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September 26, 2008 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Furniture crafters and woodworkers: Is it possible to darken a stain on furniture after the fact?

Awhile back, I ordered a set of oak livingroom furniture. The stain I selected, Washington, is a shade or two lighter than I prefer.

Is it possible to darken the stain after the fact? I'm only looking to darken it by a few shades. I'm sure that ordering a sample of stain and applying it is one option, but I have a gut feeling that this would entail negative results.
posted by Gordion Knott to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Provided additional finishes haven't been applied over the top of the existing stain, and provided the additional stain is from the same manufacturer, you should just be able to apply the new stain over the top. The colour will be darker than the new stain alone, so you might want to try it out on the underside somewhere.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:36 AM on September 26, 2008

Unlikely, from digging around on their site:

"Our products are finished with "Wood-Var" which is a modified catalyzed conversion varnish formulated to be virtually "Hazardous Air Pollutant" free. This premium grade finish is a very environmentally friendly product to apply and use, and is tough and resistant to scratches and spills; although it does take a full month after applied to completely cure. Please be careful when placing warm/hot dishes on the tables. Maximum temperature of things placed on finish should not exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit."

You could try to topcoat that varnish with amber shellac, which will likely adhere to the existing finish and is a very forgiving finish. That will darken it a hair, more over time. If you really want to darken it you could use a tinted shellac, but what you'd basically be doing is a surface coat only. You're not getting down into the wood itself without getting that varnish off. Try in an inconspicuous place.

I recommend you go to Rockler or Woodcraft if there is one located by you and ask there, they may have more options.
posted by true at 6:46 AM on September 26, 2008

That nugget that true turned up is extremely important. The furniture isn't stained, it's varnished. If you want to change the color, then you're probably looking at refinishing the pieces.

It's worth a trip to Rockler with your smallest piece of furniture or a drawer. Ask if the colored paste wax would work. Personally I wouldn't do it, but if the shade is really wrong it might be worth the effort.
posted by 26.2 at 7:24 AM on September 26, 2008

I highly recommend you visit the pros over at Sherwin Williams with this question. I've been a painting contractor since 2001, and I can tell you without a doubt that those folks know their products. They carry a variety of stains and finishes, and I'm sure they'd be able to help you with your problem.

Every Sherwin Williams has an area "rep", and he/she is usually the most knowledgeable person to speak with. If you call a Sherwin Williams and ask to speak with their rep, you'll be in good hands...
posted by Glendale at 7:25 AM on September 26, 2008

I'd generally recommend against it. It's likely the existing finish was done with two different products: a stain to create the color, then a clear protective topcoat. Stain is applied, allowed to soak in, and then whatever hasn't been absorbed is wiped off. More of it soaks into the most porous areas of the wood, and less soaks into the less-porous ares, so it accentuates the natural graphic patterns of the wood. Now that your furniture has a topcoat that seals the wood away and makes it uniformly non-porous, you can't apply a stain because none of it would soak in; you'd just wipe it all off. You can apply a pigmented finish, but this amounts to a semitransparent paint that will obscure the grain of the wood. So, you can make the furniture darker but you can't make it look the way it would've looked if the stain had been the right color in the first place unless you strip off the existing finish, which is always a big job but especially so with a catalyzed conversion varnish.
posted by jon1270 at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2008

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