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Thread: Tips, please for staining/dyeing hard maple

  1. #1
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    Tips, please for staining/dyeing hard maple

    My middle daughter and son in law want a dining table. My SIL wants to be a part of the build. They have 2 very active boys so they've decided on a hard maple top, and they want it a darker color to go with the room.

    I've heard that maple is a difficult wood to stain without blotching so I'm looking for any advice on how to get an even result. Would dye be better than staining? I've always wiped on stain but I do have an hvlp sprayer that I bought long ago but never used so I have no spraying skills whatsoever.

    I'm trying to minimize the number of times we have to sand the top back to bare wood and start over.

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
    Cliff
    Mudhead: "Doesn't Louise count?" Porgy: "Only to 10, Mudhead."

  2. #2
    To consider:
    Yes, maple is very hard = durability especially with those boys. Just remember, it will be heavier.

    As for staining, yes, the dyes generally work better, but some of the figure may still be perceived as blotchy to some folks. Also, just my preference, but more and more, I'm finding a dye works best as an initial base toner prior to wiping on an oil stain. I seldom use dyes alone anymore. Straight oil based stain on maple can be frustrating, as the pores are so tight, no place for pigments to settle, and results are quite anemic. Except where there is figure, which is basically end grain due to undulation of wood grain, which gives us the tiger stripe and curl, but also traps pigment where the other layers do not = blotch. By laying down a properly selected dye stain first, you get 2 benefits: you have a lower blotched tone base, and the wetness of that dye opens all the pores, giving the straighter, flat grain more ability to drink in the color of that second coat, being your favorite pigmented oil stain. You will in effect be overpowering the blotchy look with a deeper penetrating color, but sounds like that may be your target here.
    For instance, if you are looking for a darker color, Dark Mission Brown Dye stain, followed by General Finishes Java Gel stain makes a very deep, rich espresso color.

    Spraying skills are not necessary, as you may mix Trans-Tints with 50/50 alcohol & H2O for what they refer to as a "wiping" mix of dye. Spray to wet the surface (for speed /complete soak), wipe quickly to blend in, wait a good hour or two to be certain it's dry and you're ready for the second stain.

    Jeff

  3. #3
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    I found this stuff to work great for blotch control on maple. Might get flogged for posting this but it's the only thing that worked for me, at least at my finishing skill level. May not be what you're looking for but it allowed me to get a project completed before losing my mind. Not even sure if I'm allowed to post the link but I have no affiliation with the product.

    http://charlesneilwoodworking.3dcart...-Use_p_47.html
    A wannabe woodworker!

  4. #4
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    Your life will be much easier if you choose a wood that starts off the color you want. This was a lesson it took me a long time to learn! If you want a dark table maple is a difficult starting point. Starting with cherry, walnut, mahogany, or into exotics like wenge will get you there with a lot less grief. All make a beautiful, durable table surface.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by roger wiegand View Post
    Your life will be much easier if you choose a wood that starts off the color you want. This was a lesson it took me a long time to learn! If you want a dark table maple is a difficult starting point. Starting with cherry, walnut, mahogany, or into exotics like wenge will get you there with a lot less grief. All make a beautiful, durable table surface.
    I agree. While hard maple is certainly durable, it's not one of my favorite materials for furniture that isn't going to be painted or left natural. Very hard and very closed grained makes for a coloring nightmare. There are plenty of other species that are "hard enough" to be durable and are or can be made into the coloration you want for the project to be suitable for the purpose.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
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    Something that no one so far has mentioned -- start with small/scrap pieces. Try your finishing schedule(s) on the piece of scrap first. If nothing else you can run the scrap thru the planer rather than having to sand when you want to start over. I've seen others swear by Charles Neil's product, I have no experience. I have used Trans Tint in dewaxed shellac to make a toner, that worked out well to color match.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by roger wiegand View Post
    Your life will be much easier if you choose a wood that starts off the color you want. This was a lesson it took me a long time to learn! If you want a dark table maple is a difficult starting point. Starting with cherry, walnut, mahogany, or into exotics like wenge will get you there with a lot less grief. All make a beautiful, durable table surface.
    Best advice yet on the subject.

  8. #8
    I would use dye stain. I donít like the oil stains on anything.

  9. #9
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    If it was for me I'd go straight to walnut. Especially since I have a good bit in stock. But it's for my daughter and she wants maple in a dark shade. And so it goes.

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll play with each of them and see what works best.

    Cliff
    Mudhead: "Doesn't Louise count?" Porgy: "Only to 10, Mudhead."

  10. #10
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    Iím currently doing a hard maple coffee table. They want a darker finish. For the finish Iím doing two coats amber shellac, followed by two coats of clear dewaxed shellac. Then General finishes gel stain. Put on and wiped off almost immediately., The amber shellac serves as a background color for the gel stain.
    Last edited by Clark Hussey; 05-05-2021 at 5:56 PM.
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  11. #11
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    Cliff,

    I have used maple quite often - both natural and dyed to either a dark brown or reddish-brown many times. I have found the Charles Neil blotch control (David mentions above) works great with maple (and cherry) when using dye.

    I think you'll find that using a regular wiping stain will be difficult to get maple as dark as they'd like it - the grain is just too tight. Pick up some dye concentrate or use the General Finishes dye.

    Do yourself a big favor and do a sample board - Tom McLaughlin just had a recent video on YouTube where he shows how to do a test board. Dont try to get to the color in one application of dye - dilute it if you need and work up to your desired color in 2-3 applications. It's much easier to control.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kzMx36tDBM

    Best of luck

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cliff Polubinsky View Post
    IBut it's for my daughter and she wants maple in a dark shade. And so it goes.
    Do the samples and show them what things are going to look like if she's dead set on maple. You may very well have to do some heavy toning with dyed clear coats to "get there"...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #13
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    Be sure to explain to the "customer" that scratches and scrapes that happen over time are going to be glaringly obvious because of the difference in color between the top surface and the underlying wood.

    I'd also suggest paint as an alternate route to the desired color.

    Don't get me wrong, I've spent countless hours fiddling with dyes, and in the old days, stains, to pop the figure in curly and birdseye maple-- and will no doubt continue to do so as they are among my most favorite woods. I just have no desire to expend that kind of effort on plain wood when I don't have to.

  14. #14
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    I was in basically the same situation where I made a dining room table for a family member, who wanted maple for durability with their young kids. I made the mistake of not asking what color they were picturing for the finish until I was halfway done with the build. In my mind, it was going to be a light color. When they wanted a very dark color, the fun began. I did a lot of test boards and struggled to find something that was the color they wanted, didn't blotch like crazy, and didn't completely obliterate the grain and just look like brown paint.

    I ended up having the best luck with the Charles Neil blotch control that others have mentioned along with GF water-based stain. It was still difficult to get an even finish across the large surface (I was wiping, not spraying). In the end they liked it; I thought it was just ok.

    I won't do maple with a dark finish ever again. Oak is almost as hard and takes stain much better. All that said, I'm not the most experienced with this, so my abilities may have been part of the issue.

  15. #15
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    I noticed LV had a "Livestream Event" on Osmo finish. Watching it got me to poking around for more info and I noticed one of the products, Osmo Ebony Wood Wax is a stain in a oil/wax finish. Two of the photos show it being applied to a light wood and leaving a dark finish. Don't know how it'd really work for you, but might be worth checking out.

    TFWW & Woodcraft also have Osmo, if you have a local store you might be able to see samples, or even experiment with it, before committing.
    Last edited by David Bassett; 05-07-2021 at 4:17 PM. Reason: another thought

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