Sample Deck for Specifying Finishes

Here's an interesting discussion about how to produce a set of finish samples in various gradations for use in communicating with a distant factory. May 30, 2011

I am looking for a source that could provide sets of graduated finish samples (chips) on a single wood species. I would like to use these so that I can communicate with my factories regarding a specific finish and a high-low range. We would both have a box of these chips. I could call out a certain number and let them know that they could go two graduations up or down and still be within an acceptable color range. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor F:
Iím about 99.9% sure something like this doesnít exist and canít be done. If I take three pieces of wood from different trees, but all the same species and apply the stain to all three, there is a likelihood that you will have three different shades.

From contributor U:
We use to do something similar, but mainly for communicating with our salespeople in other towns. We made our own sample chips, both for paints and stains. But we never used these in the place of strikeoffs, only as a reference to get us started at the shop, for quoting and determining the wood that would be used. After the order was placed we would follow up with samples for the customer to approve. We felt the sample decks saved a lot of time, even though we are now a smaller company, we still use this procedure.

From contributor F:
Neither of these solutions will provide her a "high/low range". There is an acceptable range of shade for a given species/stain color that will automatically fall within these "high/low range".

From the original questioner:
The purpose of the graduated finishes is to communicate the color and acceptable range to a remote factory. The factory would then submit samples for approval. As long as both parties have chips that were made out of the same board and the same stain. The desired stain color could be communicated without a lot of shipping samples back and forth. The company I used to work for had a box like this so I know it exists.

From contributor U:
The samples I am talking about used by our company were not the typical color decks found for many products. Many of the samples we would show were actually the same stains applied in different percentages. Such as when using dyes, we would at times mix two different colors. Then we would apply these in a 50/50 ratio, the next sample might be 40/60 in one direction, then 60/40 in the other direction and so on. Even when using one color, we would apply it in different strengths when making the solution.

In one case, using our most chosen three colors, we had 60 color chips for these three colors in varying ratios just on mahogany. It is a major time user up front, but saves countless hours and mistakes later on. This approach allows a lot of flexibility when adjusting colors by telephone, by simply moving from one shade to the next. If the person at the job site could pick a color that matched, we could duplicate that color with a very large degree of reasonable accuracy in our shop. Of course the different shades found in the wood itself will cause some variation. Most customers, when sold properly will understand this. Also this is an added reason to provide larger sample for approval to the customer before processing the order. We will select the pieces for this using several that will represent the most common colors found in a species.

From contributor F:
I would think you would want the people actually doing the finishing to make the samples. There are so many variables that affect the final color, the people doing the finishing should do the samples.

From contributor B:
I agree - settle on a stain/dye line with your remote factory and have a local finisher whip out some expensive graduated samples. Then you can send them out to your remote factories where the remote factory and finishers will be so happy. Any reputable US or otherwise furniture factory would have exactly what youíre looking for or they could make it for you.

From the original questioner:
I found a source for graduated stain chips. Fasse Paint sells a box of 300 chips on maple and 300 chips on oak for $400.00 a box. I am working with the company that makes these sample boxes for Fasse to see if they can work up some special graduated stain sets based on my stain colors for my situation.

From contributor R:
Best of luck with that system, it looks pretty nifty. Keep in mind that colors on veneers look way different than colors on solid stock do. You might consider putting a release on the backs of each sample. Just to be on the safe side and to cover yourself. Even a clear coat sample will look different from tree to tree so make sure your vendors and customers and finishers and manufacturers are aware of it. I know youíre only going to be using these samples as a general color and not as something thatís cast in stone. As long as all parties involved know the quirks you should do ok.