oxidize and age the wood before any finish is applied, so the wood truly has that aged look.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood oxidation

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 8:00PM
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Lots of good input. Thank you. There is lots of food for thought.

To be clear, I would not consider paying the pro $1600 for finishing - but I would consider the $800 for a single stain process. Mainly because they would use sprayed-on post-catalyzed lacquer which would be very durable. I agree that that kind of finish would not look like my inspiration photo.

I have to be careful not to bite off more than I can chew. I'm not sure that any process involving more than two steps (stain then finish) is realistic for me for me to do a good job of. And husband is a perfectionist so I would have to be very confident.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 8:14PM
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Hand-applied polyurethane will be just as durable as that lacquer. The reason they use the spray finish is for speed.

I have finished 3 pieces of kitchen furniture in poly, and they've held up great through 20 years, kids, floods, you name it. My neighbor's oak kitchen table where they eat all meals for at least 12 years since I've known them, 3 kids, doing great.

I can't tell you to be confident that you can please a perfectionist, but I can tell you (as a perfectionist myself) that that's a paralyzing way to think about things. If you're waiting till you're 100% sure you can achieve absolute perfection in just 2 easy steps, your kitchen is never going to be finished. I do think this could be an easy finish...figuring out the color recipe and finish schedule is the hard part.

I've done some more research...I think the gray color needs to be achieved with dye or chemical so that it is transparent, rather than with pigment which is opaque. "Pickling" stains have a lot of white pigment, and white pigments are always opaque. There is no such thing as transparent white dye.

There are 2 options for a transparent gray, dyes or chemicals. Lots of people are trying iron buff, made by soaking steel wool in vinegar. Ferrous sulfate is another possibility. Few professionals use these chemicals because results are unpredictable. They prefer dyes such as TransTint.

So I think what I want to try is TransTint black. With luck it might dilute to a nice gray. It might even be possible to tint some wiping poly with black TransTint, wipe on several thin coats, and be done.

(The reason I'm not yet posting pics of my own experiments is that my garage, where I do this work, is currently piled with boxes of junk from my MIL's house which my husband recently had to help sell. And I have a toddler who loves attention...I'm a sucker for "Mama come play!")

    Bookmark   October 15, 2014 at 2:06PM
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Conestoga is now offering weathered wood finishes, so you could just order your doors and end panels there.

A catalyzed varnish is a MUCH better choice than polyurethane. Not saying poly is a bad finish, but it is much less versatile, or forgiving. You can manage all sheen levels in a varnish without the muddiness of the flatteners put into poly. All poly starts out gloss, and the degree of flatteners put into it will make the flatter sheens be less transparent and have less depth. It's why the old trick of using 2 coats of a high gloss poly and the final coat in the satin works so well.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2014 at 4:00PM
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So I've thought a lot about the advice in this thread and it's encouraged me to take things in a different direction.

Today I tried Varathane Sunbleached Wood Stain over poplar (see photo). I wanted to try it because it has a naturally green undertone. It turned out OK - some yellowish pinkish showing through. The grain is not as prominent obviously. That may or may not be a good thing.

But, poplar is too soft for my purposes. Maybe I need to look at maple. THAT would be ironic considering I just ripped out a maple kitchen. White oak is $CAN600 more expensive than red oak for my project...not convinced it makes enough of a difference to make it worth it.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 4:01PM
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Also, I found your image from Fine Woodworking very helpful andersons. This actually looks like it's getting into the right colour territory so that also an avenue to investigate:

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 4:08PM
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The upper third of your poplar sample stills looks pinkish to me. So maybe the Sunbleached has some pink.

I am surprised you'd consider maple. Totally different look. The sample in FW article is an expensive piece of beautiful curly maple woodworkers love to use. Cabinet maple will not look like this. It can have almost no visible wood grain. I thought you really wanted to see wood grain and therefore wanted transparent stain?

I still think transparent dye is your best bet, and you can neutralize the pink in red oak with a little green.

But when looking to save money, it always makes sense to try something that's cheap, easy, and readily available, and that's the iron buff. Steel wool soaked in vinegar for one day, diluted to be lighter than samples shown in that article.

