Staining the dressers

Finishing for “pop”

With the quarter sawn oak, I want to enhance the grain figure while also making the mix of white and red oak piece blend together.  Additionally the finish requests were for 2 different colors.  David and Elyse wanted a traditional Mission Oak style color and Jessie wanted a “Cherry” finish. This matches the colors of the beds and dressers I had made for them previously.   The technique borrows from one that I had learned from Jeff Jewitt of Homesteadfinishing.com at a Wisconsin Woodworking Guild class a number of  years ago.

Technique

The finishing schedule uses a base coat of dye, a barrier coat that locks in and protects the dye which is then sanded, a gel stain and top coats. I prefer to spray the finishes as the dyes can be tricky to do by hand  and it goes a whole lot quicker.  However if you are heavy handed with the coats they will tend to mottle. Go lightly and build gently – more coats is better than 1 heavy one.  RESIST the urge to touch up the dye. It WILL appear to be uneven when initially drying but trust that you have laid it on evenly ant it will turn out in the end.

For David and Eyse’s:

  • Transtint medium brown dye in alcohol (1 oz to 1 qt)  – 2 light coats
  • Blond shellac 1.5 lb cut – Zinsner seal coat dewaxed  diluted by 50% with alcohol.  Apply 2 light coats.
  • Sand 320 grit  – full scratch – no glossy spots
  • Minwax Bolivian Rosewood Gel stain. Wipe on, let sit 10 min and wipe off (hard)

After the shellac  (this was a bit heavy, leading to some splotching prior to sanding)

 

After Sanding . 320 grit full scratch.

After gel stain

For Jessie’s

  • Behlen Solarlux dye – Golden Fruitwood – 2 light coats
  • Garnet shellac (hock or shellac.com) 1.5 lb cut – 2 light coats.  Garnet shellacs vary in color a lot.  I use a “red” garnet vs a “brown” garnet
  • Sand 320 grit  – full scratch – no glossy spots
  • General Finishes gel stain – custom mix – 2 parts CandleLight to 1 part Georgian Cherry

For all

Apply finish coats  – typically 4 coats sanded after 2 coats and then final 2  – all sprayed

If spraying indoors in the winter I use General Finishes Endurovar Pre cat Urethane.  With 2 coats gloss and 2 coats satin. If you do all satin it will appear cloudy. All gloss and it is too shiny and I have not had great success rubbing this one out to satin.

If spraying outdoors I use Sherwin Williams Pre-cat Lacquer  Hand rubbed satin finish.   This stuff is wonderful.

Safety

All of these have some level of toxicity or at least particulate damage to your lungs. Spraying indoors is hazardous.  Any flammables (including alcohol) in the finish pose a fire and explosion hazard and lacquer certainly is a good way to make your house go “BOOM” which is why I only use it outdoors.     Relying on open windows or doors is not enough and in our wisconsin winters it is a serious problem (low temps and high winds on my west facing shop door).    For this project I was finishing while it was -5 to +8 F outside.

Wear a respirator and make sure the filter cartridges are fresh.  I sometimes forget with shellac and end up with a headache and decreasing finish quality during the session  – typically getting too heavy as the alcohol takes hold.  Not recommended. Water based finishes still have solvents in them and the particles are nasty lung irritants.   I also run a ceiling mounted air cleaner when finishing (box with a furnace blower and filters) which helps a lot.

Drawer ends

With the dovetail ends, the question arises of: “Where do you end the stain?”   Stopping at the edge of the top leaves light lines in what should be the shadows of the drawer edges and ruins the separation effect. Just swiping down the sides is ugly. Trying to stain all the individual dovetails is madness. So I mask off at the top of the dovetails and stop staining there. It makes for a nice transition.

 

All of the photos are without the final finish coats which will add yet more depth. However, I need to let the stain cure for at least 3 days and a few above zero days to apply the finish (to allow for reasonable ventilation).