Matching gel stain to wiping stain

vondabFebruary 18, 2008

I have wasted so much money (and time) buying various stains and paints for all my sample boards. I'm hoping someone can advise me what gel stain (brand/color) to try that might closely match Minwax Puritan Pine and Provincial. The Minwax gel stains go by different names. I noticed, in a paint store, the brand "Old Master" used the same color names for their gel as the Minwax I'd played with. I asked the store owner, whom I've developed a pretty good relationship with, as many times as I've been in there, if the colors would be similar. She assured me they would be. Well, $40 later, for 2 quarts, the colors are no where near the same, and the gel colors are horrid at that.

I am considering using the gel stain, if I can find the right colors, on white pine flooring and on an antique oak front door. Do I still need to use the wood conditioner on the pine with a gel stain?

What are some favorite gel stain brands, and is there anything else I should consider when choosing a gel over a wiping stain? All my projects will be finished with Waterlox after staining, by the way.


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Staining is quite difficult to match. the same stain from different batches can be different. Not to mention different pieces of the same wood take stain differently.

Matching the same color/brand is difficult, so matching a different type and brand will be nearly impossible.

Oil based satins only are absorbed into the wood a little, water based much the same. But water based stains often raise the wood grain and have to be sanded---which removes some of the stain. Most gel stains are basically paint, the color is not absorbed into the wood as much as oil/water based types.

Wood dyes are much more deeply absorbed into the wood.

Any liquid stain can be a wiping stain---gel stains have to be wiped, in fact. Another plus in initially wiping on stain is that color can be controlled much better---you see the result immediately without having to wait 5-10 minutes to wipe off the excess.

Pine has such differences in density that any stain will blotch. Now, I have never used gel stains, so I don't know for sure, but every other stain I have used on pine needed a conditioner.

The same stain will look different on different woods. Any stain will be darker on oak than on pine---because of the wood.

Finally, you mentioned two different MinWax stains---Puritan Pine and Provincial Pine----the closest you can get to matching them is to use those stains.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 3:09PM
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Thanks, Handymac.

I was hoping to avoid having to use the conditioner, and save a step... I thought I had read somewhere on this forum that the gels didn't need it, and for some reason gathered that folks prefered working with them over the more liquid stains. (I don't know the best way to refer to the traditional type stain??)

I'm shooting for a "grandma's old farmhouse" look for my new white pine floors and in all my sample boards, I really like the way the Puritan Pine, followed by Provincial (no Pine after it) looked. It wasn't a big deal to wipe on a couple coats of each color, sanding a bit between, etc... on one piece of wood. Too do all those steps on 1500 sq. ft. is a bit daunting. I've also tried mixing the two stains and adding to the Waterlox original. That turned out ok, but not dark enough, and it lacked that aged look from layering the two stains. I definitely did not like the look of the gel stain. It did look more like a paint just sitting on top of the wood. I guess I'll have to decide between the cheaper, "easier but not as pretty" look (d.i.y.), or pay someone to get the look I really want. Sigh.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 11:17PM
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My experience on these types of issues is to mix up your own stain color. I always have a quart of dark stain, a medium color, one with some red in it, and a real light color one like a maple. To come up with a proper color you need at least 3 colors and 4 is even better. I can't remember a time when I've used stain right out of the can. All my stain projects are mixed stains.

I've made poplar look like a natural cherry in my kitchen. I recently redid the finish on an antique radio with an oak case and I was able to mix a stain that looked exactly like the original.

Is the pine floor new? If it is an old floor, you might get away without a conditioner. I restained a hardwood floor in my former house without conditioner and it turned out fine. But if you are suspicious that it might look patchy, using conditioner is a good idea.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 9:46AM
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Green-Zeus, I'd like to hear more about how you made poplar look like natural cherry? Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 10:49AM
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Here's my recipe for the stain.

I used Minwax Colonial Maple,Fruitwood,and Red Oak. The proportions are 60/40 Maple and Fruitwood. Then add JUST A TOUCH of Red Oak.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 10:29AM
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