Quick Process for Staining a Maple Kitchen

A finisher tries to come up with a quick schedule for staining and topcoating a Maple kitchen in one day. February 15, 2009

I am looking for advice on achieving a dark, rich cherry color a maple kitchen. I am primarily concerned about two things: speed of finish schedule (one day), and quality of finish.

I have not stained maple before, but am looking at spray stain (alcohol based) or using toner. My concerns about using a stain is that closed pore woods (like maple) do not leave areas for the pigments to lodge the therefore accentuate end grain and sanding marks.

Perhaps this only occurs if wiping? Products available to me are Becker Acroma's Toner and Stain lines, as well as Chemcraft's spray stains - all custom color matched. I’m looking for advice on achieving that professional finish.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Your expectations are a bit too high. Getting a rich cherry color on maple can be a challenge for an experienced finisher. Trying to get it done in one day with a top quality finish is a stretch at best.

1. dye stain
2. clear sealer
3. toner
4. glaze (optional but it looks better)
5. topcoat, two coats

From the original questioner:
Can you explain difference between dye stain and toner? Wouldn’t they both be comprised of dyes – as opposed to pigments? I really need to start charging for staining - don't think customers realize what goes into producing high quality stained finish. The good thing for me is that they have given me a door from their entertainment center to match. It appears to be a dye/pigment mix. The finish quality is pretty poor.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
I use a 2-3 step coloring process on maple. It starts with a spray dye and then a stain or glaze and for added color and uniformity I'll include a toner. There's a description of the process at the link below.

You should be charging for your coloring steps. The more involved, the higher the price. As an example, I had to add a glazing step to an approved kitchen finish and it added 6% to the cost of the job. The designer suggested the 6% figure and it worked out with the square foot price I usually calculate. Getting paid for all the work you do makes a real difference to your bottom line.

Staining and Blending Difficult Woods

From contributor R:
Toner is just some of the dye stain mixed in thinned down sealer or topcoat.

From contributor M:
Do some samples for your own reference and experience, do one with wiping stain and topcoat only, do one with spray stain only, one with spray stain and toner and one with spray stain, glaze and toner. Now you have a better idea of how much better it can look and you can show it to your clients in the bidding stage of a job as a visual aid and charge according to the number of steps.

From contributor C:
Paul's article is as good of a synopsis as I have seen on this process. I like to use the washcoat option before staining. I think the Mohawk colors are very rich but I don't have much experience with the other brands he mentions. Thanks for this piece Paul. The bit of extra effort is well worth the results.

From the original questioner:
My finishing supplier convinced me to go with wiping stain (primarily because they couldn't mix spray stain while I was there). I am going to do some samples, but think my spray schedule will be as follows:

-sand maple and veneers to 150g
-spray stain base/conditioner (wet coat)
-wipe stain (combo stain with dye and pigment)
-spray shade coat with same wiping stain mixed in lacquer.

I am a bit concerned about the pigments making this shade coat foggy so I might try filtering the stain to see if I can filter out the pigments. Should I ever do this? It sounds like a reasonable schedule?

From contributor G:
If you try to filter out pigments, you will be removing color. Is the Becker stain an Arti? Most of them can be used as spray only or spray and wipe. If speed is a factor and you need a dark color, you might try water-popping the maple, which will even out blotching and darken the "bite" of the stain. Then you can eliminate one step - the washcoat.

From the original questioner:
I don't know if it is an "arti". They said they had three products: wiping stain, spray stain, and toner. I was told most of the shops use wiping and some mix it with clear. My understanding is they are all Becker Acroma products. I guess they also have WB spray stain too. Please describe the water-popping procedure, and the time delay between doing this and staining.

From contributor O:
What type of project do you plan on completely finishing in just one day using oil based stains and the schedule you intend to adhere to?

From the original questioner:
A complete kitchen! That is why I had wanted a 1 or 2 step spray application, where perfect sanding wouldn't be required. Obviously that probably won't happen now, with a wiping stain - although I'm told by my supplier that 20 minutes and I should be able to spray lacquer over it (depending on how dark stain is).

I am new to the staining world, but not to spraying. I don't see the benefit or need to physically wipe stains on a closed grain wood such as maple. To me, it would be a perfect application for spray dye-based stain, but have been talked out of it by my supplier. I can usually get three coats of clear on in one day, including hand-sanding the first coat. Staining seems to double this time.

From contributor D:
Water popping is misting the wood with a solution of alcohol and water. The alcohol helps the water dry and also to wet in to the wood. This opens the fibers of the wood and allows the stain to bite in. A light sanding with 320 will cut down the raised fibers, but don't overdo it - you don't want the wood polished. The rest of the finish schedule can follow as soon as the water has dried - under an hour in most cases. "My finishing supplier convinced me to go with wiping stain (primarily because they couldn't mix spray stain while I was there)." Do you have the stain already? What is the stain base?

From the original questioner:
Yes I picked up stain last night. So you would spray a light coat of 50/50 of water and alcohol on the bare wood, wait one hour, and wipe on stain? Would this replace the conditioner step? I guess it isn't really adding a barrier to the wood - just opening to accept even coat of stain. My supplier did say that the shorter the time between sanding and staining, the better. I think the Becker Acroma wood conditioner is the same stain base, just minus the dye/pigment color. I think this would be like a thin seal coat to prevent the porous areas from grabbing the stain.

From contributor G:
Now all you have to do is make some samples using the different techniques and see which combination is fastest for you with acceptable results.