Matching Antique White Oak

A finisher gets advice on making new White Oak stock blend in with a piece of reclaimed wood with an oil finish.June 18, 2013

I've been using ML Campbell products for the past 15 years with great success. For this sample I can get good individual matches, but it's the blending where I'm losing the battle. The sample is a piece of reclaimed flooring, white oak with oil finish. The project is a kitchen, white oak. I want to achieve the varied colors and tones. I'm about to play with MLC's vintage glaze but I'm guessing I'm lacking in technique. For any of you that have more skills, I would greatly appreciate input.

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Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
I think you would have better results using Amazing Glaze. Do you have a sample pic of where you are at now? What stain (if any) did you use? I would go with Amazing Stain tinted to MLC Dark Oak to achieve the golden brownish base color, using a spray stain to get the color, but not fill the veins, then seal it, and use a combination of vdb and black Amazing Glaze to get the depth, working off more where you want the clarity for the base color.

From contributor B:
I had something similar recently with matching aged white oak. I did a darker stain initially, sanded it back to reveal "wear," then did a lighter stain, then sealed it up. If you can get there with glaze, shader, or a toner… great. If not, you might want to try a dye stain in your process. If that doesn't work, try a toner. Glazes are great for evening out only subtle variation.

From contributor C:

Looks like it could be a chemical stain such as potassium permanganate, an old time chemical oxidizer. Worth trying. 1 oz per quart of water would be a good starting point and go from there. Cheaply available from Culligan's water softeners or others.

From the original questioner:
Thanks all for your input. My only experience with glaze is with Amazing Glaze... Kinda "glaze for dummies." I was thinking this application was not suited for that product at least from my experience. You either leave the glaze in place or you don't. There really is no opportunity to feather in or vary the intensity of the color change. Great product for ease of use and for leaving heavy color on mold detail, but maybe not the best solution for flat work.

Contributor B, I headed your way after failing to ease up to the color variations. My problem is making the sanded area appear natural. The material is quartered white oak with hand planed surface so it complicates the sanding a bit.

Contributor C, it looks like I live in an area (western PA) where potassium permanganate is not required... Can't find it anywhere. Any alternate chemicals that might perform similarly? As a reminder, the sample is from reclaimed material, so it probably has years of all kinds of animal body fluids and such soaked into it.

True confessions; I had no idea how much I don't know when it comes to finishing! For the past 25 years I have felt "hey, I have decent equipment, I went to the factory product use class, both SW and MLC, I can follow the finish schedule provided by the sales guy, I can put down a nice even coat of material, I'm willing to sand between every coat, I spray stain, I'm in the in crowd!" Wow, I have a whole new appreciation for the professional finisher! I'm a cabinetmaker who can spray... I am not a finisher.

So after 16-20 samples I'm really frustrated. I can't get the lighter background color to remain primary with the darker streaks, shading areas becoming secondary. I have learned that moving glaze around is as much art as it is technique... That is using glaze to shade. I can completely coat the surface and let sit, brush three directions, then brush off with success. But then the whole piece has had a color shift with no shadowing affect. I have not tried to create shade with toner or shader yet. My sense is the degree of shade I'm looking for would necessitate quite a bit of material.

What I have done to date is the following - all MLC product, all with varying degrees of success.
Spray dye with a varied pattern for color variation.
WS, various colors
Seal, diluted CV
Sand, 320 fladder wheel
Glaze, VDB only, combo VDB and black
Glaze, black for shade

What I did find most useful in leaving background color was spraying dye only for color. Seal and while the CV was wet, pulling it around with a q-tip. At the end the color was off and the dye only was pretty unattractive, but I was able to achieve the affect I was looking for.

So I have spent way too much time on this and feel I haven't gained much ground. Any comments are welcomed! As a last word, I have really enjoyed the learning process and can see that I will now be able to exponentially improve all my finishes from this one project.

From contributor R:
If you're willing to put in that kind of time, try using artist oil colors as a glaze (UTC would work also but the artist oils with the linseed oil base blend much better). Apply the color wet (thin with mineral spirits) and pull off color using a rolled up rag or a clean bristle brush from the areas you want to be highlights. Then before it dries use a badger hair blender to soften everything and even out your color. After sealing you could refine your color more by toning with dye stain. If you're not familiar with using a blender brush, "The Art of Faux" by Pierre Finkelstein is a great book to read.