Here's iron buff on red oak. Your look is lighter and more yellow. So iron buff diluted to be lighter, warmed up a little with Watco or Minwax poly topcoat, could be perfect:

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 4:57PM
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If you have a Woodcraft store nearby you might consider stopping in with a picture and/or sample and asking for advice. I was there last night for products for a refinishing project. They are an excellent resource for DIY. They even have finishing classes.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 5:08PM
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Never mind the iron buff. I found a pic of an entire red oak floor treated with iron buff. Definitely gray, but every possible value of gray from very light to charcoal, almost ebony. Different boards have different tannin levels reacting with the iron buff. Maybe these differences could be reduced by apply a tannin solution first, but that's more work and still unpredictable. Dye seems like the way to go.

I did go ahead any mix up some iron buff which is percolating right now, since I already have vinegar and steel wool, and I hate real steel wool so don't plan to use it for anything else. But I'm going to order the black dye.

Here is a link that might be useful: Red oak floor with iron buff. See what they mean by

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 5:26PM
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OK, I am getting really promising results from ferrous sulphate on scrap maple. I used crushed iron supplements from the drug store. I do LOVE how it colours the wood without obscuring the grain. I am definitely thinking that some chemical process like this must have been used for my inspiration photo.

Here's what I don't understand - won't a topcoat (varnish/laquer/or ??) completely darken and yellow the effect?

This post was edited by feisty68 on Thu, Oct 16, 14 at 20:42

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 8:41PM
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No stain advice but your River White is beautiful.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 8:49PM
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Thank you Romy. I love how it looks. The failing sealant is another thread though.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 11:25PM
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So I LOVE the maple treated with ferrous sulphate. So does my husband.

But, when I finished it with Varathane Diamond Wood Finish - Interior (Water, Satin), the colour went darker and browner, as expected :( . I suspect any polyurethane-type finish would do the same.

Any durable topcoat options that would preserve the lightness and silvery-ness?

Here is the look that I love (circled) but it's unfinished:

    Bookmark   October 18, 2014 at 9:31PM
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"Ambering describes how much orange is added with a finish. Wetting describes how much a finish darkens a surface."

In my case I want minimal ambering or wetting. Lacquer would appear to be the best durable option for that?

Here is a link that might be useful: lots of info at this joystick site of all things

    Bookmark   October 20, 2014 at 6:23PM
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Hey, lady! I wish I had some input on your actual questions, but I thought I would pop in and ask if you had any updates in another thread somewhere. I have been absent but thinking of you and your project.

BUT. Could you do a beeswax coating to finish your cabs? Or something similar?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2014 at 9:03PM
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The finish you posted originally looks like a cerused finish. Have you looked into it? I have seen some great tutorials online. Usually done to oak (or another porous wood).
Lmk if you can't find and I will look for it :)

    Bookmark   October 20, 2014 at 11:35PM
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Didn't have time to read through the entire tread to understand the evloution here but from what I did see what we are talking about is a "chemical reactive stain." Yes, ferrous sulfate is one of them and probably the most well know although what you are creating with the iron and vinegar is actually its close cousin ferrous acetate but it does have a simaular effect. Also it would be easier to achieve this with a pad of 0000 steel wool and white vinegar than the iron scraps. That said you are treading in waters that are unchartered by most. You can stumble on a pretty neat effect but to understand the complexity of this I can tell you after hundreds of hours experimenting which dozens of chemical combinations is still something that you never feel you have complete control over. There are so many variables at play from species of wood, to the amount of tannins present, strength of your solution, combination of chemicals, sequence of steps and of course the finish which will alter everything you've done. I do know this the really great finishes are far from a one shot deal. There are many steps involved. I'm talking about the natural organic approach. A lot of people will go the faux route using the watered down paint and stains especially in production. If done well this can look ok too.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 12:15AM
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To summarize for those picking up this super-long thread - I am very ignorant about wood and finishing and this thread has been quite the education. At this point I am letting go of achieving exactly the look of my inspiration photo but committed to solid wood slab fronts that are light grey with the wood showing.

Greenhaven - my reno has been stalled for months due to my husband's sudden and ongoing health problems. But we want to move forward and the cabinet fronts are the top priority right now. Thank you for asking :) .

