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Old 04-14-2012, 01:48 PM   #1
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


I'm a complete novice at staining and varnishing and am hoping to get some guidance from those with more experience than me!!

I bought some unfinished red oak kitchen cabinets from Home Depot and finished them myself with the following process:

1 coat Minwax sanding sealer using foam brush
sanded using 320 grit
3 coats Minwax water-based oil-Modified Polyurethane (clear semi-gloss) using foam brush
sanded 220 grit between each application

Problem: The grain was brought out with the finishes and it almost looks like different wood species was used on the face fronts of the cabinets!!

I built 4 custom cabinets to fill in the oddball sizes in the kitchen and used solid red oak bought from Home Depot. The first picture below shows the right end cabinet I built and how different it looks next to the Home Depot cabinet. Even the Home Depot face fronts show huge variations in the wood (second pic). The last picture shows a cabinet before I applied the finishes.

I didn't use stain since I don't like darker wood at all and just really like the lightness of the unfinished wood. I have since bought some quality bristles brushes and have access to a medium-quality paint sprayer if that is recommended.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Questions:

1) Can these finishes be completely sanded off?

2) Which finish (varnish, shellac, lacquer, water-polys) should I use to NOT bring out the grain and have the look of the unfinished cabinets (third pic) but to still have the approprate protection against water in a kitchen environment?

Thanks in advance for your advice!!!
Diane
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!-resized_1.jpg   Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!-resized_2.jpg   Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!-resized_3.jpg  

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Old 04-14-2012, 03:29 PM   #2
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


You have grain from a different part of different logs. You cannot expect them to match. Hard to say if it is all red oak. That wood looks awfully green too. Maybe that is just color balance from the lights and the camera setting?

You might try gel stains at this point to even things out. Rough up the surface of what you have. Apply the gel stain in thin layers and don't try to build it up. You will have to add some color. And you will be using them more as a glaze at this point since you will not be able to get stain into the grain.

If you saved some scraps, replicate what you have so far then play with the gel stains.

I would use water based poly since you started with it over the gel stain. You might have put a couple coats of sanding sealer on but with a hardwood you should not have had to do so.

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Last edited by user1007; 04-14-2012 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 04-14-2012, 04:38 PM   #3
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


whenever your doing staining furniture or something that is apart of a focal point of the house wood conditioner must be used before staining. it allows the wood to take the stain more evenly and reduces the chance of blotchiness in the finish

as for gel coat stains.. they are a lower quality product as once the first coat cures the wood can no longer absorb additional stain if its required to get the correct shade you want. high end cabinet shops stain then clear coat, by high end i mean real plywood boxes not melamine or particleboard (aka the hotdog meat of sheet goods)
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Old 04-14-2012, 05:52 PM   #4
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


Wasn't suggesting gel stain for raw wood. I hope my post did not read that way. The OP know has sealer and two coats of poly on raw wood. Not sure stripping it is going to help much. I was just thinking "cheating" with some gel stain might be a workable compromise.
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Old 04-14-2012, 06:09 PM   #5
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by mojavekat
I'm a complete novice at staining and varnishing and am hoping to get some guidance from those with more experience than me!!

I bought some unfinished red oak kitchen cabinets from Home Depot and finished them myself with the following process:

1 coat Minwax sanding sealer using foam brush
sanded using 320 grit
3 coats Minwax water-based oil-Modified Polyurethane (clear semi-gloss) using foam brush
sanded 220 grit between each application

Problem: The grain was brought out with the finishes and it almost looks like different wood species was used on the face fronts of the cabinets!!

I built 4 custom cabinets to fill in the oddball sizes in the kitchen and used solid red oak bought from Home Depot. The first picture below shows the right end cabinet I built and how different it looks next to the Home Depot cabinet. Even the Home Depot face fronts show huge variations in the wood (second pic). The last picture shows a cabinet before I applied the finishes.

I didn't use stain since I don't like darker wood at all and just really like the lightness of the unfinished wood. I have since bought some quality bristles brushes and have access to a medium-quality paint sprayer if that is recommended.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Questions:

1) Can these finishes be completely sanded off?

2) Which finish (varnish, shellac, lacquer, water-polys) should I use to NOT bring out the grain and have the look of the unfinished cabinets (third pic) but to still have the approprate protection against water in a kitchen environment?

