Finishing Carved Mahogany Doors

Techniques for staining and finishing intricately carved door panels. September 14, 2006

I am finishing two mahogany interior doors with intricately carved panels. They have to be stained a brown walnut, then a satin finish. Just the thought of sealer sanding, etc., is giving me a neck ache. I am also concerned about finish pop on the unfilled mahogany. Would tung oil, for example, be a better choice of finish? If I spray the finish, would it be better to use NC lacquer with an easy sand sealer? I typically spray Magnalac or Magnamax with a vinyl sealer.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
I like to spray a light coat of Zinser's dewaxed shellac to seal the grain and then I use gel stains stippled into the recesses of the grain with a brush and wiped back from the highlight areas with a terrycloth rag. I form a loose ball of the terrycloth and just whisk and dab it gently over the carvings to lighten and even the stain on the outer surfaces. The object is to leave a dark shadow stain in the recesses and leave the rest more evenly stained, similar to the field of the flat areas. Sometimes this requires that you add some sprayed-on color toner after the stipple glazing process. Then when you have the colors developed, spray with clear coat, being careful to spray light coats from all directions so that you get full coverage into all the surfaces. I sometimes use a medium-bodied stain sprayed on and then stippled in instead of the gel stains.

From contributor R:
Mahogany shouldn't pose much of a problem unless you're using a water based stain. Just sand your sealer coat with a scotch brite pad to keep from sanding through and use a dark glaze (I like VDB + lamp black) to bring out the carving.

From the original questioner:
What type of glaze? I'd like to use a glaze that actually dries. I would like to use an Amazing glazeish process, but be able to use nc lac. I like your process, contributor C, but I'll have to stain first to color match the woodwork in the room, then sealer, then maybe use your process with the same stain to get the depth..?

From contributor R:
I use artists oil colors in mineral spirits, but they are not compatible with all topcoats. Do samples first. UTC colors in mineral spirits work well also with pre-cat lacquer finishes. CV requires a different schedule.