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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've got a question about your procedure for staining cabinet doors. Or anything with 2 sides really. I don't do a ton of staining, so this is a learning curve for me.
I have a couple of kitchens to do. I'm wondering if you would stain both sides of the door at once and then clear.., or stain and clear one side and then flip.
I don't have one of those doorrackpainter setups, so don't want to end up with rack marks on my stain under the clear coat..
Thoughts?
 

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Do NOT just stain one side and then clear. If your clear wraps around the back by accident, your stain won't hit any bare wood. And if the stain hits the back, you'll have uneven spots, later. You should be fine to stain both sides at once, just leave the outside of the door facing up.

Any issues, re-wet the spots with more stain and rub them out with a rag.
 

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I've got a question about your procedure for staining cabinet doors. Or anything with 2 sides really. I don't do a ton of staining, so this is a learning curve for me.
I have a couple of kitchens to do. I'm wondering if you would stain both sides of the door at once and then clear.., or stain and clear one side and then flip.
I don't have one of those doorrackpainter setups, so don't want to end up with rack marks on my stain under the clear coat..
Thoughts?
I add frog tape on the racks each time to keep from sticking and not leave marks.

What kind of wood are you using. Sometimes needs second coat of stain if you need to darken or if you have used conditioner- definitely start with the back side and see what you are doing. wear gloves so you don't leave fingerprints.

some guys around here spray a tinted clear instead of traditional staining/varnish. You'd be very good at that, with your experience spraying. Just mentioning that. Tell us more about your project so we can offer informed comments.

@cocomonkeynuts has posted a number of very good videos over the last few months that were informative and instructional.
 

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I fully agree with @Masterwork about making sure to stain both sides at the same time. Make sure to smudge-sand also. You may already know all this, but since you said you don't do a lot of staining, I figured it was worth mentioning. Look for greasy fingerprints, pencil marks, etc., and clean or sand those out before you stain. As soon as you apply the stain, those imperfections would otherwise be sealed in and would telegraph through the stain. Do sample doors, create a finishing schedule, and follow that schedule for everything. If you have more specific questions, include the wood species you'll be working with as well as the products, since advice will vary based on those factors. Post pics! You got this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I fully agree with @Masterwork about making sure to stain both sides at the same time. Make sure to smudge-sand also. You may already know all this, but since you said you don't do a lot of staining, I figured it was worth mentioning. Look for greasy fingerprints, pencil marks, etc., and clean or sand those out before you stain. As soon as you apply the stain, those imperfections would otherwise be sealed in and would telegraph through the stain. Do sample doors, create a finishing schedule, and follow that schedule for everything. If you have more specific questions, include the wood species you'll be working with as well as the products, since advice will vary based on those factors. Post pics! You got this.
Will get back with some more details in the morning!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So this particular kitchen is the Birch one I was trying to match up. (Refinish, Doors only) It was a battle as I believe the original finish was just a toning lacquer, or possibly a stain then T.L. Anyhow, I sanded down a sample door and managed to get a good match with 2 coats of Saman waterbased wiping stain, mixing two colours together. then clear coating. I'm tring to keep it all water base as my shop is not set up for spraying lacquers, nor am I interested in spraying lacquer.
I did experiment with spraying the stain and a 2 in 1 product, but was not having any luck. I don't think the water based stuff sprays as nice as the lacquers.
All that aside, the client is happy with my match. (Not shown in the picture). Picture is with 1 coat.. Looked good after 2 coats.
Anyhow, would you stain both sides at the same time, or stain 1 side, let dry, flip and stain other side? Probably just use those painting pyramids for the staining portion of project. Any feedback is very much appreciated! 🙏
 

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I would do one side at a time. otherwise you will get fingerprints on the underside when handling. treat the edges carefully when staining, remove all excess stain immediately so you don't get any lap marks.

I believe Birch is considered one of the more difficult woods to stain. You will probably want to use a sealer first (@cocomonkeynuts has strong feelings about this). I have only ever used Sealcoat @ 50%, then sanded back lightly.

