Enhancing Wood Grain


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Old 01-11-06, 10:08 PM
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Enhancing Wood Grain

I'm in the process of having a rather large entertainment centre built with all birch wood.

I wanted to do it in oak at first but I liked the longer grain of the birch and decided that I'd go with that (or maple instead, maybe someone can suggest one or the other that really comes out nice with stain). I know oak is popular but that's kinda exactly why I want to do it in birch or maple....to be different.

I've been reading up on different staining methods and such to get a feel for what I need to do.

Anyways, what I am really looking to do is to use the birch or maple and really want to know a good technique that'll really bring the grain out using (most likely) the 'dark walnut' or 'special walnut' stain from minwax (oil based stain).

I read that it is possible to enhance grains using a 'light stain' (say a 'golden oak') first to draw out the grain without darkening the rest of the wood too much and then lightly sand and apply the dark stain after followed by a top clearcoat (for me, that would probably be a satin clear coat.)

I'm open to any suggestions as well as any hiccups I could expect with birch or maple (other than making sure to use the pre-stain conditioner).

In the end, I want the dark walnut stain(or similar), with hopefully a definitive grain , satin clear coat and hopefully get something that looks 'rustic' in nature but definitely 'modern'.

I spent a lot of time detailing the cabinets (wire mesh on one set of doors and dowelling inside another set of doors) and really want to make sure it comes out the way I envisioned it and would love to try some suggested techniques on some scrap first.

All ideas much appreciated!....products to use etc
 

Last edited by Viro; 01-12-06 at 07:23 AM.
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Old 01-12-06, 10:34 AM
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www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/ Staining_and_Blending_Difficult_Woods.html

check out the above link, or do a google search,

using, " staining birch problems"
 
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Old 01-12-06, 12:25 PM
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I can't recommend using two colors of stain in succession. I've done it before but only when the first color did not turn out as planned. The first coat usually prevents the second coat from soaking in as much, resulting in a lighter finish than if you had only used the 2nd color alone. The first coat basically acts like a tinted wood conditioner. So how it turns out is kind of an experiment that leaves a lot to chance, unless you've tried it and know how it will turn out. You might also try experimenting with other colors like Minwax Early American and Provincial stains. Both the stains that you mentioned are quite dark and do not produce a lot of contrast. Early American and Provincial seem to be just a shade lighter and accentuate the dark grains while not drowning them out completely with dark tones. (See the oil stain color charts at their web site)

As you mentioned, you'll want to experiment with scraps. There's nothing worse than having it all figured out and then finding out the method doesn't look the same once you are applying it to your project.

You might try staining some scraps with and without the wood conditioner. I've found that sometimes it's helpful to even out the tones while other times it prevents the colors from becoming as deep as you'd like. It really depends on a lot of factors, the biggest being the wood itself, and no two pieces of wood are ever the same.

I've had customers reject certain pieces of casing even though it was all stained up the same way, just because the grain of the wood had different qualities and densities it took the stain differently, even though it was all the same stain.
 
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Old 01-12-06, 01:05 PM
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I realize that the dark stain is going to be a hiderence but is there an advantage in my scenario of using maple as opposed to birch or would I reasonably expect the same results with either one, especially in terms of the 'rustic' look like I mentioned in the first post.

I'm unfamiliar with dyes and stuff and if I can find someone that carries it I might try it but I'm pretty sure I haven't come across it while looking at the different stains. I imagine it's more of a specialty item that I wouldn't find at the hardware store?

Again, all ideas appreciated!
 
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Old 01-12-06, 05:47 PM
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"I'm in the process of having a rather large entertainment centre built with all birch wood." "I spent a lot of time detailing the cabinets (wire mesh on one set of doors and dowelling inside another set of doors)"

from reading the above i thought you were already in the process of
construction, or finished, so i do not understand the "maple" part of
your post??

do you want a look that is dark in some areas and lighter in others?

do you want american walnut brown or what you get with

dark walnut?

do you want an even look to the piece colour wise?


does "rustic" plus "modern" mean you want it to look old, yet have a
new finish on it?
 
