Color Standards When Finishing

Use a color standard or guide panel to acheive consistent results

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

Q. Everything is going fine while I'm staining a set of 30 cabinet doors. I spray the clears on and end up with the makings of a beautiful kitchen. But during installation, I discover that some doors are lighter in color than others.

I prepared all these doors on the same day with the same can of stain. What happened?

A. John Buries responds: Here are some possibilities:

Light color - While sanding wood, sand paper wears out. This causes the wood to be slick and prevents deep stain penetration.

Dark color - The afternoon gets hotter, causing stain to dry too fast.

Color all over the place - The stain is not agitated continuously, or more than one person is staining.

Veneers and solid wood can take stain differently.

A lot could be causing the problem. By using a color standard or guide panel, however, the necessary adjustments can be made as you go to keep a consistent color.

A guide panel is easy to make: properly sand and stain to the desired shade a scrap piece of wood from the batch being used. Finish it with the correct clear coats, label and date it. Masking tape can be used to cover each step along the way, which creates a sophisticated step panel that shows the color of the original wood and how it should look as you progress.

Remember: The best time to judge color is directly after wiping off the substrate, while the stain still has that wet look. Mineral spirits, or a solvent that won't attack the clear finish, can be applied to the color standard panel to eliminate any gloss differences.