Finishing Hickory

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lnelson

New User
Larry
Our family recently bought a house in Climax NC and FINALLY, after three plus years of renting and the tools being in storage, I have a functioning woodworking shop again. Life is good. The house needs quite a bit of work as it sat empty for 3 years before we bought it. Naturally, one of my first projects involved woodworking;building some replacement cabinets. I have pretty much completed new hickory cabinets for our laundry room but I can not come up with a decent looking finish on them. First note, I have never used hickory before. Second note, my wife is now into darker stains like they are showing in the new model homes. I picked up some minwax dark walnut stain and did some tests today. The first thing I noticed is that the finish was a bit blotchy. I am not used to seeing this on hardwoods; pine or other other softwoods maybe. Do I need to pre-treat hickory?
I really would wish that I could just do a clear coat on these cabinets as the grain and light/dark contrasts are beautiful but keeping the wife happy is priority #1. Any suggestions on a stain that might work here? The minwax dark walnut really looked kind of "colonial" and dated. Thanks in advance to anyone who is able to steer me in the right direction.
 

Steve_Honeycutt

Chat Administartor
Steve
Corporate Member
Larry,

Congratulations on the new digs.

I recently finished a project with Hickory. You can see some pictures at:

http://www.ncwoodworker.net/forums/showthread.php?t=39698&highlight=Television+stand

I used General Gel Stain. This was dark (antique) walnut. I did two coats of stain waiting at least 8 hours between coats and finished with 4 coats of clear (dewaxed) shellac. My LOML liked Candlelite in General Gel Stains, which was more reddish (I can post a picture of my test board, if you would like to see the Candlelite). Since this project was for my MIL, I went with what she liked. If I had it to do over, I would probably have tried Amber Shellac to darken it a little more. I did not have a problem with splotchiness. I don't know if it was the stain or the wood that made a difference.

The good thing about these stains is they do not raise the grain, so you do not have to sand between coats. The stain also sealed the wood to the point that the shellac did not raise the grain.

Good luck on your projects.

Steve
 

Bill Clemmons

Bill
Corporate Member
Another option may be a dye. I prefer a water based dye, but you can get alcohol or oil based too. To reduce the grain raising after I use the dye, I wet my wood down twice before the final sanding. Then after the dye is dry, I go over it lightly w/ 0000 steel wool. After that, apply one coat of shellac, then whatever top coat you prefer.

Bill
 

Jeff

New User
Jeff
Stain if you must, but hickory is really nice in its natural state with shellac or Waterlox "Original" sealer/finish. However, SWMBO is the higher priority.

Gel stains are a good way to go when you've noticed splotchiness with common pigment stains (General Finishes are good). Alternatively, you could opt to pre-seal with Zinsser SealCoat cut to about 0.5-1 lb. and then stain. Bill's dye suggestion above also is a good one to explore, but I'd guess that you'd want to spray it because there's a lot of surface area to cover quickly in order to avoid overlap and streakiness which is about as bad as splotching. :icon_scra
 

mckenziedrums

New User
Tim
TINT COAT!!! ;)

See previous posts... but try tinting the finish instead of coloring the wood. Given, it's a little trickier with really dark finishes but it's plenty doable. Or you can use a combination of dye on the wood and then the tint coat to even it out. Great way to solve any kind of splotchy finishes.

If you've got access to an air compressor or the scratch to buy one of the inexpensive hvlp turbine setups from Woodcraft (or heck, harbor freight in a pinch!) you can do this. :)
 

Woodman2k

Greg Bender
Corporate Member
I second what Jeff recommended,sealcoat with a 1lb mix (50/50 out of the can),then go with a gel stain from General Finishes ,then topcoat with a urethane or wax of your choice and it will look great.Works on Cherry real well, also. I only dye the sapwood to match the heartwood if the colors are way off.Good Luck,
Greg
 

CrealBilly

New User
Jeff
I second what Jeff recommended,sealcoat with a 1lb mix (50/50 out of the can),then go with a gel stain from General Finishes ,then topcoat with a urethane or wax of your choice and it will look great.Works on Cherry real well, also. I only dye the sapwood to match the heartwood if the colors are way off.Good Luck,
Greg


I like everything you said except the bad five letter word part STAIN, replace the bad five letter word with a good 4 letter word TONE and I'm in full agreement with you.

+1 one on dye to match sapwood to heartwood.
 

golfdad

Co-director of Outreach
Dirk
Corporate Member
I agree with Jeff....hickory is gorgeous in its natural color...BLO and then topcoat..color will pop
 
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