Blending a Champagne Stain

Matching a popular color using the materials at hand

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

Q. As a small manufacturer of kitchen cabinets, we sometimes have to match a color that is popular in the market but the stains with which to do this are not available. I am experimenting with a color called Champagne.

Making a stain that will work on hard maple and match a dry panel submitted by my customer has been very frustrating. I have blended stains together before with good results, but never in an off white color. My stain always seems to turn out more like a coat of paint that hides the grain. I have tried sanding the maple with 150 and 220 grit paper, but it never matches this unique look.

Are you familiar with this color and do you have any suggestions on how to duplicate the process?

A. John Buries Responds:

Champagne stain on hard maple is a popular color because of its unique look. It is basically white stain with some colorant added. Try using a combination of red, black, and yellow in very small portions (drops to a gallon) added to your white wiping stain. Reduce the total color strength of stain if necessary. Check with your paint supplier to get the proper tints and reducers for the stain to be used.

Remember two things: 1) Red and black will change the color rapidly, so add them cautiously and 2) Bright colorants give you a clean looking color. Red oxides and yellow oxides will give you a dirty or beige color.

The simplest procedure is to apply the wiping stain directly to the wood. White wood sanding, as always, is critical to achieving a clean, uniform color. White- and champagne-colored stains, being somewhat opaque, will show blotches in wood more than a transparent stain.

Proper sanding with 180 - 220 grit paper will produce the uniform look that makes these colors so attractive.

An advanced process involves using a champagne-colored toner (low solids tinted sealer). This procedure adds depth and uniformity to the color, but requires a certain amount of expertise to use.

Used as a pre-stain: spray the toner directly on the wood. Allow to dry and apply wiping stain over the toner.

Used as a toner: apply the wiping stain directly to the wood. Allow to dry and spray the toner directly over the wiping stain.

Experiment with both application processes to see what works best for you. Make a step panel color guide so you can duplicate your system and always test compatibility of each coat.