Popping Ray Fleck in White Oak

Advice on using Gilsonite or stains that contain it to bring out the figure in White Oak. December 2, 2009

We are trimming out a set of French doors in a craftsman era home with quartered white oak (jamb extensions, wide casings, thresholds). We have not used a lot of this material. We are looking for a good starting point for our customer finish samples. The customer wants a "quintessential Craftsman look". We need a method for popping the ray fleck while having a medium to dark background. Not sure if we need to start with a dye stain or pigment stain. Iím hoping not to resort to fuming.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
A yellow or light golden oak dye stain followed up with a Gilsonite wiping stain should get you pretty close for a starting point. Tweak the color from there by altering the base stain color or a little shading (keep any shading very light to preserve the clarity).

From the original questioner:
Thank you contributor R. That sounds like a good jumping off point. We are more accustomed to (and have stock of) Old Masters stains and gel stains. Would these have the similar attributes, or does Gilsonite have an edge in this application?

From contributor R:
Gilsonite is used in the manufacture of many commercial stains. They usually add a binder, pigments and maybe even some oil based dye stains. Gilsonite is transparent like a dye and looks great as a stain on antique oak. Many old time finishers used asphaltum to stain oak because it was available and cheap. Gilsonite is just a refined asphaltum and matches many old finish colors really close.

From contributor P:
Any wiping stain would bring out the grain of oak, especially Gilsonite or stains containing gilsonite. It has almost a black top tone but is very bright and golden when applied, stay away from gel stains, they donít have the penetration to make the grain pop. I would just stain seal and top coat - no toning, keep it simple.

From the original questioner:
Thanks again for the responses. I assumed that Gilsonite was a brand name of stain. Google search tells me more about its origins. Do I have to make my own solution (stain) from the dry Gilsonite or is there a ready-made product you could recommend. I would like to do my homework on this because I've got a quartersawn white oak kitchen that I think we are close to landing. Thanks so much for the info.

From contributor R:
It's not the cheapest but Sherwin Williams has Gilsonite in their S64 wiping stain series. he number is S64 N44. You will need that number because the SW sales person probably has never heard of it even if they have it in stock.

From contributor H:
Take a look at Zar stains.

From contributor T:
If all else fails go to Home Depot and get some non-fiberous roofing tar. This is Gilsonite, A.K.A. Asphaltum.

From contributor G:
MLC has it mixed to specific strength. It is one of their tinters.

From contributor A:
Gilsonite and roofing tar are not the same thing. Gilsonite is a mineral like ore that is mined and is very hard and brittle on its own. It is tempered with a small amount of asphaltum to provide flexibility and other attributes. SW has a good formulation of Gilsonite and a gallon will last a very long time.

From the original questioner:
Wow, thanks for the help. That gives me some good places to start. The ZAR stains sounds interesting, made by United Gilsonite Laboratories. I'll contact my local commercial SW dealer and see if they can give me any good information as well.

From contributor P:
A lot of dark (walnut) oil base wiping stains contain Gilsonite. I would try a mix of those and not use "gilsonite".