In a previous thread I stated that, in general, waterborne stains truly suck, with even the best being totally inferior to good solvent borne stains. At that time, another forum contributor objected to my blanket condemnation of waterborne stains and firmly stated that the ICA waterborne stains imported from Italy were superior to anything I had seen. Subsequent to my posting, the other contributor challenged me to try the ICA CNA series of waterborne stains. I did and here is my report.
First off, these ICA CNA stains employ an entirely different technology than anything you have ever seen in America. These stains come in 1 liter bottles in an extremely concentrated form which you then dilute with water from 10 to 20 times. So, one liter of concentrate can easily make up to 10 to 20 liters of stain. The concentrates are made from extraordinarily finely ground pigments which are smaller than the wavelength of visible light. Therefore the human eye cannot see them. These pigmented stains act exactly like water dyes, but to my amazement do not noticeably raise the grain of the wood when used in a spray, no wipe method of application. They still accent the grain like pigmented stains normally do but they do not muddy the appearance of the wood. They combine the best features of dyes with those of pigments in one system and they look marvelous.
One problem I found was that the color shown on the color chart from ICA and the color I got when I mixed up my working solutions were entirely different. The CNA75 was very reddish and the CNA74 had a distinctly orange tint. However, I think we can all agree that stains looking different on wood than they do on a color chart isn't unique to this system.
Also, I didn't have a good deal of success using these stains in a spray, no wipe system. I sprayed and then wiped and this gave me a much more uniform application than spraying alone. I was told that they can be applied by hand, but I spray everything, so I didn't try the brush application.
In conclusion, this stuff really is special and I've very seriously considering buying the $500+ kit that enables any color to be manufactured by the proper mixing of the 16 liters of various colors included in the kit. This technology really is outstanding and I've got to admit that THIS waterborne stain doesn't suck.