I would do it like this, other may do it differently
*(you must create a test sample first, and then follow it exactly step by step when doing it for real):

1. sand with 220 (with the grain to unify grain for staining and make more even).
2. seal coat the wood and allow to dry
3. lightly sand and dust
4. stain wood with lint-less cotton rag or microfiber, and then wipe back completely as soon as wood is covered, or allow to sit for no more than 5 minutes if you want to darken wood. I prefer to stain multiple times, rather than let stain sit. (It is a slow process because you need to allow stain to completely dry before re-staining.)
5. Allow to dry completely between coats.
6. flip wood and repeat.
7. repeat staining steps if woods needs to be darkened (caution water based stains can sometimes re-activate and lift if multiple coats are used).

7. clear coat when stain color reaches desired color. Clear should be sanded lightly between coats for best results.
 

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If you don't seal Birch, it is likely that the stain will look like crap: blotchy and not beautiful. It will have really dark spots with some uneven light/dark blotchiness, but missing the beautiful grain highlights.

The challenge with sealing wood, is that it makes it more difficult to darken the wood. Because using a sealer "seals the pores", it doesn't want to absorb stain as much. If you are trying to achieve a very dark stain color, it typically means you have to do multiple coats to create a darker color. This is more work, but that is the trade of when using any sealer: more beautiful grain.

Coco suggests suing 1 to 4 ratio of PVA glue sizing instead, as apparently it takes stain better than Sealcoat (which is a waxless shellac).
 

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So this particular kitchen is the Birch one I was trying to match up. (Refinish, Doors only) It was a battle as I believe the original finish was just a toning lacquer, or possibly a stain then T.L. Anyhow, I sanded down a sample door and managed to get a good match with 2 coats of Saman waterbased wiping stain, mixing two colours together. then clear coating. I'm tring to keep it all water base as my shop is not set up for spraying lacquers, nor am I interested in spraying lacquer.
I did experiment with spraying the stain and a 2 in 1 product, but was not having any luck. I don't think the water based stuff sprays as nice as the lacquers.
All that aside, the client is happy with my match. (Not shown in the picture). Picture is with 1 coat.. Looked good after 2 coats.
Anyhow, would you stain both sides at the same time, or stain 1 side, let dry, flip and stain other side? Probably just use those painting pyramids for the staining portion of project. Any feedback is very much appreciated! 🙏
Here's what I do... It works, and IMHO, is the fastest, easiest, & most foolproof method I've found...

Identify the upper & lower cabinet doors and make some identifying mark on the hinge hole so you can see if you're dealing with an upper door or lower door. A "U" for Upper and "L" for Lower is good. Don't use an upper arrow for uppers and downward-pointing arrow for lowers, (you'll be flipping half of them upside-down, so this would cause a lot of confusion). With the lower doors, after I stain ALL sides at once, I put it up against a wall, with only the hinge-side edge actually making contact with the wall, (at roughly a 30° angle), making sure to put the bottom part of the lower door on the floor, (actually, I use parchment paper, since the doors won't stick to it like they do floor paper). For upper cabinet doors, after I stain all sides at once, I put that on the parchment, but this time the top edge of the uppers will rest on the floor, so all your upper doors would essentially be upside-down while doing this. This allows you to stain all sides at once with the only edge at risk of getting slightly messed up during the staining is the edge that will never be visible to anyone after the doors are installed.

After you're maybe 1/3 or 1/2 done with the staining, take a sec and reposition the doors so they don't just stay glued in place on flat ground. After you've done all the staining and the doors are dry enough to handle, turn em upside down and fix the edge that was on the ground. Usually just a quick scuff with a maroon scotchbrite pad, wipe clean, then take a rag and barely dip it in some stain and wipe on the stain of that edge, and make sure to wipe off all adjacent edges with a clean rag to avoid adding more stain to the faces or backs. Make sure to check the little corner on the hinge-side edge also where it was rested against the wall and touch-up as needed.

This entire process can really only be done during the staining process and is not advisable for any applications of sanding sealer or finish coat. You could also rest them on smooth-grade 1x2 stock instead of the ground, but long runs of many doors all balanced on the same 2-3 boards can get sketchy, especially if you end up kicking one of those 1x2's with your foot or something. Since you'll be resting them up against the wall with only a small point of contact with the wall, it's always a good idea to start in the middle of wall and angle half of them one way and half of them the other way. This is just insurance, in the event the doors tumble and fall, you'd only lose half of the wall length.

