Staining Maple – The Wood Whisperer

This week’s question comes from Darin. He writes:

I am trying to finish maple to a brown appearance. I am using a dewaxed shelac as a sanding sealer and this imparts a slightly amber tone to the wood and when I apply the col. maple gel stain I get an orange tone wood instead of the brown I would like. Is there a method that you use to obtain a brown tone finish instead of the orange one I am getting.

And here was my reply:
“Hey Darin. What cut of shellac are you using? You just might be sealing the surface a bit too much, so you aren’t getting the color change you should be. Also, be sure to use a blonde shellac since that emparts little to no color at all. Do a few tests on scrap to find what works for you. I would probably recommend a 1/2lb cut to a 1 lb cut. Now if that stain still isnt dark enough, then you might want to move to a darker gel stain. The gel stain will sit on the surface more and will allow you to more effectively change the color without depending on stain absorption. Rockler has a great selection of gel stains that I use frequently. Also, if you have a spray setup, you could always use a dye mixture to get a nice even brown color. Let me know if you need more info on that method. ”

For those of you who don’t know, maple is a tricky wood to stain. It tend to absorb stain unevenly which leads to a blotchy look. By pre-sealing the wood with shellac, you can even out the color absorption. This is exactly what Darin was trying to do.

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