Washcoat and Toner Technique

With help from colleagues on the Finishing forum, a craftsman works out how to match the finish on a maple table. November 13, 2005

I have to match the finish on an Ethan Allen table. I am close to the color with Minwax Fruitwood wiping stain. Problem is, after staining, the tiny grain marks in hard maple are dark.

My test schedule so far is: Sand wood to 220 grit. Wash coat with 1 part pre-cat lacquer to 3 parts lacquer thinner, let dry. Wipe stain on and off. Now the dark grain shows.

I haven't finished the test as yet with the vinyl sealer, glaze, vinyl sealer and then topcoat.
Any suggestions to eliminate the dark grain?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Try more of a wash coat. In other words, use a bit less lacquer thinner to your sealer. If you still have an issue with the grain showing dark, make a toner the same color and spray on the base coat, seal the toner and apply your pure white glaze.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the info. I will try that. What is the toner recipe? And you mean to make it the same color as the stain?

From contributor E:
Try putting some white colorant in the stain to tone down the dark grain.

From contributor R:
Applying an oil stain to maple can cause issues, one of which you're having now. If you've cut down on the amount of thinners to your wash coat and the grain is still going brown on you, mix up a toner that's the same color as your stain color.

From your picture, I'm going to take a stab at the color, but most likely you will have to adjust it to an actual match. As with any finishing step, you need to practice on a scrap piece prior to jumping into the real deal.

Apply to a smooth surface a mixture of sanding sealer that has some titanium dioxide and burnt umber colorants mixed into it. You may need a little yellow as well. Apply a few light coats of the toner until you have an even background color that matches the background color of your sample. If you try to achieve the color all at once, you could end up with a heavily painted look that shows no grain pattern at all. Apply multiple, thin coats. Once you're happy with the background color, proceed with your glazing steps.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Are you familiar/experienced with dyes and toners?

From the original questioner:
Thanks again, contributor R. Trying your suggestions next. Thanks, contributor E, I had thought of doing that but hadn't tried it yet. Paul, no, haven't delved into dyes and toners yet. But I guess it is time to learn.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
This may solve your problem. Use a higher solids washcoat, like contributor R recommended. Then mix a toner that consists of 2 ounces of your stain, 28 ounces of lacquer thinner, and 4 ounces of lacquer. After sealing the stain and sanding the sealer smooth, spray the toner (colored lacquer) over the smoothed surface (do a search at the top of the forum on spraying toner). Then spray a couple coats of clear over the toner. Don't scuff the toner coat. That's essentially the approach I used on this sample door.

From the original questioner:
Just wanted to thank you all for your help. I used the toner suggestion and higher solids content on the wash coat and that cured the dark grain. I got the samples done and ready to show the customer. The color looks good.

Here is my schedule:
1. washcoat - 1p lacquer, 2p lacquer thinner
2. stain - oil base wipe on
3. seal - vinyl sealer
4. toner
5. seal - vinyl sealer
6. glaze
7. seal - vinyl sealer
8. topcoat - SW pre-cat

Just wondering if the sealer after the stain could be eliminated?