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pdovy

Arts & Crafts oak finish for beginner

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I'm pretty new to woodworking and have been making my way through a simple Arts & Crafts style side table in a class at a local woodworking school.  So far it's come out great - so I'd like not to screw it up now!  It's all white oak, with the tabletop out of quartersawn with prominent ray flecks.

 

The instructor was suggesting just a clear wiping varnish (a la TWW) since it's difficult to mess up.  I would really like a more traditional looking mission/A&C finish though, something that will really show off the grain of the oak and the QS features.  I have some spare QS boards that I can experiment on if I can find something that sounds reasonable.

 

I've looked around online and found an article by Jeff Jewitt in a back issue of FWW: http://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/article/safe-and-simple-arts-and-crafts-finish.aspx

 

That seemed like a good and not too difficult option but the stains he recommends don't seem to exist anymore, and with no experience in finishing I'm not sure of an appropriate subsitute.

 

I also saw he has a more recent guide to replicating Stickley finishes (http://homesteadfinishingproducts.com/pdf/mission_oak_rev1-2011.pdf), but it's a bit more complicated than I'd like for a first go around.

 

Does anybody have any easy recommendations for a first time finisher?

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Pdovy, I'm sure that Marc has at least one video on making grain pop. I would suggest you check out his Wood whisperer site and see what he said. I remember watching it and saying to myself that that seems simple enough!

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I use a finish similar to Jewitts and have a journal here that documents it. Also the link in my signature has a lot of mission projects and details the finish.

You can the dye from WD Lockwood.

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Thanks guys.  I took a look at your shop journal Mike (nice work!) and had a watch of a few of Marc's videos.  I think I'm going to get two different shades of brown TransTint dye, two different darker walnut oil based stains (General Finishes is easiest to get where I'm located) and some Arm-R-Seal and do some test boards and see what I think.

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==> and do some test boards and see what I think

you've got that 100% correct !

 

Now, one suggestion....

 

The schedule for popping ray fleck on White Oak for a 'Mission' look is not quite the same as popping grain/figure in maple..

 

Before going wild with stains, dyes, et al -- you might want to take a step back...  While fuming is probably not on your agenda, David Marks has a simple finish to pop ray fleck in white oak that approximates the Mission look, but with a more contemporary tone.  If you've got an hour or so, I've got some errands to run, then i'll be back in the shop and dig it out for you.

 

One question, are you shooting for the dark 'mission' tone most folks associate with GS furniture or a more natural tone?  Not a trick question -- or maybe it is :)  Actual fumed GS furniture was not quite as 'dark' as one might think -- the 'dark mission' stain you get in the store is based on what the fumed pieces look like now (with about 80 years of dirt/grime/aging/etc), not how they looked in the '20s when removed from the fuming booth...  As a side note, many folks who fume actually leave it longer then the original schedule to darken the piece to what they think mission 'should look like' -- it's a circle of perception (much like applying dark cherry stain to natural cherry because 'that's what cherry looks like').   But, if you fume according to the original schedule, the pieces are quite a bit lighter then the current 'mission brown' stains -- the furniture then ages/darkens over time...

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I'd definitely be interested in checking that out.  I'm not looking for something super dark, but probably around the same level as what Mike had linked to in his journal above, maybe even a shade lighter.  I had avoided the "mission" branded stains exactly because they looked really dark to me and I want to highlight rather than obscure the wood.

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==> I want to highlight rather than obscure the wood

 

a man after my own heart...

 

ok, back in the shop and i'll start digging...  give me about an hour to put together something for you...

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OK.. Back from errands and found a few things for you…



Background: Fumed (26%) A&C pieces have a medium-brown tone with a green cast.  The longer you fume, the deeper the brown.  A typical time is 8-12hrs.  A Tung oil is rubbed into the surface.  The result is quite a bit lighter than what is sold today as ‘mission oak’.  Non-fumed A&C pieces were typically finished with a coal-tar aniline dye (now considered a carcinogen and hard to get) -- these pieces are a bit deeper in tone and closer to a 12hr fume and lack a green cast, but also lighter in tone than today's ‘mission brown’ stains.