From contributor B:
I am a finisher but not specifically a floor guy, so bear with me. I would think the reclaimed flooring with animal bodily fluids (slaughterhouse?) would give you all of the "varied colors and tones" you could want! I guess I am a little confused. The sample you show is what you are matching to, correct? And it is also reclaimed lumber, with an oil stain? When you say that blending is the snafu, you mean the overall shade of the entire finished product, correct? I am guessing the appearance of a weathered (vintage) look with overall color balance are somewhat at odds.

I agree with a previous statement, that a glaze is meant for a final color shift or accent or blending, and not as a stain, unless it gives you exactly what you want all by itself.

On one hand, a dye is great for adding color without obscuring the grain, and for best effect should be applied first to the raw or prepared surface so it can soak in. But would that even work on this reclaimed lumber? If it's been cleaned/scrubbed and solvent-washed to remove fats and oils, then yes, with some blotches or defects that will soak it in deeply or repel it completely.

On the other hand, the best way to reveal grain or figure or contrasts in wood is to apply boiled linseed oil to the wood first. After drying, it will absolutely show you what you've got to work with, and make everything you do later look better. But doing so will have a certain sealing effect, and a dye applied after then becomes more of a shade than a wood dye, giving you an overall color effect without obscuring the grain.

But ask yourself: why doesn't the reclaimed wood itself provide enough variation? If it's the overall color, I get it. But a stain - no matter what it says on the label - is going to do its job by applying a pigment into the pores and on top of the grain unless it's wiped off. That is how the color is made uniform - by covering with semi opaque material. But if you need more highlights of lighter wood grain, bring your lunch. You can use a dry rag to wipe off some color after it's applied, even better if you use solvent rag to remove some stain after applying it, or maybe even pretreat selected repeating grain patterns on the boards with a bleaching chemistry before installing the floor, or after it's down, but that's a lot of work, and requires experimentation first. I assume you will apply the finish after the floor is down.

Final thought: An oil aniline dye will provide an incredible golden factor to the wood like nothing else will. Dye first, then boiled linseed oil - amazing.

From the original questioner:

Thanks. The sample is from the new floor put down in a late 1700's home. It is reclaimed/recycled material, white oak. I am building the cabinetry, frames and doors are quartered white oak. This one floor board was significantly darker than the rest and was not used but was identified by the customer as an interesting color/finish and that may be the answer for the cabinetry. So I am trying to make new material appear like old material.

From contributor A:
Well that's a horse of a different grain pattern! Okay, let's see...
1) make new wood look old
2) variations and highlights to be pronounced
3) make it match the floor without that freshly manufactured look. A durable usable finish without the manicured look, so it doesn't look like it just came out of an Asian diptank of water-based polyurethane! Right?

The simple way to age new wood is to drill a few holes, tune it with a hammer, blunt your sharp edges, sloppily apply some dark stain, some splatters of other stain (Ipswitch Pine is especially ugly and greenish and perfect) let dry, smear on some glops of paste wood filler (see below, step 3) apply a washcoat, let it dry, and start washing it off with lacquer thinner. The thinner forces some of the colorant deep into the wood. A terrific look.

The cabinets will have some horizontal grain, and with quarter-sawn oak that contrast will be significant. Is that what you are controlling by blending? Or are you trying to subdue the glimmer in the rays, somewhat? Achieve an overall color match to the floor?

If you get the color you want by building 20 coats of stuff on it, say goodbye to the natural heirloom look.

You said earlier that you got the desired effect by using dye, then manipulating it with a Q-tip through the CV before it cured. I think that's your path:

1) First, apply dye. You didn't like the color of it? Adjust it till you do. Buy Transtint dyes from Homestead Finishing (Jeff Jewitt's website) and shift your colors around. Or buy more of the dye you are using, but in different colors. Ignore the names the manufacturer puts on the label - look at the samples of color, and compare them. For example, if your dye result is too purple/reddish, you don't mix a similar dye stain with less red in it; you mix in some black, green, blue, or orange to move that color in the direction you want. (Yes, I know yellow plus red makes orange, but having orange handy is very useful - it's a powerful tool.) Each one of these can shift toward brown when added to red, but each brown is different, and a true brown has very subtle purple highlights. But it's not likely that your dye manufacturer will have such extremes on his shelf, and so the little bottles of concentrated Transtint Dye are very useful.