Ourdreamhome, I have looked at cerused finishes and I am aware of the process. It's a stunning look but at this point I am more attracted to the transparent beauty of the ferrous sulphate treatment.

John/jdesign, I did not use iron/vinegar (AKA iron buff AKA ferrous acetate). I used ferrous sulphate and I think it should be quite a reproducible effect (with the same species of wood) because you can mix exact quantities of the chemical with water. My ferrous sulphate sample looks very much like photos I've seen on the internet.

Now I'm wondering if I start with bleaching, then use the ferrous sulphate, then do a topcoat - would the initial bleaching compensate for the ambering and wetting caused by the topcoat to create a final colour that I will be happy with?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 11:50AM
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I would still make one attempt at paint thinned with a glaze (not water).

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 1:22PM
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Marcolo, I am starting to understand the logic of that! It would allow me more control as described in the link below:

"Glazing is a highly controllable way of floating color in between layers of a finish. When you stain, the wood absorbs the stain, and that has a profound impact on how much color gets taken in and where it lodges, but with glaze you have almost complete control over where the color goes and how much stays on. That is because glaze is applied not to raw wood, but rather atop one or more coats of finish, which prevents the wood from absorbing any of it. In most cases, it is very difficult to reverse stain and start over, but if glazing starts to go wrong, you can simply wipe it off and start again."

Here is a link that might be useful: Glazing: An Easy Way to Add Color to Wood

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 1:37PM
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No you really cannot control the color with any chemical stain because it is a chemical reaction. It is not a dye. Different boards will react differently with the SAME EXACT solution. I have only found a couple finishers who report using these extensively, and they both say that the colors can come out wildly different.

You really need dye for a totally transparent and repeatable color result.

There are two types of colorants for wood. Dyes and pigments. Pigments are large particles, think of powders, that sit on top of the wood. They must be glued on, essentially, with a binder. Dyes, on the other hand, are tiny molecule-size particles that penetrate into the wood and attach to the wood fibers, without a binder. Think of food coloring. Pigments are opaque and will obscure the wood grain to some degree, depending on color used and how thick the pigment layer is applied. Dyes are transparent.

Most wiping stains include pigments. They settle into the bottom of the can and must be stirred back in. Pigment stains are essentially diluted paint.

Glazes are pretty much the same thing. Pigment and binder. Thinned paint. But glazes are intended for a different use, usually to collect in grooves and carvings, or to be manipulated in multi-color faux finishes (like faux wood grain for example), so they include thickeners so that a thick layer can be built up, and extenders so that they can be manipulated for a long time before drying.

Dyes are what will produce a transparent gray. Water-soluble dyes are easy to control and change. Thinned paint, which has been suggested many times on this thread, could also give a similar-enough effect, though it will not reveal the wood grain as clearly as dye. Thinned paint is essentially the same thing as wood wiping stain (pigment, binder, thinner) but available in thousands of colors.

Most any finish will darken the color with the wetting effect. Each step in your finish recipe should account for the others. So mix a lighter color than you want for the stain step. Lacquer is a very clear finish, but it dries too fast to be applied by hand. Lacquer is not DIY, and traditional lacquer is not nearly as durable as polyurethane. I have a very low opinion of those consumer-grade water-based finishes. The finish on my maple island was toast after just a couple years.

Two finishes that are supposed to leave wood looking relatively un-finished looking are Rubio Monocoat and Bona Naturale. Bona would be more durable.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 1:36AM
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I am coming into this thread late and have not read every single response. If it were me, I would use white oak or something quite light in color and just stain it with a mix of white and gray or glaze it with a watered down mix of ultra light gray paint. We painted our white oak island and did one coat. It is a very light gray green and you can see the wood under it bc it was a light coating. I think if you watered it down or oiled down (if you are using oil based paint) this would be simple enough. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 5:52AM
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Dyes are what will produce a transparent gray.

See, this is my problem with this whole thread. I don't understand how anybody could look at the original sample pictures and see only a transparent stain. I see translucent, with pigment caught in the grain pores as well as the corners of the five piece doors. I would give glaze a shot.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 8:54AM
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Now that I've read way. too. much. I'm starting to believe that my inspiration photo was done like this:

- start with wood showing wavy/irregular grain
- bleached
- wire brushed
- dyed
- grain filled with white opaque pigment (limed)
- finished with a matte topcoat of some sort

In other words, I think everyone's right ;) .

