Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

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Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by vintage frames » Wed 17 Nov, 2021 4:49 pm

As I haven't any work on at the moment, I thought I would open a discussion on using wood stains and other finishing techniques.

There are many experienced framers on this forum who use acrylic and household paints to achieve their own patented effects but I am going to go back to 1st principles in explaining what wood stains are and how best to use them.

The first thing to know is that a wood stain is a wood dye. Depending on the shade chosen, it will colour the wood to either resemble a particular species or to enhance the colour of a timber already matched.

So for framing we can select two timbers best suited to hand finishing - obeche and oak.

With obeche you can stain to resemble either mahogany or walnut. With oak the colour is either light oak, golden oak or dark oak.

You will see lots of reference to spirit wood stains in all sorts of colours - don't go there!

The most versatile stains are water stains and you only need 5 colours. To choose a colour is first to know who to buy it from. When a company offers say mahogany on their range, that is only their version of mahogany. For best results it is better to buy from a specialist wood finishing supplier who counterintuitively only offers a limited palette of colours like Fiddes Light Fast or Bolgers ( E-bay )

The colours to buy are Fiddes - Yellow, Mahogany, Walnut and Med Oak.
Cheaper to buy are Bolgers on E bay - Yellow, Rich Mahogany, Walnut and Golden Oak
The final and most important colour to buy is some Van Dyke crystals. These come as described as dry crystals which dissolve readily on hot water. Dissolve enough to make a very dark brown stain.

Now to mix the stain. Fill 1/2 cup of clean water into a small bowl. Dip the brush into some of the Walnut stain and stir it into the water. Puddle some out onto a bit of obeche and test for strength,
Too light - add more stain
Too dark - add more water.
When satisfied with the walnut colour, add a little mahogany to warm up the colour.
Finally stir in a little Van Dyke stain. This will have the effect of giving the stain an antique tone.
Keep mixing until a good colour is obtained. If it goes wrong, just pour it away and start again.

Next is to apply it to the frame. Brush the stain on liberally, flooding it over all the frame. Leave it for 30sec and then wipe it away with a cotton cloth.
After being left to dry, repeat the application. If the colour appears too weak - repeat again but if the staining is too dark, wipe it off with clean water and add a further coat.

The frame should now be left to dry out fully and on my next post I will explain the next steps in obtaining a fine wood finish.
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Re: Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by StevenG » Wed 17 Nov, 2021 9:35 pm

This is an incredibly interesting post, thank you :clap: :clap: :)

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Re: Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by Oldgrumpyface » Wed 17 Nov, 2021 11:50 pm

Dermot, thanks for passing on some of your knowledge in a very clear manner,

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Re: Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by Colin Macintyre » Thu 18 Nov, 2021 8:28 am

Great stuff! Look forward to the next installment. :D

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Re: Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by prospero » Thu 18 Nov, 2021 11:02 am

Strangely enough..... I never stain wood. I did do an ash frame for a chap which he's had a few more of in the past
but otherwise I never do it. All I did there was wipe it over with diluted acrylic brown paint and add a coat of clear Shellac. :D
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Re: Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by Not your average framer » Thu 18 Nov, 2021 12:54 pm

I use various different methods, very often it's dependant on what I've got to hand. I often start with some van dyke crystals and add very small amounts of transparent acrylic paints to adjust the colour according to what I want. Acrkic paints are available in pigments, where some are transparent, some a semi transparent, some are semi opaque and some are fully opaque. There are also some colours which are described as staining and these are non good for mixing with other colours as they will overwealm almost all other colours. You can easily determine these characteristics for the paint producers colour charts. Not all paint producers paints are necessarily the same in this regard, so beware! I also like the coloured versions of PolyVine Acrylic wax finish varnish. These tend to be a quick and easy, non nonsense, ready to go finish, but there are times when I will and a little bit of transparent pigmented acrylic paint just to adjust the overal colour a little. This is because the colour of the bare wood you are staining, can affect the resulting colour after staining. Also some wood types can be more absorbent than others and so will absorb more stain. The PolyVine coloured acrylic wax finish varnish are only available in a satin finish and I am not particularly keen on satin wood stain finishes. To me satin and many gloss finishes look to modern and rather plastic like, so I often add a coat of PolyVine Dead flat acrylic wax finish varnist, which counters this effect very nicely.

Many wood types don't take wood stains very evenly and need a little bit of conditioning to regulate the rate of stain absorbtion, in order to ensure a more even staining effect. This is also true where some wood types don't look very natural after staining, because uneven absorbtion of the stain creates an un-natural level of contrast within the grain features of the wood. If the pores within the wood grain absorb different amount of stain according to the wood colours within the grain, this produces an un-natural look which does not look very nice. To illiminate this effect I mix a small amount of a water based paint, with water to produce a weak wash, which I apply to the wood before staining. This has the effect of filling the pores in the surface of the wood. Once the surface of the wood has evenly absorbed this wash, I wipe the surface with a piece of disposable kitchen tissue and stain the surface of the wood before the wash, which has been absorbed into the wood is able to dry and is still filling and therefore blocking the pores from absorbing excess stain. A little of the pale colour of the wash will get absorbed in to the water based stain and very slightly soften the visible gain in the wood. This is very helpful to me, when producing frames from bare wood pine mouldings. By softening the visual effect of the pine grain, this creates the impression of being a nicer qualiy of wood type. Using this pre-staining wash is mainly for those who are using a water based stains only.
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Re: Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by fusionframer » Thu 18 Nov, 2021 2:04 pm

Thank you for posting Dermot. Very informative, i look forward to the next installment.


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Re: Using Wood Stains and General Finishing

Post by Tudor Rose » Thu 18 Nov, 2021 2:50 pm

Very interesting post Dermot and very clear to follow, thanks for posting.

As others have said, look forward to your next instalment.
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