If I understand your goal: pop the medullary ray fleck and add some tone to get a brown that is close to traditional A&C furniture and not necessarily a ‘dark mission brown’ and remain close to the wood.  The easiest way to pop ray fleck is with some sort of oil step in the schedule.  Note: while improving every year, today’s water-based stains and top-coats don’t pop the medullary ray fleck to the extent of oil-based schedules.



You don’t mention the level of topcoat protection required….  Most A&C pieces were delivered with a Tung oil topcoat and they've been around a century...  If your piece doesn't need the abuse-protection, then maybe pass on the oil/poly blends, WB, etc… On a personal note: There are one or two decorative pieces that I just blindly applied an oil/poly topcoat out of shear habit, and then deeply regretted it later.



So a non-fumed A&C finish that I got from DM:  one thin application of TransFast ‘Mission Oak’ dye (simulates the coal-tar aniline dye from the ‘20s).  If you want to go darker, apply the dye again after about an hour.  Apply two coats of hand-rubbed Tung oil.  If your piece needs some abuse protection, use something like Arm-R-Seal.



For a more ‘out of the can’ approach: GF Medium Brown Dye, followed by a couple coats of Tung oil for little protection or two coats Arm-a-Seal for more protection.

 

For a single-can approach, you can use a Danish Oil (asphaltum).  If you apply enough coats to provide protection, the color will close to a 'mission oak' tone, but darker than an 8-hr fume... the asphaltum is a natural coal-tar derivative -- like the original A&C aniline dye...  [edit]

 

As always, test, test, test....

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Alright, I did combinations of the following and am getting medioacre results:

 

TransTint Golden Amber diluted with water at 1oz / 1qt ratio.

TransTint Dark Vintage Maple diluted with water at 1oz / 1qt ratio.

GF American Walnut Oil Wiping Stain

GF Spiced Walnut Oil Wiping Stain

 

I sanded my sample boards to 180, raised the grain and scuff sanded with 320 to remove the fuzzies.  I then applied the dye by flooding the surface and wiping off the excess.  I let that dry overnight, lightly sanded again with 320 and applied the stain with a rag and wiped off any excess.  I let that dry overnight and then applied a coat of ArmRSeal Satin (the real piece will have several coats).

 

I did get some nice colors and decided that the Dark Vintage Maple dye plus the American Walnut stain looks like the color I want.

 

The issue is that it didn't really pop the ray flecks, it's more of an even color over the surface.  Like with the bare wood, the flecks are only obvious when you view it at the right angle.

 

Is there a particular trick to getting the contrast?  I'm thinking maybe I need to wipe the stain more aggressively?  Also on my sample boards unfortunately the ray flecks are smaller than those on the table top to be finished, so that could be part of the problem.

 

I also noticed that in Mike's finish that he linked, he's applied dewaxed shellac between the dye and oil coats.  What benefit does that provide?  I tried without a separating layer since the FWW article I was trying to follow didn't include this step.

 

I'd like to go back and try TripleH's finish schedule and do it on a more dramatically figured piece of QWSO but I'm under a bit of a time crunch as I need to get the first coat on tonight to have time to complete the finish before the scheduled glue up with the class.

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I have used a shellac/very thin wiping varnish between the dye and (gel) stain coats (following the more recent Jewitt link you provided), and I think it helps to enhance the rays. I'm not sure why, so this is a guess based on my experience.  It seems the pores are smaller in the flecks than outside, so maybe a thin sealer is enough to prevent the stain from sticking in those pores, while the deeper ones, outside the flecks can accumulate more stain.

 

I guess it could be the type of stain, maybe a gel stain works better because it gets stuck in the large pores giving the "field" a darker appearance, while the rays are smooth, so it doesn't stick there.  The wiping stain (I assume is more liquid) and when flooding an unsealed surface will absorb into all the wood more evenly....maybe allow it to spend less time on the wood before wiping it.

