Refinishing Furniture
November 21, 2004 6:27 PM   Subscribe

RefinishingFilter: I am refinishing a vintage maple piece by hand, and am considering using gel stain. Has anyone here tried this combination of wood and finish? What did you use as a sealant? (I've never refinished maple, nor do I have experience with gel stain.) Success stories, product recommendations and do's/don'ts are welcome.
posted by MonkeyToes to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've refinished birch before, and I used a gel stain.

It's awesome stuff. I will never, ever use a liquid stain again unless I'm forced to at gunpoint. Easy to put on, goes on without dribbling or puddling, etc.

Usually, with lighter woods like maple, pine, and birch, we'll use Deft in the spray can (unless you've got a spray gun you're not using... *shrug*) Deft is much better than any other laquer I've used and it goes on very nicely. You'll get less yellowing than you would with a laquer, but more than you would with a polyurethane. Like laquer, deft isn't really waterproof but is water resistant. You can wax it with furniture wax and make it waterproof.
posted by SpecialK at 6:42 PM on November 21, 2004

A little more information would be helpful here: What color stain are you planning to use? Is the natural maple too light for your taste?

For finishing/sealing, I have a preference for the polyurethane sealants. They're hella tough and almost impervious to damage.
posted by pjern at 6:42 PM on November 21, 2004

You can get a really nice matte finish with a warm glow on almost any type of wood for next to no money by wet-and-dry sandpapering regular vegetable oil into it. Try it and be surprised!
posted by Wolof at 6:51 PM on November 21, 2004

Love the gel stain. Yes, I've used it with maple. Should be just fine.
posted by gimonca at 6:56 PM on November 21, 2004

Solopsist: I prefer a warm brown, along the lines of Special Walnut. Wolof, wouldn't the vegetable oil spoil? If not, why not? SpecialK, thanks for the Deft tip. Keep the hints coming...
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:59 PM on November 21, 2004

If you want walnut, why not use walnut. Keep the maple natural and rub on several coats of linseed oil and then some wipe on poly.
posted by jmgorman at 7:25 PM on November 21, 2004

I've had some experience refinishing old maple (50 year old floors).

Maple shows almost every sanding mark, especially with dark stains. You have to be very careful with your sanding. We had extremely distressed wood (pet stains, etc), so we couldn't stain it natural. What we did was sand the wood, stain it dark, and re-sand it until the sanding marks were gone. That left dark stain in the features of the board (grain marks, etc). We finished with a natural stain, which really brought the individual character of each board out. If you want a picture or anything, just email me.

This one isn't from experience, but wood stains usually recommend a pre-stain conditioner for woods like maple, to avoid blotching due to uneven pickup of the stain. I know that the conditioner helps quite a bit with pine.
posted by true at 7:27 PM on November 21, 2004

If you decide against the gel stain, Danish Oil is worth considering. It will keep the natural color of the maple and bring out the grain nicely. Easy to apply too.

It doesn't offer much in the way of protection, so if you plan on eating on the surface or putting coffee cups on it, you should add a further layer of clear finish for protective purposes.
posted by stp123 at 8:21 PM on November 21, 2004

sandpapering regular vegetable oil

Geez, no. Vegetable oil will get gummy, dark, and rancid with age. No one wants a rancid table.

You'd have to use regular mineral oil, which won't gum, darken, or go rancid.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:24 PM on November 21, 2004

I have a related question: I need to refinish a walnut table top and I've never stained anything before. It has a couple of pretty dark stains, but mostly it looks bleached and rough when compared to the leaves that've been protected underneath. Do I just sand until the stains are gone (taking care to do it evenly and going from rough to fine sandpaper), then stain, let dry and seal? Do I want to pick a walnut stain, or is that intended for lighter woods to make them appear like walnut? Is just oiling and sanding a better bet?
posted by cali at 8:24 PM on November 21, 2004

Dunno, works perfectly for me. Really.
posted by Wolof at 9:08 PM on November 21, 2004

The wife and I used a gel stain and gel poly on this project [self link] and LOVED using them.
posted by terrapin at 8:10 AM on November 22, 2004

...sandpapering regular vegetable oil..

Try walnut oil from your local natural foods store. It "sets" much faster than run-of-the-mill vegetable oil (i.e. a shorter "gummy" period). Not nearly as cheap though. And tung oil rocks while boiled linseed oil merely rolls. None of the above are subs for stains however as they won't markedly alter the color of the wood.
posted by TimeFactor at 8:43 AM on November 22, 2004

I think the biggest piece of advice that's just been touched on lightly is that Maple and stain don't go together. Maple has grain with uneven porosity. Some of it will soak up the stain readily, other sections will take next to nothing. See here for more information the consensus is to use a pretreat before staining. Personally, I avoid staining maple and instead use either a clear water based polyurethane, which lets the lightness of the maple and its figuring shine through, or use an oil-based polyurethane, which will yellow the wood slightly. Poplar, alder and pine also stain poorly.
posted by plinth at 11:02 AM on November 22, 2004

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