Andersons you wrote:
"Most any finish will darken the color with the wetting effect. Each step in your finish recipe should account for the others."

I think the above is key and something that I have been slow to recognize! I am starting to think that bleaching will be a necessity in order to achieve a very light final colour IF I go the dye or oxidizing stain route.

I also need to figure out what kind of grain I should expect from the $8/sf solid slab oak doors (not willing to pay more).

My husband is officially annoyed by this whole process. But...he still wants me to chase this particular unicorn!

This post was edited by feisty68 on Thu, Oct 23, 14 at 13:32

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 12:31PM
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Feisty - Been following your journey for a while. Sorry to hear about hubby's health, hope the best for him and your family. I can't really offer much in the way of advise regarding your attempt to achieve the color you're looking for in whatever manner you end up going with. I did want to, however, my short term experience with a "topcoat" that I read on THIS VERY THREAD above by the fabulour CRFreeman who seems to be a wealth of information. Thanks, CRFreeman for sharing your knowledge!

Recently purchased at a Restoration Hardware outlet a salvaged wood table to use as my office desk. In searching what to "seal" it with while not darkening, looking wet, or changing the color I read a recommendation by CRFreeman above about using Behr Exterior, Dark Base, Matte finish paint WITH NO TINT. I've put two coats on the table and am thrilled with the results. I did check into the Bona Naturale (someone mentioned previously as well), but that sounded a bit more complicated than what I wanted for a simple desk and the cost was very expensive. My little pint can cost me $12. I'm sure some would be opposed to it for use on kitchen cabinets, but it's something I would certainly consider testing before ruling it out. Best of luck on your project!

If it's of any help, below is the "before" of my table I will post another follow up for the after photo.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 12:55PM
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Here is the after photo of the Restoration Hardware after two coats. As CRFreeman mentions, it goes on milky white (looks a lot like white glue), dries matte clear. Have also used on a piece of walnut for another project and equally pleased with results.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 12:58PM
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Swtceleb - that looks fantastic! I don't imagine it would be durable enough for a high traffic kitchen but that is such an awesome finish for other projects. I have learned so much! I should try to apply some of this knowledge to some projects that are not as high stakes as this one ;) .

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 3:23PM
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Fiesty - Have you seen these 'reclaimed lumber' doors, at semihandmade. Maybe you could ask them...

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 4:29PM
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Feisty, have you seen this video where a piece of oak was stained and then cerused? He used a darker color stain than you are after, but the process is still the same.

Here is a link that might be useful: DIY: How to Ceruse Wood

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 5:36PM
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feisty68, you do not necessarily need bleach to achieve a light color, at least not on maple. You can mix dye stain as light as you want.

Staining maple is different from staining oak. Maple has very small pores. Oak has large pores and deep grain that collects lots of pigment from a pigment stain. Oak is almost always stained with both dye and pigment.

Two years after your kitchen is done, you won't care whether it's a couple shades lighter or darker, but you WILL care if there are water spots staining the wood and the finish is cracking. This is what happened to my maple island finished with water-base acrylic after 2 or 3 years.

I would be interested to hear how CEFreeman's stuff is holding up, but based on my experience, I would not choose acrylic for a kitchen finish. I can't buy regular poly any more in stores where I live, so I have tried 3 water-base "polyurethane" products, and they were all junk.

I have considered Rubio Monocoat because I like the look and they claim to be durable. But I am skeptical because oil is not a durable finish, and neither is wax. I've done a little research, and Monocoat won't reveal what's really in their finish. Apparently they claim a "reaction" will take place. A catalyst could cause problems with a previously bleached or oxidized surface.

A big part of the natural, unfinished look here is a matte finish. Protective film-forming finishes are naturally shiny. Matte finishes include transparent silica particles which create microscopic roughness on the surface after it cures. Matte can also be achieved by rubbing out fully-cured surfaces with the appropriate abrasive. Using flattener seems easier, theoretically saving a step, but hand-rubbed surfaces both look more beautiful and feel smoother and much higher quality.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2014 at 6:21PM
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Hydrangea - those are beautiful! Not the look we're going for but I love it.

