Working with Dark Stains

      Avoiding a muddy appearence with dark stains - March 17, 2000

by WOODWEB's Finishing Team:
John Buries and Bob Niemeyer

Q. I made a quarter sawn red oak parquet floor and am having trouble finding a suitable stain. The stain color should be golden to medium nut brown with the open pores very dark to almost black. I have tried Minwax, Duraseal, Watco, dye powders, pigment stains, custom recipes, etc., but nothing is dark enough.

What am I missing so my wife can stop crabbin' about my crabbin'?

A. Bob Niemeyer responds: Your problem is very common. Here are the two best ways to achieve very dark pores without getting your overall color too dark or muddy.

  • Use a stain on your bare wood to achieve the overall background color you wish. When this is dry apply a wash coat of sealer to the substrate (this coat is normally a 1:1 ratio of sealer and reducer). When dry, wipe the stain into the grain, then wipe off the surface with a strong glaze. Common colors used are Van Dyke Brown, sometimes mixed with black. When the glaze dries, apply your topcoats. This method will still give an open grain effect.
  • Apply stain and wash coat and let dry. Then use a paste wood filler of a very dark color of your choice. After this filler is worked into the grain and excess is wiped off the surface let dry as per instructions. Next apply one full coat of sealer, let dry and sand and apply topcoats as required. This system will give you a filled pore look. Use this method if final sheen is on the shiny side because it will make your job look more like a fine furniture finish.

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