So a little background on this project is in order. I'm making some doors to cover a sideboard piece that we've had and it's a very dark black brown and I want the doors I'm making to match in grain and color as closely as possible. So the piece has kind of an oak grain pattern to it so oak veneer 3/4 ply seems to be fitting that bill. Door and trim are made, now for the finish.
I had to make some blocks to affix the hinges to inside the cabinet so I figured I'd start finishing these first figuring that errors here are ok. So I start with a can of black satin Polyshades from Minwax and apply 2 coats with a brush. My results were fair, an ok black but too much build up around the edges and it's kinda uneven. So I sand after the second coat with 400 paper and apply another. We have now gone from so so to awful. Splotchy with matte and glossy areas and a 4th coat helps nothing at all. Crap.
I look on the interwebs for some Polyshades advice, the general consensus is that this product is the worst thing you can find in a can. Sigh... Ok, what now? Well, I have some black aniline dye from TransTint. I've used this before but found the results a bit on the blueish side of black, but I figure it's got to be better than the Polyshades. So I mix up a batch with alcohol as the solvent, you've got to use a good bit of dye to get a deep black so I used about 2-3 Tbsp in around 1 cup of alcohol. This I tried on a test piece and was happy with the color so I began to wipe it on my doors, this was slow going so I got a foam brush and flowed it on heavy and worked with the rag to even it out. This went well and I got an even coat. To deepen the color I did all the surfaces again, this took less dye than the first time. I let this dry for a few hrs. This left me with a black surface, but still a little blue, and also the dye with the alcohol tends not to stain the open grain of oak very well. So now I still need to fill the grain some how.
Once the dye was dry I don't know why I decided to try wiping the black Polyshades over the dyed surface but I gave this a whirl on my test piece. Well presto! What I ended up with was a richer black than the dye, the Polyshades is more brown based, with a well filled grain and a subtle gloss. Super. To reach the desired level of sheen to match my existing piece I hit the test piece with some Trewax and after buffing that out I was where I wanted to be. Great. You could probably go further than this to get whatever desired sheen you wanted by topcoating after the Polyshades with additional clear poly, or perhaps even shellac.
To recap quickly my recipe for a good deep black stain:
- 2 applications of TransTint black dye diluted 2-3 tbsp to a cup in alcohol
- Flow on heavy with foam brush and wipe with cotton cloth as needed to even out
- 1 application of Minwax Polyshades black
- Wipe on with a cotton cloth at can strength, don't thin it.
- Wax or other topcoat to desired sheen level