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Thread: Finishing Soft Maple

  1. #1

    Finishing Soft Maple

    I've been tasked with replicating a cabinet finish on some soft maple. I've done a similar project in the past and did the following:
    - wash coat of shellac
    - mix Transtint dye(s) with shellac and spray successive coats until desired color is close.

    It's been many years since I've last done this and wondered if there's a better way?
    I'm also struggling with my testing procedure blending various Transtint colors. I've been adding 1 or 2 drops of each Transtint color to 2-3 ml of water and testing. So far it seems that a combination of Dark Walnut, Honey Amber and Reddish Brown have gotten me fairly close.
    Below is the end result I'm shooting for.
    Any advice is much appreciated.

    Door.jpg

  2. #2
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    The process you mention is pretty much what you need to do to sneak up on the color you are trying to "match". I'd probably do a direct application of dye to the maple as a base color to get there faster and then spray the toning layers unless you are finding visual issues with that on your test pieces...which should be of the same exact material (scraps) of the stuff you are using for the project. When you are spraying the toner, you'll want to have your gun setup so things are pretty "fine" going on so you don't overshoot.

    I"m also going to mention that testing the color with water but using the color with alcohol (the shellac reducer) may not be as accurate as you want it to be. Switch to alcohol for your color experiments.
    --

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

  3. #3
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    That finish make me think one of SW's BAC Wiping stains, maybe over a base coat of dye that's the lightest color you see, might give you a better shot at achieving that look. Toners will give you the color, for sure, but I'm not sure it will have the same look. A little hard to describe, but "look" to me means the same depth, or not, a heavy vs a thin finish, probably some other things I can't articulate. For sure, the finish on that piece is thin.

    BAC Wiping Stains come in a bunch of stock colors, but also can be adjusted by the shop, or by you with Transtint dye if you pre-mix it in lacquer thinner. They can be applied as a spray-no wipe, or spray then wipe product, depending upon what you are trying to achieve. I have only used them as a spray then wipe dye stain. Amazing product. It is solvent based so it does not raise the grain. You can apply WB or solvent based topcoats over it. If you use WB, like me, you should spray a coat of dewaxed shellac or vinyl sealer to seal it first. Topcoats can only be applied by spray, at least until it's sealed.

    If you decide to go the toner route, make sure you keep the layers thin. I'd follow Jim's advice and use a base coat of dye to help in that regard.

    John

  4. #4
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    I am going to start a new thread on a similar topic relating to a maple table and did not want to hijack your thread.

    Having struggled with this last year, I do have a couple of comments.

    I started by trying to apply a Transtint/DNA mixture with a rag to the bare wood, like I typically do with Transtint on other woods, and got blotching on the maple. I had done a ton of samples to get the color right, but I guess the sample pieces (thick veneers resawn from one piece) did not have the same characteristics as the table top.

    I then resanded the legs and tried spraying the Transtint mixed with sealcoat. I had gotten a decent color match on my samples (I believe it was half dark vintage maple and half medium brown for my piece, but what I was trying to match was not as dark as yours); however, in trying to get it dark enough to be able to spray it, I used more than the recommended ratio of Transtint to the sealcoat, and I sprayed it on too wet/thick. It ended up darker than I wanted but still looked okay; however, due to the ratio, I guess, the Transtint migrated to the corners of the legs while it was still wet leaving black lines on every corner. At that point, I continued playing with the sprayer just to get a feel for toning but left the project unfinished.

    I am going to try the new project spraying a Transtint/DNA mixture directly to the bare wood sanded to 180, using as many lighter costs as needed that will dry quickly and get it to the darkness I need. Haven't tried it yet, but I am thinking it is the best way to go. I did watch some videos of Jeff Jewitt making the side of an acoustic guitar darker using multiple passes, and it made sense to me.

  5. #5
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    If you spray too heavy a coat it will migrate to the edges, as you described. Light coats, just enough to flow out.

    Be aware of spraying too many coats of dye/water or alcohol onto bare wood, especially alcohol ones. The dye can easily just lay on the surface, instead of penetrating into the wood, and that gives a muddy look when you apply the finish coats. It's also easily damaged.

    John

  6. #6
    Thanks everyone for your comments and feedback. Jim, you raised an important point I never considered - color differences with Transtint/shellac vs Transtint/water. I never considered the extra color that shellac will add to the mixture.
    I'm going to pick up a quart of Seal Coat and wondered if the amber or clear version would be better for my project. Since there's a distinct reddish cast I'm trying to copy, I'm leaning towards the amber. Agree???

  7. #7
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    You want only dewaxed shellac if you are going to use a WB topcoat. Only Sealcoat (and the stuff in the rattle cans) is dewaxed. The other premixed products contain wax.

    Sealcoat definitely will shift the color towards red. Every step of your process needs to be part of the samples you make.

    John

  8. #8
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    While I don't use the technique a lot, when I'm tinting a finish product to use like a toner and work up to a particular shade (on a few guitar bodies in my case), I put the TransTint into EM1000 sealer rather than shellac. Don't get me wrong, I love Sealcoat and use it when it's the right product for the job, but by sticking with a clear that's compatible with what I use for top coating, there's no perceivable color alteration from the "carrier" of the dye, plus I can avoid getting too much shellac on the piece. Shellac, as a finish, ideally is as thin a coating as possible. Get too much on and the risk of cracking/crazing elevates. So if I dye the bare wood, I'll do a quick and very thin barrier coat with the wax free shellac (Sealcoat is what I use) and then stay in the waterborne realm from there. I'd probably use the wax free shellac as a carrier/binder for the dye if oil based top coat was involved since the slight amber of the shellac is going to get swallowed by the amber of the oil based finish anyway, but "thin" still matters.
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    Interesting, Jim. So the EM1000 sealer really is clear? I tried GF's sealer several years ago and was disappointed that it imparts a reddish hue. Same with Minwax WB sealer, at least when I tried it back then. Having a WB sealer that's dead clear would often be very helpful.

    John

  10. #10
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    I've never noticed it (EM1000) having a hue. Target also touts it for use as a toner with dyes. Here's the page:

    https://www.targetcoatings.com/shop/...based-sealers/
    --

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

  11. #11
    Well, I just finished one side of my soft maple shelf and the color matched perfectly. Since I'm in a bit of a rush on this project I mixed the Transtint with some EM8000cv since that was the clear finish I was going to overcoat with. Thanks again for your comments, suggestions and help.

  12. #12
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    Glad it worked out for you. "Perfect" is rarely achieved. I'm impressed.

    John

  13. #13
    Thanks but even a blind pig may eventually find an acorn.
    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    Glad it worked out for you. "Perfect" is rarely achieved. I'm impressed.

    John

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