I would never consider staining only 1 side at a time. You'd end up getting stain on the backs while only doing the fronts, be it from your fingers or somehow while handling them, and you run the risk of those stain prints telegraphing through the final stain finish.
 

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If you don't seal Birch, it is likely that the stain will look like crap: blotchy and not beautiful. It will have really dark spots with some uneven light/dark blotchiness, but missing the beautiful grain highlights.

The challenge with sealing wood, is that it makes it more difficult to darken the wood. Because using a sealer "seals the pores", it doesn't want to absorb stain as much. If you are trying to achieve a very dark stain color, it typically means you have to do multiple coats to create a darker color. This is more work, but that is the trade of when using any sealer: more beautiful grain.

Coco suggests suing 1 to 4 ratio of PVA glue sizing instead, as apparently it takes stain better than Sealcoat (which is a waxless shellac).
Another way besides using a sealer to obtain even coloring on some wood species is to do the opposite of using a sealer. Water popping to open up the wood pores will cause the wood to absorb lots of stain and more evenly across the grain. Usually you see this on hardwoods woods like Oak but we use it all the time on soft woods like alder and fir to achieve a very dark color without having to second coat the stain where using a sealer like shellac, glue size, benite etc will cause the stain to take about a half shade.

@finishesbykevyn is the darker color cabinet what you are trying to match to? Looks like its mostly black with maybe some orange or transoxide red. You can achieve a layered effect by first using a dye as a toner then stain, and further tone instead of spraying tinted clear, using a glaze. Maybe cut back on the dark walnut a bit try 4-1 with black.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Another way besides using a sealer to obtain even coloring on some wood species is to do the opposite of using a sealer. Water popping to open up the wood pores will cause the wood to absorb lots of stain and more evenly across the grain. Usually you see this on hardwoods woods like Oak but we use it all the time on soft woods like alder and fir to achieve a very dark color without having to second coat the stain where using a sealer like shellac, glue size, benite etc will cause the stain to take about a half shade.

@finishesbykevyn is the darker color cabinet what you are trying to match to? Looks like its mostly black with maybe some orange or transoxide red. You can achieve a layered effect by first using a dye as a toner then stain, and further t.one instead of spraying tinted clear, using a glaze. Maybe cut back on the dark walnut a bit try 4-1 with black.
Thanks for your knowledgeable insights Coco. I had considered the water popping and may give that a go, as to not have to double coat. All the same without the water popping, I achieved a pretty darn good match with 2 coats of 5-1 Dark Oak - Black Saman Water Stain. What's the difference between a toner and a tinted clear?? Also @Holland, the water base stains seem to stain much more evenly. I had almost no blotching on the birch..I just sanded with 120 the direct to staining, no conditioner. However, your right about the 2 coat want to lift the first. Much caution has to be taken..
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Here's what I do... It works, and IMHO, is the fastest, easiest, & most foolproof method I've found...

Identify the upper & lower cabinet doors and make some identifying mark on the hinge hole so you can see if you're dealing with an upper door or lower door. A "U" for Upper and "L" for Lower is good. Don't use an upper arrow for uppers and downward-pointing arrow for lowers, (you'll be flipping half of them upside-down, so this would cause a lot of confusion). With the lower doors, after I stain ALL sides at once, I put it up against a wall, with only the hinge-side edge actually making contact with the wall, (at roughly a 30° angle), making sure to put the bottom part of the lower door on the floor, (actually, I use parchment paper, since the doors won't stick to it like they do floor paper). For upper cabinet doors, after I stain all sides at once, I put that on the parchment, but this time the top edge of the uppers will rest on the floor, so all your upper doors would essentially be upside-down while doing this. This allows you to stain all sides at once with the only edge at risk of getting slightly messed up during the staining is the edge that will never be visible to anyone after the doors are installed.

After you're maybe 1/3 or 1/2 done with the staining, take a sec and reposition the doors so they don't just stay glued in place on flat ground. After you've done all the staining and the doors are dry enough to handle, turn em upside down and fix the edge that was on the ground. Usually just a quick scuff with a maroon scotchbrite pad, wipe clean, then take a rag and barely dip it in some stain and wipe on the stain of that edge, and make sure to wipe off all adjacent edges with a clean rag to avoid adding more stain to the faces or backs. Make sure to check the little corner on the hinge-side edge also where it was rested against the wall and touch-up as needed.

