Need help with stain

jenny_indianaNovember 8, 2010

I am staining old tongue and groove pine planks for a farmhouse table. I'm wanting a dark brown. I've layered some stains but am still not getting quite the color I want.

Would it be okay to use an exterior stain for a table? I'm wondering if I need a semi-transparent or other stain with more pigment to get the look I'm going for.

Also, my plan was to use Waterlox after getting it to the color I want. Is this a good idea?


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Here is the wood:

and I am wanting a dark walnut colored finish.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2010 at 9:26PM
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Remember that stain only works with bare wood. If you have any kind of finish on that table, you need to strip it back to bare wood. With that said, I've had very good luck with General Finishes water based dye stains. The other point to remember that the darker the stain the more akin to paint it becomes so darker stains tend to obscure the grain (if that's important to you).

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 9:05PM
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Thanks, Mike! This is an old picture. I stripped it and then lightly hand sanded it. I've already put on 2 or 3 layers of gel stain.

I don't mind obscuring the grain. Should I keep layering the interior gel stain, or could I use and exterior semi-transparent intended for decks?

Also, I don't think I want to use a poly finish. Is Waterlox (which I believe the can said was tung oil) good for a table?


    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 8:10AM
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Generally, there is a limit as to how much stain you can apply. Sooner or later you are going to reach the point where it either stops absorbing or you start to build a weak layer of stain (depending upon the product). Stains that contain pigment contain just enough binder (varnish, lacquer, acrylic, etc.) to hold it in place. Apply too much and you will have a weak layer.

Waterlox, while an excellent finish, is NOT tung oil. It is a varnish made from tung oil. About the same difference as "flour" and "bread." While the tung oil choice imparts certain characteristics to the final product (just like the choice of flour - white, whole wheat, rye, etc.), it is no longer tung oil, it is a new product, tung oil varnish (or bread). Manufacturers play fast and loose with the tung oil on the label. While Waterlox is better than most, you really have to read carefully to note the difference. And in a few places even they slip up and forget to use the word "varnish" when they talk tung oil.

Blame old Homer Formsby for creating a tung oil cult. He became a rich man calling thinned varnish "Tung Oil Finish" and lacquer thinner "Finish Restorer."

Also realize that the varnish, or whatever final top coat is going to change the color of the finish, almost always darker. If you have some scrap left, test on that as you may already be as dark as you want.

Generally, it is not a good idea to be using outdoor products indoors. They contain things like mildewicides that you probably don't want in a food eating environment.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 1:01PM
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Thanks so much for taking the time to help me understand the differences. I think the finish will make the current color dark enough.

As you said, the Waterlox said Tung Oil, and I did not know enough to understand that it is varnish.

Any ideas on what type of finish to use? I want something to protect the wood. We have kids, so there will likely be spilled liquids occasionally. I want to consider the options beyond polyurethane. I went to a small local woodworking shop and tried to ask for help, but I think my lack of background knowledge caused me to be overwhelmed by the many choices!!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 7:35AM
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Waterlox would be an excellent choice. One of my clients is a custom kitchen design and install company. When they do solid wood countertops, their fabrication shop uses Waterlox. Waterlox is one of the darker amber choices in varnish, but that should not be an issue in your application.

It is more expensive than the consumer-grade poly, but it will still be one of the least expensive components of your project. And since people see the finish first, money well spent.

I looked at their 13 page woodworker's guide and "varnish" appears only 6 times, while "tung oil" appears 54 times. So it's no wonder it confuses people. The key is to realize the following chemical formula

resin + oil ---(heat)---> varnish

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 5:55PM
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Out of curiosity, are you refinishing a farmhouse table, or are you constructing one using old tongue and groove pine planks? I'm considering doing the latter, so that's why I'm asking.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 2:40PM
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I am redoing an old harvest table. I purchased it at 12' long and about 27" (5 planks) wide. The legs were upside down fence posts, and it had been in a barn/summer kitchen and used for canning. I took the whole thing apart and have cut the pine boards to a length that will work in our dining room. I'm changing the apron and legs. It will be 7' long and about 44" wide.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 11:01PM
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How very resourceful of you! This should turn out to be a very gratifying project.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 1:14PM
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