Matching Pottery Barn stain

pepperidge_farmNovember 11, 2008

We are working on a bathroom with a Pottery Barn vanity in "hand rubbed espresso stain." We have a tub deck with the base that I would like to match the stain.

I have read in places that one can dye the wood, then use a walnut stain. It would seem that just applying multiple coats of stain will not give a good result.

Does anyone have any experience or knowledge of how to achieve the same approximate color?

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Yeah, I have tried several different colors. The only way I succeeded in actually matching was to get the recipe from the company who made/mixed the stain and duplicate it.

I have gotten close several times---usually close enough to satisfy the customer. But I never satisfied my own eye.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 11:48AM
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Dying, then applying a wiping stain or glaze is a common finishing method (at least to me.) Color matching takes both a good eye, experience and color theory. You are unlikely to get a perfect match out of a can of #344, or whatever.

The only way to be sure is to run some sample boards and see where they lead you. Tweaking along the way is often needed as the wood, how stain is applied, the stain(s) and the finish coat itself all contribute to the resulting color.

"Hand rubbed espresso" is merely a marketing term and to me indicates red undertones and black-brown over tones. If you go to 5 different manufacturers you will likely find 5 different interpretations of what these words mean.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 12:30PM
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If you are not experienced in mixing stains, glazes, etc., you may want to try to get a professional to do it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 8:08PM
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Thanks for the advice.

handymac- I think as long as it is close, I can't imagine getting identical, it is unlikely I'll even use the same wood (it is meranti wood).

bobsmyuncle- I think I will get set up with a few samples, formulas, that's a good strategy. I do actually have a background in color theory/art as well as some amateur woodworking, so that should help.

jbranch... what can I say, obviously I am planning on doing it myself along with the rest of the project. We do all our own work.

I guess I had some hope that someone out there had tried it already, as it is a popular store... anyone?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 10:40AM
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The end color will be the result of the wood, the stain(s) you apply, how you apply them and the finish you use. There is not a good way to predict where they will end up without some samples. But there are probably numerous ways to get there. I would start with a dye, then a wiping stain, and perhaps a glaze if needed to highlight the detail and/or tweak the color.

You might look at General Finishes Java gel stain as it looks like it might be close (but may be too red for you).

Here is a link that might be useful: Is this the one?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 11:29AM
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Yep- that's the series!

The Java looks like it has potential- Thanks.

I don't have any experience or knowledge regarding wood dye's. Is there anything special or useful for technique?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 11:17AM
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I just watched Jeff Jewitt's "Wood Coloring" video where he goes into using dyes. It is extracted from his "Hand Applied Finishes" book, so that would be a start.

A friend of mine likes to mix up very concentrated mixtures of dyes, then carefully thin them out and run sample boards with different concentrations. By carefully, I mean measure accurately with graduated beakers or vials. In other words, the secret to success is being able to repeat a desired test.

Unless you are spraying, most people recommend water as the solvent as it gives you more open time than alcohol. Since this is your first time, practice on scrap until you are happy with the results.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hand applied finishes

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 8:09PM
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Be sure to compare the test pieces under the same light as it will be used under.

The color we perceive depends not just on the actual dye and pigments used, but the light color illuminating the surface.

Eyes do not judge 'absolute color' well.

Even the color on the walls and ceiling in the bathroom will affect how the color you are making is perceived, and the amount of natural light and even sheers over a window play also.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 12:55PM
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bobsmyuncle- thanks so much for the book reccomendation- it looks good.

brickeyee, I know what you mean...

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 5:35PM
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Just wanted to update with my results, thanks so much for the direction-

the stain that worked was the General Finishes Espresso stain, that seems to be a perfect match- even in direct daylight, it is a wonderful match. I put it onto birch ply and the result was great. Only the wood grain is different, but the color and luminosity is almost indistinguishable! Now just working on my many coats of poly.....


bobsmyuncle- thanks for the tip on GF stains, I found a local business that sells them and I was able to look in person. I started with test pieces and a base black color, but the espresso color alone was the correct undertones and depth. Made that part very easy!!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 9:26AM
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Glad it worked out. I have used GF Espresso on a number of projects. What I was trying to match had a bit more red undertones, so I dyed with red before wiping on the stain. The last job I used it on, the guy had lost two dining table legs in a move. He didn't care too much what the color was, but when he picked them up, he could not tell the original that he left for a sample from the replacements.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 12:07PM
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