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Frequently Asked Questions
Start your project confidently and get the answers
to some of the most frequently asked questions
regarding wood staining.
Color - Matching Stain on New Windows to Surrounding Trim
Q: Any suggestions on matching the stain new windows to older surrounding trim, especially as the older pine trim has a deeper finish?
A: The best advice I can give you is to make samples first. Take sanded scrap of the wood on the new windows, get a handful of stain packets, and try a few out. Don’t be afraid to mix two or more colors of one type and brand to get a custom color, or thin oil based stain with mineral spirits to get a less intense color. Varathane offers ketchup pack sized stain samples for just this reason. They are cheap and it makes stain matching easy.
Color - Matching New Stain to 20 Year Old Cabinets
Q: I am remodeling my kitchen and adding red oak woodwork to the 20 year old oak faced cabinets. The finish has darkened over the years and I am having a difficult time finding a stain that will give me a good match to what I have.
A: There are several good strategies for matching colors, and they start with finishing firewood; that is, make samples on scrap red oak. Buy several stains close to the color you are trying to hit, and mix them to create your custom color. Use the same brand and type of stain and keep track of your mix proportions as you practice on scrap wood with small amounts of stain. That way, you can mix a larger batch of it later. Some companies like Varathane offer their stains in trial size samples to make this task easier and cheaper. Get as close as you can, then creep the rest of the way up to a match by adding toner in the form of One-Step Stain and Poly in an aerosol can, a spray on tinted finish that comes in a wide range of colors. Add as many coats as you need, with sufficient drying time in between, to get the color and intensity you want.
Color - Refinishing Trim and Cabinets to Match Previous Color
Q: We bought a house 15 years ago that has all the trim and oak cabinets treated with the same finish. We are about to do some remodeling and need to match this finish. The previous owner left me the following recipe: “Remove 1/2 the veechel from 2 gallons of walnut and 2 gallons of cherry. Add 1/2 gallon of natural mahogany with 1/2 of the veechel removed.” Do you have any idea what ’veechel’ is and how one would remove it? Would you suggest some alternate method to get this matched?
A: If I had to guess, I’d say he meant vehicle, the term for the clear portion of pigment stain. By letting the pigment settle in the can and removing part of the vehicle, which consists of both clear resin and solvent, you essentially make a more intensely colored stain. Of course, that only works with stains formulated in a way that the pigment settles out. Some do, some don’t.
In any case, I would not bother going that route for three good reasons. First, there’s no indication you know the particular brand and type of stain he is talking about; second, there is no guarantee that the company who makes it has not changed formulations or colors since then; and third, finishes and wood change color over time, so doing the same thing done fifteen years ago will not necessarily match the aged wood. What’s worse, all pieces of wood are different and stain only adds color to what is already in the wood. If your remodeling includes new wood, using the same stain may not work.

Here’s what you should do. Take scraps of the wood you want to finish, and make samples, sanding and preparing them the way the real thing will be done so as to accurately predict your results. You can buy a variety of stain colors in small ketchup pack sizes, and mix and match them to get a color that matches your existing woodwork.
Color - Dark Mahogany Stain for Clear Pine Shelf
Q: I have a wooden shelf made of clear pine. I am trying to match a very dark mahogany stain. I want to make sure my stain comes out as dark as the piece I’m trying to match. Do you have any suggestions for creating a very dark piece?
A: Stain by flooding the stain on and wiping it all off, leaving only what the wood has absorbed. Follow that with One-Step Stain and Poly in an aerosol can, a spray on tinted finish that comes in a wide range of colors. Add as many coats as you need, with sufficient drying time in between, to get the color and intensity you want.
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