This entire process can really only be done during the staining process and is not advisable for any applications of sanding sealer or finish coat. You could also rest them on smooth-grade 1x2 stock instead of the ground, but long runs of many doors all balanced on the same 2-3 boards can get sketchy, especially if you end up kicking one of those 1x2's with your foot or something. Since you'll be resting them up against the wall with only a small point of contact with the wall, it's always a good idea to start in the middle of wall and angle half of them one way and half of them the other way. This is just insurance, in the event the doors tumble and fall, you'd only lose half of the wall length.

I would never consider staining only 1 side at a time. You'd end up getting stain on the backs while only doing the fronts, be it from your fingers or somehow while handling them, and you run the risk of those stain prints telegraphing through the final stain finish.
Super good advice Troy. In fact, this is how I would do my doors on site before I had drying racks. Works really well actually if you have the wall space.. However, when it comes to clear coating, I feel I will run into the same problem as I would only spray 1 side at a time and would fear rack marks on the un-cleared side. I guess if it's on the backs, not such a big deal as usual. Over thinking this I'm sure...
 

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Thanks for your knowledgeable insights Coco. I had considered the water popping and may give that a go, as to not have to double coat. All the same without the water popping, I achieved a pretty darn good match with 2 coats of 5-1 Dark Oak - Black Saman Water Stain. What's the difference between a toner and a tinted clear?? Also @Holland, the water base stains seem to stain much more evenly. I had almost no blotching on the birch..I just sanded with 120 the direct to staining, no conditioner. However, your right about the 2 coat want to lift the first. Much caution has to be taken..
One thing I noted using the saman stain is that as you describe it does take very well on birch as does general finishes WB stains. 120 grit is very agressive sanding profile for that product on smooth wood though, generally I would say 180-220 is preferable with that product. Also as you note Saman has VERY long open time, even 48 hours later a second coat will rewet the stain which is handy because you can alter the color after you have applied the stain basically as many times as you want. However double edge sword it makes top coating with waterborne difficult. AFAIK this is unique to saman stains.

Glazing is like applying a thin coat of gel stain (in fact you can use gel stain if you wanted) over a stained or and sealed or painted surface, you have more control over the color opposed to a tinted clear.
 

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Samples looked a little blotchy from the thumbnail, and there was a lot of excess streaky stain in the corners. I want to see the wood grain, not the stain sitting on the surface.

If it doesn’t look as beautiful as a guitar top, it can be improved.
 

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Samples looked a little blotchy from the thumbnail, and there was a lot of excess streaky stain in the corners. I want to see the wood grain, not the stain sitting on the surface.

If it doesn’t look as beautiful as a guitar top, it can be improved.
I think some of that probably has to do with staining at 120 grit
 

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Are you doing a few samples? Maybe one with sealcoat @50% (sanded back after dry) and one without? It's a critical step.

What about 'spraying' stain? Seems like if you can get a finish that is sprayed it will look awesome, and eliminate some of the labor.

I have only used dyes a few times, but wondering if you looked into them at all?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Samples looked a little blotchy from the thumbnail, and there was a lot of excess streaky stain in the corners. I want to see the wood grain, not the stain sitting on the surface.

If it doesn’t look as beautiful as a guitar top, it can be improved.
Ya, it was a pretty rushed sample. I tried spraying the stain and wasn't having much luck.
Good news is that the colour is pretty close and she seemed happy with the rough sample. If I waste anymore time experimenting on this one I'll lose my shirt. Would like to experiment more with some dyes and toners for sure though.
Here's my finished rough sample on the left. Original on right. Only brushed the clear on, so looks like crap. They had used a lacquer toner for sure with a stain underneath. I'll never be able to exactly replicate it so I'm not wasting much more time on it..
 

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With water-based anything, it’s best to do both sides at the same time to prevent the doors from warping. However, in a climate controlled environment, you can do 1 side and edges with solvent borne stains/clears, and just buzz down any brush-over or overspray on the opposing side with a finish sander. In the case of using solvent borne materials, I like to do the back sides and edges first, not worrying about brush-over or over-spray that might get on the good face...followed by hitting the good side with an orbital finish sander to remove any brush-over or overspray...saving final wood prep/running final grits after the backs and edges are complete. Still have to be careful with warping though, which is minimal if the doors are acclimated to the work space..
 
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