Finish Schedule Sample Book Is There Such a Thing?

Making a standard set of finish samples for public use would be both time-consuming and unreliable. June 13, 2011

Does anyone know of a book of different finish schedules? It would take a lot of trial and error out of trying different dyes, stains, glazes, etc. I know different woods take dyes and stains differently, but listing finish schedules for different finishes on different woods would be a helpful starting point. Every time I try to achieve a certain color finish I have to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of experimenting.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor W:
Yes, finishing is always dealing with some trial to get the look and color you need. In this era there are a lot of finishing material types available, each with its own character. The wood characters are also varied. No matter how expert you are, you still need to do some trial to find a new color. I think you better start with one good finish supplier until you recognize its character.

From contributor J:
Ron Bryze has a lot of really good info on his site.

Here is a quick and dirty way to find what you need. Order a can of each of the NGR colors that you want to use. Get samples of the wiping stain colors you want to use. Now take a long scrap board and spray the NGR on it, apply your washcoat, scuff, and start adding swipes of each of the different wiping stains in succession down the board. Now spray your topcoat.

Pick the colors you would like to use as standard colors and create nice little individual samples. Maybe 8x12 on 1/4" plywood or something.

I'm just in the process of switching over to Valspar stains. They have the interblend system where you stock 10 wiping stains and they give you a recipe card on how to mix another 30 colors from the 10 stock colors. Combine that with 5 or so NGR colors and you have a huge selection. That's why I say create a quick and dirty long board, then refine it to the colors you like. Needless to say, I will be creating the samples in the very near future. Valspar sells the wiping stains in a starter kit where you get a quart of each color with the recipe card.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the replies.

Contributor W, that is part of my problem - the closest supplier is a Sherwin Williams Chemical Coatings that is about a two hour drive.

Contributor J, I have been on the Ron Bryze web site - a lot of good info. I like your idea about the Valspar stains and started to look into it. It just seems to me that one of these finish dealers would put out a box of finish samples with finish schedules using their products. Like if you look at Kraftmaid cabinets or any cabinet company, you pick your finish from a door sample and they follow a schedule for that finish. It would be much easier to match some of the cabinet company finishes if you had samples with schedules.

From contributor J:
You can get finished sample wood chips from a lot of different stain suppliers, such as and

The problem with the samples are you usually don't know what topcoat they used, what grit they sanded to, did they use a conditioner on blotchy woods such as maple/cherry, how long did they let the stain penetrate, how vigorously did they wipe it off. It's been my experience that a wood sample prepared by the stain company never matches a sample I have prepared.

Now throw an NGR into the mix. How dark did they apply it? Did they use a washcoat before the wiping stain and if so, what was the solids level? Then compound all the variations above.

Now take 40 wiping stain colors, add 6 NGR colors, and you have 280 different colors. Let's do this on maple, cherry, and oak and you now have 840 samples to make. This is not really something you can expect a manufacturer to do, especially when the manufacturer's samples are not going to match your samples anyway. If you're going to show it to the customer, you better be able to reproduce it, and to be sure you can reproduce it, you should make the sample yourself.

I'm taking a 4x8 sheet of wood and cutting it into 48 pieces. 40 of these will each receive just the 40 Valspar wiping stain colors. I am then going to take a couple strips of wood to determine some wiping stain colors that I like over the 5 Valspar NGR stains and then create however many more of the samples from the 4x8 sheets I need. Once I do this for oak, cherry, and maple, I should have a collection of about 240 or so different colors. Hopefully I will never have to do this again. It's going to be a pain in the rear, but hopefully it will remove the drawn out process of color selection and samples with each new customer.

From contributor R:
If it were only that easy. Don't forget that many woods and some finishes (especially pre-cats) change color over time. Some conversion varnishes even yellow in the absence of sunlight. Trying to match a stain on new cherry to one that is 6 to 12 months old can be a real pain. Date your samples and then be prepared to do it all over again in about 6 months for cherry and maybe 12 months for maple.

From contributor J:
That's what I meant... way too many variables. I tell the customer that when they get the project, the color may be a little different than what they see due to age, but their project will age to match the sample. It's wood, and the color is dynamic, and the customer needs to be informed of this.

From contributor Y:
Lewis Ermer wrote one of the best books I ever saw on finishing, from mixing colors to over 100 color recipes to solving problems, etc.

From contributor J:
I mentioned I was making a bunch of samples, and now I am going to save you a bunch of time.

Everything below is on maple. Now keep in mind I am fairly new to NGRs, but have used them off and on for several years. They have just never been a main finish I use.
After you make the samples on maple, you will have a very good understanding of how the colours layer.

To spray the NGRs, I use a 1.0mm tip in a gravity feed gun with about 20psi of air with the trigger pulled. Gun held about 10" from the part and moving with a fairly quick pace. I apply the NGR in a box coat with a total of 4 passes. This is to build the colour slowly and get even coverage when spraying parts with complex profiles. Parts were then sprayed with a 5% washcoat, then rubbed down with a maroon scotchbrite pad prior to wiping stain.

I used these 4 colours of NGR - Cordovan, Mahogany, Cherry, and Walnut all by Valspar. The Golden Oak NGR is backordered till the end of the week, so I will do those Friday.

Here is what I have learned. Full strength NGR. Just use 2 wiping stains over them. Choose your darkest brown, and your darkest red brown. For example, spray a Walnut NGR, the make one sample with Dark Walnut wiping stain, and one sample with Red Mahogany Wiping stain. The NGR lays down such a dark base colour, that any of the other wiping stain colours make little to no difference in the overall color.

3 parts NGR to 1 part thinner. Same as full strength, except you might want to throw in two more wiping stains that are a little lighter than your darkest brown and darkest red,
50/50 NGR to thinner. Now you are starting to get a little more control with the wiping stain. Maybe pick 4 browns, and 4 red/browns.

25% NGR, 75% thinner. Same as 50/50 mix, just add a couple more wiping stain colours, as they will now have more impact on the finish.

It really doesn't matter what stain colours you choose to go over the NGRs. Just pick a wiping stain colour that is complimentary. In other words, don't bother trying to put Golden Oak wiping stain over Walnut NGR, as it won't show the wiping stain too much.
Once you have an assortment of sample colours, it will be very easy to match other colours. Hope this helps you out and let me know if you need any clarification or have any questions.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. My color sample project is on hold for right now - I got sidetracked with some other work. I did contact Lewis Ermer and he told me he has a book with 200 finish recipes that will be available in about 3 weeks, so he is going to send me one.