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By Escudo
Hello all, looking for a bit of wisdom and advice.

I am working on a jewellery box in oak at the moment. The grain has some nice and interesting medullary rays showing which I would like to highlight when it comes to the finish.

I had in mind a sort of arts & crafts medium oak colour.

Can anyone advise on the best stain and approach to achieve something like this?

I was thinking of applying a couple of coats of danish oil after the stain and then a final wax.

Thanks in advance for opinions / help.

Cheers, Tony
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By Paul Chapman
Hi Tony,

I generally prefer to use water-based stains as I think they are more controllable, in that you can wipe them over with a damp rag to even out any problems with overlap marks and stuff like that, or to lighten the colour. Also they are easy to mix to get the colour you want. You need to dampen the wood first to raise the grain then sand lightly before applying and water-based stains. Liberon make some good water-based ones. They would also be OK with the finishes you propose to use.

Cheers :wink:

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By BradNaylor
And I would say the opposite!

Water based stains (dyes) IMO look insipid and weak. I would go for an alcohol based dye like the Light-Fast range from Morrells Woodfinishes. They are a little trickier to apply, particularly over a big area, but a box would be a doddle.

It will give a much richer look than any water-based dye.

I use the word 'dye' to differentiate them from the 'stains' sold by the likes of B&Q. These are not 'stains' at all, but tinted lacquers - to be avoided at all costs!

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By jasonB
I have used vandyke crystals on oak, which give a nice rich colour, you can mix them to whatever strength you like.

Then again coloron woodstain mixed with the first coat of danish oil works quite well, can't remember what colour I used on this but thats the sort of A&C look.

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By Woody Alan
I agree with Jason on this, the commercial water based stains, I have never had any success with Liberon(possibly because it's not really water some sort of acrylic) and the other stuff oil based colron etc obscures the grain and doesn't set. I have mixed vandyke crystals to varying strength and it couldn't be easier. Make up a batch try it and if it's too strong dilute and try again until you get your desired result.
I would also recommend some clean water and a cloth once your work is finsished(proir to staining) make the cloth fairly damp, or brush water on and rub off quickly, and rub over your work this will raise the grain when it's dry sand off again. This prevents the grain being raised by the stain and when you have to sand it back you spoil the effect. It all sounds a bit messy but in my experience it gives the least artificial appearance. You can then finish the piece with your desired topcoat without fear of the stain being picked up by the brush. If you want any more help on this you know where I am. ... king+horse
If you look at the stands on these horses that's the finishe I used after a lot of experiment. The top coat is airbrush sprayed satin poly thinned 50/50 white spirit.
By Ross
This is the sort of finish I aim to achieve on an almost daily basis, making Arts & Crafts style furniture, in oak, for a living as I do. And often for clients with a large collection of original oak A&C furniture already.l

I almost never use water based products. I don't like the way it raises the grain. Sanding, even light denibbing, and staining do not go well together. It is all too easy to take the colour off any projecting edges. That said, mixing Van Dyke crystals with water is extraordinarily easy and makes a stain that I have calculated to cost a mere 5 per cent of pre-mixed proprietory water-based stains. Moreover, the colour seems to go quite deep into the wood, so denibbing isn't such a worriesome task.

The real trick to getting a good antique Arts & Crafts look is getting black into the open grain of the oak. I have mixed my own stains using black pigments, which get physically trapped in the open grain. But the process is not an easy one. Miraculously, I have found the stain that answers my prayers. Smith and Rodgers in Glasgow (a firm founded in Victorian times) sell a Naptha stain (walnut) with a demented formula which includes bitumen. The bitumen get trapped in the open grain and the rest of the stain has a slight red tinge which helps create that old button polish colouration. The stain is a bit too dark for my liking and needs to be fixed, so I mix it 50-50 with a polyurethane varnish or danish oil. Rub it on with a cloth.

I will always follow with at least one coat of shellac because it helps fix the stain and uses a different solvent, so there is no danger of moving the stain around (the stain and the polyurethane varnish have a white spirit solvent).

The shellac can be a white polish if I don't want to change the colour or garnet/button polish if I want more of that golden/honey colour.

If we are aiming for a more brown colouration, a common "Mission" colour in American Arts & Crafts furniture, I add a bit raw umber pigments to the blonde shellac. A bit more can be added to the final coats too...

Then two, three, four coats of whatever you usually use. Most often we use danish oil (the raw umber added can be pigment or artists oil) and finally wax.

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By DaveL
Hi Ross,

Welcome to the forum. :D

Good first post, very useful information, finishing is the hardest part of a project for me.
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By Escudo
Gosh, thanks everyone for all that top and interesting advice.

Firstly Ross, welcome to the forum, I must say a great first post full of useful advice. I have made a note of that Naptha stain. The application sounds straight forward, the added treatment with the button polish sounds like just the golden effect I had in mind.

Alan, Dan, Jason. I will also experiment with the VD crystals (sounds a bit dirty that). I think it is wise to try these different approaches on some offcuts just to see which turns out best for the job. Nice little table Jason.

Like you Paul I thought the water based stains were easy, as I am sure you will agree there is a lot to this finishing lark.

I also agree Dave finishing is so important. It can make or break a project.

Thanks all, Cheers, Tony.
By Jake
The bitumen is trad victorian, it is what they used to create the classic 'dark hardwood' borders from their pine floors around the central rug, pre-carpets. In other words, the black goo and around the edges of the room which is such an buttocks to sand off for those hunting for the stripped pine look.

We are using it throughout our house, where the pine boards are being left, as we dislike the raw pine look only slightly less than we dislike carpet. I stain it with a mix of walnut and teak, then go over with yer ordinary bitumen paint diluted about 5:1 with thinners, then add a layer of shellac to stop it buggering the finish, then the finish. End result, dark dark brown pine, the grain stops it being convincingly anything else for anyone who knows wood, but it looks good.
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By BedfordSaw
Hi Tony,

For great results many of our customers use 'Rustins' spirt based dye that we supply.

We have found great results mixing Rustins stain with their Danish oil.

Not only will it stain the wood, but you can get the exact colour you are looking for...the more stain you add, the darker the colour and vice versa.

The danish oil will also help the stain to penetrate better and more evenly, aswell as finish the wood. Then apply 1 or more clear coates of the danish oil.

Hope this helps..
Hi team

My two pence worth (and I don’t intent to tread on any one toes) Forget about staining let nature do the job for it wont take long but to give it a helping hand one or two coats of garnet polish if you want a rich dark appearance thats once you have sealed the item with shellac as already said by a fellow member. If button polish doesn’t do the job use a heavy French polish. If you use an oil based or water based stain you are in big trouble if it ends up the wrong colour to remove it completely you will need TNT to remove it. Most if not all furniture produced by William Morris & Co was French polished and the rest was left to Mother Nature.

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Yes furniture manufactures like Old Charm stain there oak but that’s because they use American Red Oak and we all now that red oak is not the best but it is cheap compared to English or European oak. It was stained dark to disguise the fact that it was red oak ( remember the first oak kitchens all dark stained same reason )

As I say that’s my two pence worth.
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By Escudo
Thanks Bedford and Alan,

More interesting options to try and experiment with. I can see that everyone has their own favourite approach. I will report back when I have finished my box.

Bit more woodwork to do yet!

Cheers, Tony.