Step 5: Add color

John Thomas brushes on very thin coats of a water-based glaze
Photo: Wendell T. Webber
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To even out the maple's blotchy color, Thomas brushes on very thin coats of a water-based glaze that he mixed himself using dyes and pigments. The wood gets darker with each coat he applies; in this case, it takes two glaze coats for Thomas to approximate the original mahogany stain. But he can't just apply a glaze over a glaze, because the two would dissolve into each other and smear. So after the first coat of glaze, he wipes on a barrier of 1 part gloss spar varnish diluted with 2 parts thinner.

The invention of modern penetrating stains in the 1960s made it easy for homeowners to get a consistent color, but those stains work best if a clear sealer of lacquer or shellac is applied to the wood first.

Pro Tip: Maple, cherry, and pine don't absorb stains evenly, but you can give these woods a uniform color with aniline dyes.
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    Tools List

    • Natural-bristle chip brush
      Natural-bristle chip brush (for stripper)
    • putty knife
      Putty knife
    • pull scraper
      Pull scraper
    • Dental tools
      Dental tools
    • Toothbrush
      Toothbrush
    • shop vacuum
      Vacuum
    • Natural Bristle Brush
      Natural-bristle stain and varnish brush

    Shopping List

    1. Denatured alcohol

    2. Paint stripper

    3. Fine steel wool

    4. De-waxed shellac (Seal Cote)

    5. Cotton rag

    6. Cheesecloth

    7. Water-based glaze

    8. Wood dye

    9. Gloss spar varnish

    10. Mineral spirits (paint thinner)

    11. Satin spar varnish