Andersons, good points. From my reading CAB acrylic lacquer is one of the best durable non-yellowing options. Probably not DIY friendly though.

I did an initial bleaching of the oak using Wood Kote Lite N Up. It is looking really good! It lightens and removes the red/pink quite dramatically. I am starting to understand why many start the finishing process with bleaching - it creates a bit more of a clean slate when staining so that you are not fighting with the wood colours. In my case bleaching may make sense to kill the pink and compensate for the darkening effect of the topcoat. I am still liking the idea of oak with its grain pattern.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2014 at 1:00PM
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Andersons wrote:
"A big part of the natural, unfinished look here is a matte finish."

I agree with this and love the look, but... I initially thought that my husband was on board with a matte finish, but it turns out he is not. We may go with a satin finish as a compromise. He has a point. We got some black-stained counter stools that have a matte finish - he doesn't like how kids' greasy fingerprints are quite visible on them. Satin might provide a more forgiving surface in a high traffic kitchen.

I've done two rounds bleaching red oak now. Pretty exciting!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2014 at 5:47PM
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Something I did a while back.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2014 at 1:38AM
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When I post a second picture the first one goes away. Don't know what I'm doing wrong. Anyway here's another one of dozens and dozens of experiments I've done. Also built the maple bench in the picture I posted above and aged it.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2014 at 1:55AM
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feisty68, some more thoughts about finish. First of all, no acrylic lacquer is going to be that durable. It will not be nearly as durable as a wipe-on poly you could apply yourself. Urethane resin has superior abrasion, chemical, and moisture resistance. I have a table with factory-sprayed acrylic lacquer finish, and I already need to refinish it after 1 year of use.

Secondly, acid catalyzed coatings should not be used over bleached or oxidized surfaces. The catalyst may react with the chemicals from the bleaching and/or chemical staining process, causing later long term issues.

Third, I wouldn't assume that all matte finishes will show fingerprints like black stools. Black is unforgiving. The vertical surfaces of cabinet doors in a much lighter and more variegated color should be more forgiving. I would test before deciding on satin, because a matte finish gives you much less of the "wetting" and darkening effect. Matte finishes are matte because of microscopic roughness on the surface. This is usually achieved though flatteners added to the finish, which are transparent particles of silica. It can also be achieved by rubbing out the finish, after it cures, with the right level of abrasive. This is an extra step of work, but I always do it because hand-rubbed finishes just have a more beautiful look and hand-feel. A thin, matte finish on oak could look almost unfinished, which is what I'm going for.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2014 at 5:40PM
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Jdesign - those are beautiful finishes!

Andersons - a moderator from the forum below wrote:
"Wiping varnish is super easy to use on turnings. But do yourself a favor and get something that doesn't contain polyurethane. An alkyd or phenolic varnish has a lot more clarity than poly...which was developed for and best for floors. Minwax Antique Oil Finish (an alkyd resin varnish) and Waterlox (a phenolic resin varnish) are examples of pre-packaged wiping varnishes. Or mix your own with any oil-based varnish cut 50% with mineral spirits. Pratt and Lambert #38 is a very nice one if you can get it locally. "

Thank you for the information about rubbing the surface to mattify it. I wasn't aware of that technique.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sawmill Creek forum thread

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 12:00PM
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Here's an experiment on red oak. Not photographed very well - not as pink as shown. Bleaching twice (two part peroxide wood bleach) dramatically removed the pink and lightened the wood. The ferrous sulphate stain over the twice-bleaced oak was a fail though. Got a weird brown stain rather than the craved floaty light grey. But nice bringing out of the grain. It seems like the colour I love with ferrous sulphate is mostly happening on maple.

This post was edited by feisty68 on Wed, Oct 29, 14 at 12:07

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 12:06PM
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OK, I think I might be getting warm.

