Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Let Me Finish!

I hit the pause button.  Carolyn and I were discussing all future furniture projects and came to the topic of what color things should be, should we pick one color per room or mix and match whatever?  Is beige the new black?

Since the sample photos in the Stickley catalog don't really tell you anything, we drove out to the Stickley show room and moseyed around pointing at colors we liked, seeing them in person on real furniture.  While I was taking a few photos (you're allowed to, and encouraged to do so.  Stickley welcomes woodworkers), one of the customer service reps walked over and introduced herself and asked if we needed anything.

I explained that I'm a hobbyist furniture maker and was curious to see in person which finishing color we prefer and if she would be so kind as to walk around with us and identify the different colors so we would know which was which.  After a few seconds she said "Let me just go get George.  I'll be right back."

George used to work in the factory, he knew exactly what we wanted to know.  "Aurora is Minwax Early American under Minwax Dark Walnut.  If you want it darker, do a second coat of Dark Walnut."  No, that's not what Stickley uses, but it's a close approximation.  Good to know.

But the whole reason for this fieldtrip was so that I could investigate aniline dyes and Jeff Jewitt's Stickley reproduction recipes.

George asked if we wanted to bring some stain samples home with us.  Yes!  He went into the back room and brought out Aurora and Onondaga - the two Carolyn and I invariably preferred as we walked around the show room.  No charge, free to take home, awesome.

The value of having a direct example of a complete Stickley finish on actual white oak is a very valuable tool.  Once we got home we held the samples up to the furniture I've made and finished with  Minwax English Chestnut.  It turns out the color we've preferred falls exactly between Aurora and Onondaga.  Onondaga is a bit too red and Aurora isn't quite red enough.

Enter Aniline Dyes

This led us to Jeff Jewitt's Stickley Recipe Sample #4  - not quite Onondaga, not quite Aurora.  I ordered 4oz. of Brown Mahogany TransFast Dye and drove over to Marty's Barn Cellar to pick up some General Finishes Candlelite Gel Stain and Arm-R-Seal Satin.  

While waiting for the dye to arrive in the mail I resawed a good sized sample of quarter sawn white oak so that we've have a good visual for how the finish plays out on a large enough scale and studied the finishing process Jeff recommends and compared it with Glen D. Huey's Finishes that Pop.  While Glen uses HVLP (another topic I'm currently investigating), their finishing schedules are almost identical.  Glen and Jeff (in his Hand Applied Finishes DVD) mention that for figured woods they'll add some Boiled Linseed Oil before the sealer coat to increase the depth and highlight the decorative figure.  

It's nice when research coincides.

My Personal Blend of Glen D. Huey's & Jeff Jewitt's Finishing Schedule

  1. Sand to 120 grit
  2. Wet with Distilled Water, let dry 2 hours
  3. Sand to 180 grit (de-whiskering)
  4. Vacuum all of the dust out of the pores
  5. Mix 3/4 tsp Brown Mahogany TransFast dye to 1 cup hot distilled water
  6. Apply dye evenly to wood, let soak for 2 minutes, add more dye to areas that soak it up quickly
  7. Wipe dry, let dry for 8 hours
  8. Flood surface with Boiled Linseed Oil for 5 minutes, add more oil to areas that soak it up quickly
  9. Wipe dry
  10. Let dry for 4 or 5 days, repeatedly wiping it dry as more oil wicks to the surface
  11. Apply 1 coat of Zinsser Bullseye Sealcoat - Marty's Barn Cellar doesn't stock General Finishes Seal-a-Cell.  Glen D. Huey would use Shellac, but he uses Shellac as his topcoat as well and the can of shellac specifically said not to use shellac as a sealer coat under polyurethanes, so I grabbed the Sealcoat instead.  Better safe than sorry.
  12. Let dry for 4-5 hours
  13. Scuff sand with 320 grit
  14. Rub with Grey Fiber Pad - I didn't have maroon
  15. Rub on a heavy coat of General Finishes Candlelite Gel Stain, making sure to get it into all of the pores
  16. Wait for it to haze over slightly and wipe off at 45 degree angles to the grain with clean paper towels
  17. Let dry for 24-48 hours - if you wipe with a clean cloth and stain comes off, it's not dry enough, wait longer
  18. Apply 1 coat of Arm-R-Seal
  19. Let dry for 24 hours
  20. Scuff sand with 320 or 400 grit
  21. Apply 1 final coat of Arm-R-Seal
  22. Let dry 24 hours
  23. Optional:
    1. Add a third coat of Arm-R-Seal if you want
    2. Let dry 24 hours
    3. Rub with Maroon Pad to an even haze
    4. Apply paste wax with steel wool
    5. Let haze over
    6. Buff to an even sheen

The Results

I did 8 separate variations, stopping at #22 above.  
  • #1A: Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil + Gel Stain
  • #1B: Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil + Gel Stain
  • #1C: Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil  + Gel Stain
  • #1D: Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil + Gel Stain
  • #2A: Double Concentrated Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil + Gel Stain
  • #2B: Double Concentrated Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil + Gel Stain
  • #2C: Double Concentrated Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil  + Gel Stain
  • #2D: Double Concentrated Dye + Boiled Linseed Oil + Gel Stain
The Ingredients

The No Boiled Linseed Oil Group
Left Top: #2D (no gel stain, no BLO)
Left Bottom: #2C (no BLO)
Right Top #1D (no gel stain, no BLO)
Right Bottom #1C (no BLO)

The Boiled Linseed Group
Left Top: #2B (no gel stain)
Left Bottom: #2A
Right Top #1B (no gel stain)
Right Bottom #1A

Compared to the Official Samples
Aurora, #1A, Onondaga, #2A

You can really see the difference in the pores that don't have any gel stain added - they stand out as whitish and dull.  Adding boiled linseed oil really does add an appreciable amount of depth and luster to the quarter sawn figure.  And finally, Jeff Jewitt's recipe is pretty spot on.  In the above photograph I think the right-most board is really close to the actual Onondaga sample from Stickley.

I liked that despite there being a number of steps to this finishing schedule, each step is rewarding in that it feels like you're adding something that makes the wood look more beautiful.  Seeing the figure come to life and watching as it gets deeper and more lustrous with each addition is just plain fun.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Very insightful. I'm working on some cabinet doors right now and they look great.

Steve Erwin said...

No problem, I'm glad the post was helpful. :) If you think of it, stop back and show the results and let me know how it turned out.

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