HELP!! Staining Kitchen cabinet doors

Old 01-22-10, 06:39 AM
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HELP!! Staining Kitchen cabinet doors


Let me just preface my problem/question with the disclaimer, Im not a very handy person.. (sucks to be me)

Ok, so I moved into a new construction home about 2 yrs ago and since then, theres been new furniture, pain, appliences ect. So the colour of the new kitchen cabinet no longer goes with the rest of the house. I wanted to have them replaced, but they are really tall cabinet doors and they were gonna charge me an arm and a leg to replace them.

As a alternate solution I thought staining would be a little bit more cost effective. I went to my local homedepot picked up wood stripper, wood conditioner, a gel stain (dark dark chocolate colour), gloves, stain applicator pads ect..

I came home, took off one of the cabinet doors and decided to do a trial on the back of that door. I applied the stripper, waited 15-20 mins, and began to wipe off the stripper (as per the instuctions of the home depot associate). I found that to be fruitless as it didnt look like anything was happening. I then took a steel scrapper and started peeling off what the stripper had taken off. It was peeling off what I can only describe as thin paper like shavings. What I got was the back of a cabinet door that was no longer shiny, but still had alot of orange/red colour on it (Definately no where near bare wood). I decided to layer another application of the stripper, thinking that it might not have gotten all the way through, but that was pointless becuase when i was scraping it off, i was just getting the liquid stripper.

I applied the wood conditioner, and it looked almost like I didnt do anything to the cabinet at all. Only when I placed it next to to the other doors can you see a differnce, but it wasnt a very big one.

So now I had a cabinet door that was stripped, but still had an orange/red colour to it. I decided to apply the gel stain, i applied a generous amount as per the intructions, let it sit for 5 mins, wiped away excess (wiped really really hard). It looked like an orange cabinet with a chocolate tint to it... not what I was going for. So I decided to apply the gel stain again, a thick coat and just leave it over night.

By doing that, I have atleast what appears to be the 'first step' in achieving the look that I want, and I feel that maybe another coat of the stain will remove the brush streaks and give me the final colour that I want... (I HOPE)

Here come the questions:
#1. After applying the stripper, im left with a door that is almost the same colour thats just lost its shine. Does that mean after stripping I have to sand the doors aswell?

#2 After applying the first coat, do I really have to wipe away the excess? as I do that, im loosing the colour that I want.

#3, how long do I have to let it dry for?

#4, What are the best conditions for it to dry, my house temp is set to 23-24 degress C. Should I let it dry in the house, or in the garage (4-5 degrees C)


Old 01-22-10, 07:16 AM
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Welcome to the forums Waseem!

#1 - yes, sanding is always a necessary part of stripping and refinishing. Often strippers require a neutralizer - read the label.

#2 - stains are forumulated to be absorbed by the wood. They aren't formulated to dry on top of the substrate - it's hard to get them totally dry if the excess isn't wiped off. I'm not real familiar with gel stain - I like the regular thin penetrating stains better. The few times I've had to use a gel stain I ended up thinning it to make it work like regular interior wood stain.

#3 - it depends, you can spray poly/varnish over stain almost immediately but when using a brush the stain must be good and dry or the poly will rewet the stain and the brush will move the stain around

#4 - temperature is only a small part of the equation. Coatings will dry quicker in warm versus cold but air circulation and ventilation play a big part. Ventilation helps to remove the humidity! Humidity always slows down drying times.

There is no need to use a wood conditioner on stripped wood. Wood conditioner partial seals the wood [resulting in a lighter stain] It's main objective is to make the entire board to absorb stain at the same rate. The stripping, sanding and residue of stain/poly left in the wood negates the need for conditioner.

What would probably be a better method would be to use a tinted poly [like minwax's polyshades] Applying tinted poly will alter the color of finished wood [think of it as a see thru paint] Application of tinted poly is critical. Because of the tint, any runs, lap marks, drips, etc will be darker, missed spots - lighter. It can't be overbrushed or touched up. When applied evenly, tinted poly does a good job of altering the wood's color. It's best to top coat the tinted poly with clear poly. That protects the color and helps to prevent the color from wearing off with use.
Old 01-22-10, 08:01 AM
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Yes you have to sand it. Stain seeps into the wood and the only way to get it out is to either sand down to the bare wood or bleach it out. Be prepared for a very long process. If you don't have a sander get a random orbital sander. It will leave fewer swirl marks. As far as the staining goes you need to wipe off the excess like the directions say. If not you will never get the doors to match. Have you considered buying new doors on line? In the long run it would be quicker and I'm guessing look better. They really aren't that expensive.
Old 01-24-10, 09:10 AM
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I refinished cabinets about five years ago and started out as you did. I thought that the stripper had done the work because I was able to scrape a lot of stuff off with a putty knife.

But when I applied stain to a small area, it didn't seem to be soaking into the wood. I took the door to a wood working shop in the area (Rocklers). A helpful guy in the finishes area explained that many cabinet finishes are not removed with consumer grade strippers. After checking to be certain the door wasn't veneer, he said I would have to sand to bare wood or pay someone to strip it for me. He said I should sand until a drop of water can be absorbed into the wood. After that I applied the stain, etc as if I had bare wood.

It was good advice. When we finished, my wife loved the result.

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