2) Manipulate the dye after applying a very thin washcoat of vinyl sealer (whatever is compatible with your topcoat) so you can really see the changes you make. Wet a Q-tip, rag, artists brush, or Spot's tail in high quality lac thinner, and start creating your highlights. Not too wet - start out with less till you get the feel. Follow the grain pattern. No abrupt starts and stops. if you drip, create another one there immediately. If it sets more than a few seconds, you'll need to create a much bigger one, or let it dry, and create something new (ask me how I know!). Almost everything and anything you do in the early steps can be built on or changed or compensated for later. You can add as many of these ultra thin wash coats as you wish, with almost zero build. It seals in the dye, and protects the wood from further staining in the next step, paste wood filler.

Maybe you want to wash off a good portion of what you just applied. That can be the answer, too. Then maybe apply a different color. Then washcoat.

I am serious about high quality thinner. That hardware store crap is good for cleaning brushes. Notice how it dries whitish if wiped across a surface? How would you like to see those white streaks appear in your finished product?

3) Okay, please open your hymnals to oil-based paste wood filler, AKA pore filler, AKA wood grain filler. I cannot emphasize how important this is. Old-timers know what I mean. I strongly urge you not to bypass this step, and that you use Benjamin Moore #238 05 (quart) Wood Grain Filler. It is natural, as in a translucent warm tan - not the putty-colored stuff that many manufacturers call natural - it's a joke. Obviously the grain needs to be kept dark on this project. Since it has to be thinned with mineral spirits before use, you can thin it with any oil based stain to color it, or add any type of colorant that is compatible with oil-based products and your sealers and topcoats. (Some finishes do not work well with universal tints. If you have this problem, I recommend Mixol tinting pastes.) Brush it on, let it flash, and rub it off in a circular motion, so the finely ground particulates are packed into the pores. Use burlap, and get a fresh piece every few minutes. Don’t let it harden. If you sanded well, and finished sanding with the grain to remove swirl marks, no swirl marks will appear. (If you decided to manipulate the dye without any washcoat, and you were careless in sanding, those coarse swirl sander scratches will catch the stain from the paste wood filler and proudly display themselves forever.) Rub it off very thoroughly, so that none remains on the surface. Allow to dry completely, 8-12 hours, or longer depending on humidity. There is no need to sand - and this would remove your dye stain! That's how I do it. This step adds depth and foundation to the finish, but only works on woods with pores to fill. It is required on any finish that is to be perfectly smooth (without the appearance of pores at the surface) but you are many finish coats away from doing that in this job.

Others my use it with some differences. (I mention this because many users apply a colored PWF after a sealcoat to prevent staining the wood, then sand the surface, removing the sealer, leaving the surface open to staining, but the colored PWF remains in the pores.)

Of course, those PWF rags are garbage. Dry 'em outside - the oily rag fire troll is ever-present.

It just occurred to me that cabinets don't usually have a PWF step. That doesn't mean this one can't. If you make two samples, identical, but one without the PWF, you will become a believer.

Every time you complete a step that suits you, put a washcoat or thin sealcoat over and let dry a bit before proceeding. Even near the end, if something looks wrong, you can let it dry, then carefully sand with 150 or 220 to create an effect or remove an oops, or whatever, then seal it, and fix it. The sooner your color is done, the deeper it will be in the finish. Depth is beauty.

After all this, I think you will see what, if anything, is lacking for the result you want.

From contributor C:
Potassium permaganate is available everywhere, even Lowes. just search under water softening supplies. If not just ask them to order it in for you.

Now as to use, you can make it any strength you need, but it's better to use as little as necessary, say 1 0z to 1 gal. For example, apply it with a brush to first develop the darker areas you want to highlight, then when close, you can use a thinned out version for the lighter streaks. If you need more info just contact me.