 

Since you already have all the stuff, I would dry thinning the arm-r-seal to use between the dye and stain, before buy new gel stain.

 

Hope that helps.

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Have you though about just fuming it. Its not hard to do and if you use some common sense its not dangerous. I doubt you can buy 26% anymore so the 10% is available at most cleaning supply places. You can use household if thats all you can find. You dont need a fancy tent just some sawhorses, plastic and duct tape. Tape your shop vac hose to the inside of your tent. Run the exhaust hose outside, When its done turn on the shop vac and evauate the tent. I just use my dust collector but its outside.

Don

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==> Arts & Crafts style side table

 

==>first coat on tonight to have time to complete the finish before the scheduled glue up with the class.

 

why finish a side table prior to glue-up?  if anything, don't rush the finish just to get to assembly...  Your instructor may be understanding...

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I do a lot of Arts & Crafts style finishing and have some recipes on my blog. Here are my easiest steps.

  1. Sand to 150 grit
  2. Use a very diluted water-based dye stain. It should look like a weak tea. This colors the wood and assures that the rays and flakes will still be visible. Spray if possible, otherwise flood the surface.
  3. Let dry throughly and spray with a unwaxed shellac (Bulls Eye). This protects the dye from subsequent steps.
  4. Use Minwax Gel Stain to highlight the grain and figure. Wipe off across the grain.
  5. Let dry overnight. Spray with lacquor or use a water-based finish. Each coat will magnify the wood patterns.

-Randy

 

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Have you though about just fuming it. Its not hard to do and if you use some common sense its not dangerous. I doubt you can buy 26% anymore so the 10% is available at most cleaning supply places. You can use household if thats all you can find. You dont need a fancy tent just some sawhorses, plastic and duct tape. Tape your shop vac hose to the inside of your tent. Run the exhaust hose outside, When its done turn on the shop vac and evauate the tent. I just use my dust collector but its outside.

Don

 

I just bought some 28% from Sierra Chemical Company on Ebay..  I don't know if this is expensive or not but paid $50 for a gallon delivered..   I'm playing around with a similar type of finish except I'm using QS red oak fumed for 12 hours..

 

I'll try and post some high res pics tomorrow but here is what I was able to get tonight (I was finally able to get into town and pick up some amber shellac and dark glaze)..  This only has one coat of arm-r-seal on it and I'm still playing around with different techniques but the rays are definitely there :-)  

 

Gotta say though, not really sure about the color.  it appears similar to a "stickley" finish (or at least one of them) but not sure if it's for me..  Personally looking for more of a toasted almond / light chocolate color with lighter rays.. 

 

post-6031-0-03064500-1361841967_thumb.jp

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Try less fume time -- the amount of tannins in RO are not really the same as WO, so don't know what the result will be, but less fume time should lighten it...

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Try less fume time -- the amount of tannins in RO are not really the same as WO, so don't know what the result will be, but less fume time should lighten it...

 

Just so the OP thread doesn't get hijacked :ph34r: , I'll post more updates tomorrow on the one that I stared a few days ago with my wins / fails.. 

 

But, another thought I had was to give the wood a "tea" bath to boost the tannin levels prior to fuming..  might make a different on the color?

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Thanks guys, this is an interesting discussion.  I ultimately picked up a can of Danish Oil (Dark Walnut) last night, tried it out and decided that got pretty close to what I was looking for with a lot less work than a multi-step finishing process.

 

I'm going to sock the rest of this information away and spend some time playing with some of these finishing options on my own so I can use them on a future piece.  Since I have to keep up with the class schedule I just didn't have the time I needed to really work through a lot of test pieces and get comfortable with the process.  This is only my first piece of fine furniture and I'm really enjoying it, so I'm sure I'll have many more pieces to finish!

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