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Finishing a maple train table

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Hey guys,

I hope everyone is all set for the weekend. I recently purchased an unfinished maple train table for my son's birthday (he is turning 2 and loves Thomas). We wanted to purchase it unfinished so we could stain it to match our living room (dark wood everywhere). I am very new to the woodworking world, so I have been doing a lot of research on how to darken this wood without any problems.

I was planning on going with the process outlined by Marc in his coloring blotchy wood video. I was going to go with a shellac sealer first, then a general finishes gel stain, and I am trying to figure out what the best top coat would be. I would like to go with a water-based poly so the color is preserved, but I haven't been able to confirm this is an acceptable last step for my project.

Any advice/guidance would be greatly appreciated!

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Your process is perfect and easy.

Yes, General Finishes water based poly can go right over their Gel Stain, just wait a couple of days between for best adhesion.

One trick I've found with the darker stains to prevent clumping in the corners and edges is to apply the gel with a rag or brush and wipe off well. You'll have a bunch left in the corners though. Use a stiffer, large paint brush to feather out the clumps. Dig into the corners and spread the clumps out. Keep this brush dry and clean while you're working. I whack it against a towel to keep it fresh.

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Of course you can put a General Finishes water-based topcoat over a General Finishes gel stain. THE KEY IS...make sure the stain has COMPLETELY DRIED! One week is good, 2 weeks even better. That's just me.

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Thanks for the quick responses...I just needed that little bit of confirmation to boost my confidence since this is the first time I have ever finished anything and it is a birthday gift that we hope to have in our home for quite some time. I will try to post some pictures once it is complete!

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Maple can be tough to stain dark. Dyes might be a thing to consider. Make sure your top coat is scratch resistant. Trains and toys have lots of corners.

Another thing to consider is a tinted finish, thin layers until you achieve the color you want. Topcoat with clear.

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Maple can be tough to stain dark. Dyes might be a thing to consider. Make sure your top coat is scratch resistant. Trains and toys have lots of corners.

Another thing to consider is a tinted finish, thin layers until you achieve the color you want. Topcoat with clear.

The gel stain he mentioned is a thick, tinted finish. It covers any wood very, very well. Better than any dye stain could do.

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Update:

So Sunday night I put a coat of Bull's Eye wax free shellac on and then put the first coat of stain on last night. I am really showing how green I am at woodworking with this project unfortunately. Having little experience, I thought the pieces came from the manufacturer pretty well sanded, so I didn't sand before applying the shellac. Also, I didn't see Marc sand the shellac before adding the gel stain in his video, so I did not do this either...so far I am thinking I should have done both. I have attached a picture of two of the side rails to this point so far...I don't think it looks very good, but let me know what you guys think.

At this point I am thinking I should just push through adding another coat or two of the stain and work on getting the project finished by my deadline, which is in 7 days. If I were to do it all over again I think I would have done a better sanding job from the start and tried Charles Neil's pre-color conditioner...seems like that may have yielded better results. I guess this project is just going to have to have a story behind it for now.

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Well my wife was really happy with the first coat, so maybe I am being a little too critical. Overall I would def take a different approach next time and I may refinish it in a few years once I get some more knowledge and experience under my belt. Here is a picture of the second coat...we are debating a third coat, but haven't decided.

Areas that were accepting more stain become more noticeable with the second coat, so I am a little nervous to make this even more pronounced with a third coat. We will see...

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Thanks guys...the little man loves it and I am pretty proud of the way it turned out considering this was my first finishing experience. I have def been bitten by the woodworking bug and am working on setting up shop in the garage. Here is a picture of the finished train table before it went inside and got loaded up with trains. Can't wait to get into the next project and looking forward to sharing everything I am learning with my son when he gets older.

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Thanks! Yeah, I am discovering that...I am currently selling my motorcycle to fund my woodshop start up. I am also lucky to have a father-in-law who has years of experience and a sweet shop to work in where I can learn. He and my brother-in-law are giving me tools left and right that they don't need, so I should be really up and running in no time. On top of that my wonderful wife gave me a coupon for father's day good for a woodworking class of my choice. It shouldn't be too long before I actually know a thing or two!

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