Thanks in advance for your advice!!!
Diane
Who told you how to finish your cabinets from the start?
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Old 04-14-2012, 07:03 PM   #6
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


Sanding sealer was not needed. A wood conditioner is not needed either, because oak is a hard wood and wood conditioners are mainly for soft wood such as pine that does not take stain evenly.
At this point you could strip, but you are talking about a lot of work. You could scuff sand, knock the gloss off of the surface, use a deglosser, clean and apply a gel stain, as gel stains more so lay on the surface. You can apply a couple of coats of gel stain if needed to achieve a desired look. Practice on some scraps first.
The poly, water - alkyd is probably why the grain raised. Usually you want to use a true oil base on oak, so the grain does not raise.
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Old 04-14-2012, 10:42 PM   #7
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


Your problem is not with the stain, you didn't use any. You only used a clear sealer. You didn't get anything that shouldn't be expected, in fact. What your concerned about is as Sdsester said, you have different cuts of the same type of wood. Even different cuts from the same tree will look differently if pieced together like that. I've had the complaint from people when actually staining that the color and intensity and grain patterns look different across the whole piece. That's to be expected when you buy mass produced products, especially where larger pieces are created by a series of smaller pieces glued together. I've seen pieces where it was clear that a lot of time went into choosing pieces that fit together to avoid the concern you have. Anything you put on wood, even clear, is going to alter the color, and it's going to highlight the grain. I don't see where what you have is any different than many other similar things I have seen.
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Old 04-14-2012, 10:44 PM   #8
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


What, really, is a gel stain going to accomplish? It's not going to make the pieces look any different.
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Old 04-16-2012, 10:05 AM   #9
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


diane:
quite a project for a young lady. have no answer for such a complicated summery. from pics, looks like you bought wood with not the greatest graining. that may not be an esy fix.
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Old 04-10-2013, 12:51 PM   #10
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


Firstly, don't panic...You need to sand them down and take off
all the finishing you did. It looks like you have red oak and white oak.
You can get these evenly stained to match with some patience.

We have sanded down many things that we didn't like after it was
completed, so I know how discouraged you are.

Since you have different woods you should use a lite color stain
such as min wax Pecan mixed with a little bit of another darker stain.

Most importantly, after you sand the cabs down you have to apply
Boiled Linseed oil to seal the wood, this will fill in the darker parts
of the red oak and aid in getting an even color in your staining.
There is at least a three day drying time for the boiled linseed oil before
staining...apply everything with a rag, it's easier.

You can do it...We used white quarter sawn and rift sawn oak in our
kitchen, then we acquired free flat sawn red oak and made more cabs
(at a later date) mixed it in and you can't tell the difference.

Good luck, btw Diane, I'm a girl too...and do the finishing in our furniture,
sometimes twice...
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Old 04-10-2013, 01:12 PM   #11
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


First- you got unfinished from Home Depot. They are not known for grain matching to make quality cabs.
Second- and I dont know the products well enough to say for sure- but sanding sealers have sterates in them that can cause poly top coats to separate- so you might have a problem you don't even see yet. it would cause the finish to look milky.
If that wasn't the issue I would try toner coats, not gel stains- which means color in coats of finish to even out the look.
Good luck sanding down to bare wood enough to do any staining- in deep grained oak I would think that to me is near impossible.
And there are wood conditioners made to do just that- boiled linseed oil would work but is very outdated method.
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Old 04-10-2013, 02:16 PM   #12
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Brushjockey View Post
First- you got unfinished from Home Depot. They are not known for grain matching to make quality cabs.
Second- and I dont know the products well enough to say for sure- but sanding sealers have sterates in them that can cause poly top coats to separate- so you might have a problem you don't even see yet. it would cause the finish to look milky.
If that wasn't the issue I would try toner coats, not gel stains- which means color in coats of finish to even out the look.
Good luck sanding down to bare wood enough to do any staining- in deep grained oak I would think that to me is near impossible.
And there are wood conditioners made to do just that- boiled linseed oil would work but is very outdated method.
Bushjocky, sanding down the oak can certainly can be done,
I've done it many times.

I will post an example (later when i get home) of a 100 plus antique wash stand that I re-refinished.
It's flat sawn red oak that was stained dark...it was blackish and was
ugly as sin...the dark cathedrals were nearly black. Not to mention
my Father in law went over it many years ago with high gloss poly...
it was so ugly that I kept it down the basement covered.

...then one year i bought it up and I painted it green! that was ugly too...
then decided I wanted to strip
and stain it to match QS white end tables that we made. in HMO
it came out real nice...
pics to follow later...

If there is a will there is a way...don't get discouraged Diane, it can be done.
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Old 04-10-2013, 04:20 PM   #13
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


This thread is a year old and the OP has never been back.
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Old 04-10-2013, 04:31 PM   #14
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


Guess you're right!
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Old 04-10-2013, 07:39 PM   #15
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Staining Help Needed! I finished my Red Oak Kitchen Cabinets and they look horrible!!


oh, good grief! I wonder how she made out?

well, here's where I posted the re-finishing that we did.

Ya know, there should be a staining and finishing section.

Stripping and staining furniture/ Pics.

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