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Thread: Advice to stain and finish rift white oak

  1. #1

    Advice to stain and finish rift white oak

    Hi,

    I am new to the forum. I am working with our cabinet maker to figure out the stain and finish for our rift white oak cabinets. I would like to get some help with suggestions on how to stain/finish to accomplish the look we are going for. Here is a picture of a couple of our panels:

    IMG_5838.jpg

    And here's the natural inspiration look we would like to achieve:

    Screen Shot 2022-04-22 at 11.40.47 PM.jpg

    I was able to find out who made these cabinets and reached out. They first said that they just did a clear coat. When I followed up with question around the ambering effect of most clear coats, they clarified and said they actually did a "white washed clear coat". I am grateful that they even responded and share this much information but my cabinet maker still has no clue what they meant. I thought that white washed wood tend to be very white but this looks very natural. Does anyone have an understanding of what they might be referring to by a "white washed clear coat" finish that can help explain?

  2. #2
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    It looks like diluted pickling white followed by clear "varnish" to me. I have achieved a similar look with 1 part Old Masters pickling white mixed with 1 part Minwax Natural wood stain. Using Oil based products adds a significant amber or golden hue that increases over time. It can be done with water based products for a brighter less golden look. I have not tried Minwax Color Wash. I would start by experimenting that, followed by "varnish" (Lacquer or a water borne clear) I generally use a clear with a satin sheen for kitchens.

    Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 6.08.06 AM.png
    Last edited by Maurice Mcmurry; 05-02-2022 at 7:25 AM. Reason: image
    Best Regards, Maurice

  3. #3
    That's going to be beautiful!

    The ambering effect of a topcoat comes from oil-based topcoats, which traditionally have been used. Water-based topcoats do not have an amber effect. There are good water-based topcoats now that are durable for kitchen cabinets. Please ask your cabinet maker what top coat product, specifically, he is going to use.

    That picture does not (to me) look like it has been "pickled" or "white washed" or "limed". It looks like it has just been top coated with a water-based, clear, matte sheen product;

    Doesn't your maker have cabinet samples of finishes that he can show you? If not, you should certainly have him prepare test pieces so you can confirm.

  4. #4
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    It looks to me like you're not wanting to change from the natural shade of it much. The only thing I know of that looks like nothing has been put on Oak is Bona Naturale floor finish. It looks like nothing is on it, other than the smooth, matt finish, but is durable enough to use on floors in hotel lobbies. It would take some experimenting, and it's not cheap. It might be classified as low VOC-not sure, but it's an acid cure urethane, and I don't use it without ventilation and breathing protection.

  5. #5
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    Tomís mention of Bona Naturale brings up the whole world of two-component cabinet finishes. Two common kinds are conversion varnish and 2-K urethane. They are more durable than the single-component finishes. However, they are more dangerous to apply than single-component finishes, and so are mostly used by professional cabinet shops. I donít use them, but I think there are ones which are color free. Iíd ask the cabinetmaker what finishes he is equipped to apply.

  6. #6
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    I'm making a free standing cabinet for our kitchen from rift sawn white oak veneer plywood and am going to be applying a very similar finish. The stain (I rarely use stains) is a Varathane oil based that imparts a slight whitewash with just a hint of blue in the gray. I'll be wiping it back a lot to minimize obscuring the grain and altering the natural color too much. The top coat will be General Finishes clear water borne urethane. The test samples look beautiful.

    I love quarter sawn white oak, but it gets a little busy to use on a big piece for my taste. The rift sawn is so beautifully simple in its grain and coloring. It works so well on contemporary stuff.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    That's going to be beautiful!

    The ambering effect of a topcoat comes from oil-based topcoats, which traditionally have been used. Water-based topcoats do not have an amber effect. There are good water-based topcoats now that are durable for kitchen cabinets. Please ask your cabinet maker what top coat product, specifically, he is going to use.

    That picture does not (to me) look like it has been "pickled" or "white washed" or "limed". It looks like it has just been top coated with a water-based, clear, matte sheen product;

    Doesn't your maker have cabinet samples of finishes that he can show you? If not, you should certainly have him prepare test pieces so you can confirm.
    He will be using Sherwin Williams Water White Conversion Varnish for the top coat. He's been working on trying out different stains because he believes just putting the CV directly on the raw wood veneer will amber it. I've done some research and since this is "water white", it should have minimal color changes from unfinished wood from what I understand. I have asked him to make me a sample with just the CV.

