Cabinet finish - white stain vs white paint

lmsparkieJune 21, 2014

Done to the nitty gritty here and trying to achieve the look of this mock-up photo. I know lavender in the kitchen is to put it nicely, a unique choice:-)

I am hoping for a finish to new cabinet doors and drawers in which the colors will have some depth or just a tinge of variation in color, so I thought a white stain might yield a better result than paint. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to do this with a paint or stain? Can you paint directly on wood without a primer instead of staining and if so what type of paint would be best?

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Sophie Wheeler

Wood bleach and then dye followed by a conversion varnish. Not really an amateur's project.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:28AM
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Hollysprings - What kind of dye are you referring to and how would you apply it? I am having a painter / cabinet finisher do the job. Any other suggestions besides conversion varnish?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:13AM
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If one paints without priming, one gets what one deserves: a seriously crappy job. There are a hundred million threads on how to paint cabinets, and the results of those attempts.

If you're staining, it soaks into the wood, so how many coats determines the depth of the finished color.

I'm confused though. Are those your cabinets in the picture? Then, they're already painted white. Are you trying to add color to them? Because I'm thinking a properly done glaze could work. Stripping seems like a huge waste of time, since you're going to add color. White stain on white paint..?

Keep in mind that if you do happen to strip them (Think Citristrip) to white stain them, and they happen to be oak? You'll professionally achieve the whitewashed, pink oak of the 80s. You'd need to put another layer of your choice of colored stain overtop to get rid of the pink. The grain would be lovely...

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Sophie Wheeler

If he can't figure it out, he's not the man for the job. No substitute for clean room applied conversion varnish. It's what a pro would use, for a reason. No site finishing.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:23AM
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CEFreeman - it's photo edited. These will be new doors of alder, birch or maple. I would like a white and lavender finish in which the color has some depth, not just a thin whitewash effect.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:39AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Unnatural wood colors are the most time con$uming and tricky to achieve. You need an arti$an, not a ''cabinet guy''. Or else settle for plain paint.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 11:18AM
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Thanks Hollysprings. Think you are right. Trick will be finding someone!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 11:36AM
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I really look forward to seeing the end result.
I love things out of the norm: read, white kitchens.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Imsparkie, your kitchen looks really cool - I hope you keep us posted about your progress.

I understand the effect that you are trying to achieve. Having some depth and variation is a really great idea for adding interest to slab fronts. I'm planning solid oak gray stained slab fronts for my small kitchen, but I was driving myself *nuts* trying to figure out *how*.

It was a thread here on GW that pointed me to an excellent option: Rubio Monocoat. It's a Belgian product that is designed for floors so it's more than up for the job for cabinet fronts. From my research, it is a new category of products (there are a couple of other brands of this kind of modern hardwax oil). It has many many benefits over custom stains, hardware store options, etc. What I found is that those products weren't opaque enough for the look that I was trying to achieve.

I have applied it myself and it's an *easy* DIY job if you do proper wood prep (use their cleaner) and follow instructions exactly. I have no experience with wood finishing so knew that complicated application methods weren't for me.

I loved the samples that I tried. The finish is beautifully matte, yet water beads up nicely and it seems very durable.

I recommend that you order samples and try this yourself if you're interested. Plan to take some time getting the right combination if you use two-step process.

The wood species makes a *huge* difference. If you want to see grain, oak is by far the best readily available option. Also, how the wood is prepped makes a difference in how the Oil soaks in (sanding, Monocoat Raw Wood cleaner, 'water popping' to raise grain), so ideally you'd be working with a sample cabinet door for your final testing.

Some of the Monocoal Oils are coloured (incl a number of whites), but if you want a more opaque finish with stronger colour, you can apply a 'precolor' - I'll be doing that with my gray stained cabinet to achieve an 'almost painted' look that still shows the dimension and depth of the grain.

You will probably need the precolor to get the colour strong enough for your look. The cool thing is you can MIX precolors with each other to blend a custom colour. You can also mix the Oils with each other. So the possibilities are endless and you should be able to create the look you want with experimentation.

Because there are so many colours of precolors and oils, the combinations are endless and creating large sample boards is a *must*.

Natural Oil Finish 2C Part A (no accelerator B)
- recommended to use no accelerator for cabinet fronts for long 'open time', but takes 21 days to cure (instead of 7).

Precolor Easy 14 Unique Shades

Application Instructions: Furniture Data.2.14.pdf

pretty impressive resistance testing results:

See my thread for endless detail about my quest for an elusive finish look :) .

HTH! If you're interested in pursuing this, I have some ideas about how you might achieve lavender/white look with Rubio products based on my test boards.

This post was edited by feisty68 on Sat, Jun 21, 14 at 15:44

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:47PM
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Feisty, thanks for your detailed input. Just returned from the cabinet finisher/painter's shop and looked at samples he made for me. One actually is very pretty - white stain on birch. He will do a sample of it with the wood bleached first for a tad brighter white and is also going to work on the lavender. So, I'm happily surprised at how nice it looks. Not your 80's pickled finish; much more simple and modern. Will post again when I've made progress.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:01PM
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That sounds great. Ask him about how the stain will age - some species/finishes are expect to change colour with time.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 3:27PM
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Excellent point - thanks!!!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 10:44AM
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Anything with aniline dye in it is for sure going to color shift, does not matter how strong the UV inhibitor is in the top coats..

I would suggest taking the samples that he made for you and covering half the sample with a taped down piece of paper and leaving on a windowsill for several days, then peel the paper off to see the color shift

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 11:12AM
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ajc71's suggestion is excellent, but I think it takes more that a few days for the color change. This job sounds very expensive to me.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 12:16PM
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If the color base is a aniline dye, which is the easiest way to achieve this look, and it is left in sunlight for one day it will be noticeably different

Done properly, by a shop that has done this in the past it should not be a huge up-charge to achieve this finish....for sure it is more expensive then the run of the mill finish, but should not be crazy expensive

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 12:34PM
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Hi all,

Reporting on progress of my kitchen redo and my dilemma. Although the photo does not show the detail, the white gel-stained cabinet doors over bleached birch are very pretty - a subtle soft white. I am pleased with the work especially of the cabinet maker who matched all the grain on the doors adjacent to each other.

The lavender section is another matter and I am trying to decide how to reduce the somewhat candy-coated appearance. It was a gamble to do the lavender paint, but the lavender stain was much more $$$ and I am on a tight budget.

The paint color is a shade lighter than the color I chose on the color card, so one option is to do a sample of the slightly darker color. Another option might be to add a touch of blue to the paint to counteract the slightly pinkish hue. Does anyone know if adding blue would bring the color more towards periwinkle?

Or is there a way to make the gloss paint appear more chalky or have some depth without sacrificing the cleanability of the semi-gloss paint?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 10:55PM
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