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Staining Doug Fir

bmyyou's picture

Staining Doug Fir (post #112562)

Is there a recommended technique for staining doug fir? We have a new doug fir entry door that I would like to stain, but I haven't been pleased with the stain samples I've made. I tried a few techniques:
1) water based lt. oak dye, dark walnut oil stain, shellac seal coat, finisher's glaze
2) shellac 1# wash coat, dark walnut oil stain, finisher's glaze

unfortunately the brown paint technique looks the most even so far; the grain lines are very tight on the door so it might stain better, but my sample board has more figure.

Thanks for the feedback,
Brian

jackplane's picture

(post #112562, reply #1 of 8)

what are you trying to achieve? doug fir can have pronounced dofferences in color in early wood v late wood. even this out? or more grain clarity? gloss or semi-gloss sheen?

Expert since 10 am.

Expert since 10 am.

bmyyou's picture

(post #112562, reply #4 of 8)

jackplane,
I'm interested in evening out the finish so the vertical grain lines don't overpower the finish. The door is a craftsman style door with a dentil shelf, and we would like the finish to show the wood but not show the dark stripes that you get with a straight oil-based stain finish.

forestgirl's picture

(post #112562, reply #6 of 8)

"I'm interested in evening out the finish so the vertical grain lines don't overpower the finish."  Ohhhhh, that breaks my heart.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

bmyyou's picture

(post #112562, reply #7 of 8)

Normally that would be okay, but I'm afraid the vertical grain lines on a large surface area like a door will detract from the beveled glass, dentil shelf, and raised panels. The grain lines are pretty thin and closely spaced so it may not be a problem; will try the gel stain glaze approach

crashj's picture

(post #112562, reply #2 of 8)

I finished a huge fir conference table a few years ago with some minwax 2 in one type finish. While the color went on looking really good with the fir, it was such a pain to work with I recommend against that route. If it's all straight grain fir or cvg like it sounds, the stain should take pretty evenly if you apply a compatible sealer first.
I think pine is used a little more often for furniture- but similar qualities to fir, so I'd look for tips there too.

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #112562, reply #3 of 8)

Let me point you to a article in Fine Homebuilding magazine for September 2009 (Issue 205)  written by finishing guru Peter Gedrys. 


He outlines five steps for an excellent finish on similar doors.  It's similar to, but not identical to your first schedule.   1) He starts by sanding with 150 grit, raising the grain, and finish sanding with 180 grit.  Note this sanding is all done by hand--sanding block with the grain, not ROS.  2)Then he applies a wash coat, either of shellac or water (you need to test which works for your door) The shellac wash coat is very thin--3 parts DNA to 1 part 2 lb. cut shellac, such as seal coat.  That's less than 1/2 lb. cut.  3) he uses a water soluble powdered dye (in his examples, and often a good choice, he uses a medium yellow color.  I can tell you from experience that this can look just plain awful at this point.  Peter just calls the dye dull until a sealer is applied. He seals the dye with a coat of shellac.  This calls for a light touch--no brushing back and forth or vigourous wiping which could lift the dye.  If a test reveals you have a problem with this, you could use the Zinsser aerosol shellac to set the dye, and then apply second and third coat of liquid shellac to give a more complete sealing.  4) he applys a glaze.  For this he recommends an oil based gel stain, thinned with a bit of glazing medium to give a better consistency and to extend working time.  Then finally he 5) locks in the glaze with another gentle shellac coat--again the aerosol is safe, followed by top coat of choice.  I'll suggest that for exterior doors a good varnish would make sense, and if it gets sun, the exterior could well be a good marine spar varnish for added durability against the sunlight. 


Now, my discription isn't full enough that you should avoid digging up the article.  It has helpful pictures and many more descriptions of materials and techniques. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

bmyyou's picture

(post #112562, reply #5 of 8)

ok - I'll definitely look up the article. I have used water based dyes on maple before and know what you mean about first impressions after application; thought I ruined the piece when I first applied it, but the warmth really started to show when I put the finiser's glaze.

Thanks for the reference!

popawheelie's picture

Steve, I've bought a fir (post #112562, reply #8 of 8)

Steve, I've bought a fir entry door and am researching a finish for it. Is the finish you describe in the article a dark brown red? Before I got the article I wanted to ask.

"There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
Will Rogers