    Is there an equally durable water based finish that you would recommend? I am located in San Diego, CA. I know General Finishes also have a water based CV but it is pretty pricy and my cabinet maker has no experience with it. This is for our kitchen cabinets so we want to have something that is durable and will last a very long time with minimal maintenance.

  8. #8
    My cabinet maker will be using Sherwin Williams Water White Conversion Varnish as the top coat. I am waiting for a sample with just the CV on raw wood veneer. Would there be any "wet" or ambering effect that would require some sort of light white washed stain process before hand?

    The inspiration photo looks like it is not completely "raw" or unfinished. I don't know if they digitally enhanced the color in the photo to make it pops more. It has the same tone as our raw veneer but just a little more intense to pop without the strong ambering effect.

  9. #9
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    It may be the way the photo shows, but I'm convinced that there is more than just a water white clear finish on it. Even a colorless finish warms the wood up a bit, even though it's not adding any color of its own. It's just because I have been trying finish and stains on white oak and it's fresh in my mind that makes me think that.

  10. #10
    @Frank, glad to hear you are in the same boat! We love the rift white oak for the same reason. Which Varathane stain are you using specifically? Do you find it to alter the color much? Our cabinet maker has been experimenting with different stain but none of them come out looking natural to our eyes. I understanding that simply wetting the wood with water will create a similar effect and that is the true natural color of the white oak. We simply just want it to be less intense if that makes any sense.

  11. #11
    I did not know that oil stain will amber over time by itself. We want to avoid this since we are already spending so much time trying to get the right color to begin with. I read that water based stain could cause tannin pull though. How do we avoid this? The top coat will be a water white CV. Thanks.

  12. #12
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    I agree with Prashun. Your inspiration photo looks like those cabinets were done with a matte or flat waterborne finish. I have used General Finishes Enduro Clear Poly in Flat sheen and it looks like no finish on the wood. I do not believe those cabinets were stained or otherwise treated - that's what white oak looks like with flat/matte waterborne clearcoat, specifically acrylic.

    The problem is your cabinet maker wants to use SW's solvent based CV. He's not going to want to change if that's the finish he is familiar with. But see if he has used SW's KemAqua Plus or Sayerlack waterbornes. They should give the same unfinished look if he uses flat/matte sheen. Both are KCMA rated.

    Trying to get around the ambering effect of solvent based products is the wrong approach. If he use an acrylic waterborne there is no ambering.
    John

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    Getting some Titanium Dioxide into the wood is key to having natural wood that is bright. It does not take much. It makes a natural finish "pop".
    Last edited by Maurice Mcmurry; 05-02-2022 at 8:02 PM.
    Best Regards, Maurice

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    I agree with Prashun. Your inspiration photo looks like those cabinets were done with a matte or flat waterborne finish. I have used General Finishes Enduro Clear Poly in Flat sheen and it looks like no finish on the wood. I do not believe those cabinets were stained or otherwise treated - that's what white oak looks like with flat/matte waterborne clearcoat, specifically acrylic.

    The problem is your cabinet maker wants to use SW's solvent based CV. He's not going to want to change if that's the finish he is familiar with. But see if he has used SW's KemAqua Plus or Sayerlack waterbornes. They should give the same unfinished look if he uses flat/matte sheen. Both are KCMA rated.

    Trying to get around the ambering effect of solvent based products is the wrong approach. If he use an acrylic waterborne there is no ambering.
    John
    What is your experience on the chemical resistance and overall durability of the GF Enduro Clear Poly? I did have a conversation with one of their reps the other day and he claimed that they tested it against Sherwin Williams Water White CV and their Clear Poly is more durable. Here's a link to the Sherwin Williams CV that my cabinet maker is planning on using:
    https://industrial.sherwin-williams....h.9159500.html

    I can talk to him to see if he can use something from GF or a different finish that is water based from SW. I am just a little leery of asking him to try a different finish process then what he had done in the past. Is there one that you would recommend from SW that is as durable as the CV for the kitchen environment?

    Thanks.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hung Le View Post
    @Frank, glad to hear you are in the same boat! We love the rift white oak for the same reason. Which Varathane stain are you using specifically? Do you find it to alter the color much? Our cabinet maker has been experimenting with different stain but none of them come out looking natural to our eyes. I understanding that simply wetting the wood with water will create a similar effect and that is the true natural color of the white oak. We simply just want it to be less intense if that makes any sense.
    Sorry, the stain's at home and I'm not. It is a fairly heavily pigmented stain that, depending on how much it's rubbed back, can give it a very white washed or pickled look to just slightly pickled.

    I will not argue with @John TenEyck about no stain. He really knows finishes. I was after something just a little less warm than the white oak with a clear finish.

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