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Old 01-12-06, 06:40 PM
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Leewaytoo, I see where you're going and I apoligize...

I just finished drawing it up last week and hopefully it'll start being built next week. To give you an idea, it is 10 ft wide and 6 ft high (with the tv in the middle of course). The lower cabinets will have dowelling inside the door frames and the upper cabinets will have fine wire mesh inside the door frames. The mesh is black with a hint of rust in spots and I'm gonna spray a clearcoat of paint over it to keep it that way. There is just an open space between the top and lower cabinet that'll have a light fixture shining down from underneath the top cabinet. I think those three things together will give the entertainment centre some character which is why all the fuss I'm having on deciding on wood/stain etc.

As of right now, it will be done in birch but doing it in maple instead keeps crossing my mind. I'm used to oak and even pine but I am unfamiliar with the types of finishes you can get with maple or birch, especially in terms of which will be easier/rewarding when it comes to getting the grain to show.

I do want an even look to it and I even contemplated doing certain parts in one stain and other parts in a different stain (one stain a little lighter than the other).

I like the minwax 'special walnut' stain as well as the two mentioned by XSleeper.

I would go oak again but I really want to do something different.

I kinda see how 'rustic' and 'modern' look bad in the same sentence! LOL

I do want to give it the appearance that it's 'old'. I've purchased some cast/rod handles which will help. I probably should've left the 'modern' part out.

If you take a peak at the minwax.com website, on the main page, there is a macromedia flash playing. If you're interested, basically what I've been thinking of doing was very similar to the cabinet that's shown after the bedroom set comes up.

Maple or Birch? I know both don't compare to oak in terms of grain but I like 'em and I want to try one or the other and get as much grain to stand out as I can even though I plan to use a darker stain.

The technique I mentioned in my first post was one I came across. Use a 'natural' or 'golden oak' stain and then stain with the 'special walnut'. I have no clue if that works or not....haven't had a chance to play with my scraps to find out (been busy remodelling my bathroom).

So to sum up....

Maple or birch...
Looking for a 'rustic' kind of finish...
Would love to get as much grain as I can to show through....
Looking for some techniques/suggestions to achieve that

(Again, the minwax main page has a picture of a cabinet that is basically what I want to get out of it stain/colour/appearance wise....maybe 'rustic' isn't the right word?)

Hope that helps you help me!

And thanks...
 

Last edited by Viro; 01-12-06 at 07:41 PM.
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Old 01-13-06, 11:46 AM
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as "X" stated you will have to experiment.

golden oak or natural stain first then special walnut will only cause
less of the special walnut to penetrate, as "X" stated.

which may well be what you want.
for it will most likely allow for more stain left in the grain if you are
careful when wiping the stain off.

check out the minwax gel colours.

you can mix the different colours to get where you want to go. keep notes

if you use the gel wipe on in a circular motion, then with the grain to
remove as much as you want.

watch for swipe marks, also make sure there isnt any glue on the
unfinished wood.

the minwax cabinet, looks like basic brown to me, fuller obrien american
walnut stain.

also i suggest that your scraps be from the panels, not the solid wood.

combine products, use the natural oil liquid stain, let dry then come back
with the walnut gel.

its an adventure, have fun with your experimenting.
 
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Old 01-13-06, 12:30 PM
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Thanks leeway, 'ppreciate the advice/help

Now that you mentioned the gel stains I might have to pick up a can if I can find it (again, don't recall seeing the gel stain at the hardware store but then again I wasn't looking for it)....I like the looks of the 'brazillian rosewood' stain.

I'm not afraid of trying 'em out but I guess I'll just have to open the wallet to get a little variety.

Interesting that you can mix the gels....something to ponder...

Aside from that....birch or maple? Would I have more success with one or the other in terms of grain? I know they are both hardwoods, just curious if maybe maple is more popular than birch and vice versa.

Off to the hardware store!!!! LOL
 
 

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