Photo below (left and right are different lighting conditions):

upper: River White granite

1. red oak
2. bleached twice with Lite-N-Up by Wood Kote
3. stained with Rubio Precolor Easy (a waterbased product that is the consistency of thick latex paint): mixed 3 parts Mint White with 1 part Urban Grey, brushed on and wiped off then allowed to dry
4. finished with Varathane Diamond Wood Finish Waterbased Interior

If I can get an experimental stain right, that's a solid basis for getting a custom stain mixed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rubio Precolor Easy

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 4:38PM
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Here's the same experiment again, with my inspiration photo.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 4:49PM
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Similar process, different undertones - more blue-green on the left, more purple on the right.

upper: River White granite

1. red oak
2. bleached twice with Lite-N-Up by Wood Kote
Minwax water-based wood stain
12 parts Driftwood 1 part Onyx
stained with Rubio Precolor Easy (a waterbased product that is the consistency of thick latex paint): mixed 3 parts Mint White with 1 part Urban Grey, brushed on and wiped off then allowed to dry
4. finished with Varathane Diamond Wood Finish Waterbased Interior

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Maple chemically stained with ferrous sulphate solution and allowed to dry. Topcoat is Rubio Monocoat Oil in Stone. Shown with River White granite counter.

Two steps. Easy DIY.

This post was edited by feisty68 on Wed, Oct 29, 14 at 18:25

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 6:20PM
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    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 6:32PM
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another view.

Maple chemically stained with ferrous sulphate solution and allowed to dry. Topcoat is Rubio Monocoat Oil in Stone. Shown with River White granite counter.

I think I might love this. edited to add: I'm calling it "Unicorn Grey".

This post was edited by feisty68 on Fri, Oct 31, 14 at 0:26

    Bookmark   October 29, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Love the maple, although I have to say that you'll need to decide on what's going on IRL. My monitor throws off the colors, I'm pretty sure.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2014 at 10:55AM
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The maple color looks nice. Different effect than picture you originally posted but goes well with the stone. Re: original picture I've only ever used white oak to achieve that look. That weathered grey is just about the hardest color to pull off. Your top coat will wash it right out if it's not right. Needs to be a combination of chemicals and a lime wash. You can get the look other ways with dyes, stains and glazes but it's not the same. Here's a piece in a shelf unit I built.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2014 at 11:21AM
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Awesome piece jdesign!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2014 at 3:09PM
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I think why the maple works for me is that it really complements the granite. The undertones really harmonize and overall look is soft and natural looking rather than busy and "faux". I appreciate the feedback jdesign and nosoccermom :)

    Bookmark   October 30, 2014 at 3:11PM
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I think the maple looks great!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2014 at 3:17PM
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2 thumbs up for the maple - goes great with the River White and easier process.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2014 at 3:25PM
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Swtceleb and bbtrix - I'm glad you like it! I suffered for "Unicorn Grey" ;)

    Bookmark   October 31, 2014 at 12:25AM
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If you're happy with the way the maple is going then you should go that way. The thing I would think about is how it will read from a distance. Meaning the grain pattern. I only say this because you commented on not wanting to use white oak because you like the stronger grain in red oak. I only ever use white oak actually Euro white oak mostly because of the higher tannin content. White oak has the same grain pattern as red it's the cut of the wood that determines it. Maybe you're referring to rifted or quarter cut but plain sliced or even better French cut is going to have very distinct graining. You are right to steer toward the flooring finishes although Rubio would't be my first choice you can probably get something nice with that wether you go with the maple or the oak. The wood in the picture is French cut which is typically a mix of straight rifted grain on the outsides and the cathedrals of plain sliced toward the center.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2014 at 12:56AM
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Jdesign - good points, but white oak is $20/sf unfinished for cabinet fronts - that's not realistic for my budget ;) .

    Bookmark   November 1, 2014 at 12:04PM
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I tweaked Unicorn Grey a bit. It will be a bit lighter and more blue than the version shown on Oct 29. This is to allow a bit of darkening and yellowing as the finish ages which will shift the colour a bit more towards green and "duller".

I am really pleased with the 5% White Rubio Monocoat - it just faintly lightens the wood - great if you don't want any wetting or ambering effect as has been discussed in this thread (see below). But it doesn't stray into a "pickled" look.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2014 at 1:17PM
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I am in mid-finish! Updating in my thread below:

Here is a link that might be useful: take a peek at my

    Bookmark   December 7, 2014 at 8:23PM
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