Is There a Stain Sample Book for Architects?

Well no, there isn't. But here are some suggestions for obtaining samples. February 17, 2012

I've been a woodworker for many years. Never had to do the finishing, though. Soon I'll be an architect. I need an encyclopedia showing pictures of what finishes look like on every species imaginable. I'm not worried about process or technique - I won't be doing that. I need to spec the right finish, and I need a starting point before having an individualized custom finish sample created for approval. I have the Sherwin Williams fan books, but they only show a few species. I realize each manufacturer has different names and variations, but there is a basic standard - for example, "this is what a double-rubbed clear coat looks like on wormy chestnut." It shouldn't be too much to ask - I can get a set of 2000 paint chips from one manufacturer; I can get pantone selectors and plenty of books that just show color combinations. The same is true of every other material - except wood finishes. Understandably wood has variation and so do the finishes - but surely professional architects aren't running to their garages at night trying out 100,000 variations. They are pulling their specs from a spec book like with everything else and then working with builders to zoom into the perfect look.

Please help point me in some direction - I'm looking for a great reference web site, a reference PDF, A giant tomb of a book, an actually useful fan deck, or any combination of the above. Willing to pay the $500 or so that architectural reference books typically cost.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
Good luck. I would pay $5000 for that book.

Cut up a couple sheets of 1/4" and give them to your finisher. Have them create a set of samples with 30 or so stain colours on each of the species you want. 30 is more than enough for someone to pick from. Too many options is not good for a customer. Just make sure they know they have the option for a custom colour but they need to provide something to match.

From contributor D:
I began in woodworking, became a chemist, went back to woodwork, became a builder, became an architect, and now I am a successful cabinetmaker. Being an architect turned me permanently to cabinetmaking because of unrealistic requests as you have demonstrated. Sorry in advance if I sound bitter.

From contributor M:

Try General Finishes. You can get nice samples of their products on most popular woods; enough for a reference. You will probably have to pay for this service.

From contributor I:
ML Campbell has a decent color selection on a few different woods. They sell the box for $250. Also, Conestoga has nice sample boxes with 20 or so colors in a lot of different species. You could easily wrap up a grand in those.

You're asking a simple question on the surface, but it is really a struggle for all of us, no matter the experience. There is nothing you can buy that will actually be worth anything more than a "similar to" sample.

From contributor C:
Try General Finishes Ready to Match System complete with color chips.