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jasonaambute
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-21-2011
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Stain before, or after glue up?

I'm in the process of building new kitchen cabinets out of Mahogany. I have the cases (3/4" Ply), face frames, door frames, and raised panels (solid stock) cut, fitted, and ready to glue.

 

I'm having a hard time deciding whether to stain the pieces before glue up (in order to prevent the glue from penetrating the grain, or to go ahead and glue up and try to remove most of the squeeze out before it dries, which is nearly impossible and leads to more sanding time to get rid of the glue.

 

I'm leaning toward staining first, then gluing. I know after they're together there will be sanding required to get some of the joints flush/smooth, therefore requiring another application of stain in those areas. What I'm concerned about is if there will be a significant variation in the appearance of the previous stain job to what I'll need to apply afterward.

 

Just looking for some other opinions...thx! 

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ynoT
Posts: 10,474
Registered: ‎10-23-2009
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Re: Stain before, or after glue up?

Jason,

 

I'd stain before gluing.

 

Just cover the glue areas with blue tape.

Go easy with glue thus preventing big squeeze outs.

 

You want to prestain the door panel to avoid the common error where after everything is in place you see small line of wood showing.

 

Tony

"Why worry about things you can't control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you."
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jasonaambute
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-21-2011
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Re: Stain before, or after glue up?

Roger that Tony...thx for the advice. Like I mentioned I was leaning that way...

 

WRT my concern about sanding the joints and removing some of the stain in those areas, do you think I'll have to resand the entire area and restain in order to get a uniform looking finish?

 

Reason I'm asking (and may sound like a dummy) is virtually every project I've made in past years has been a natural finish...haven't used a dark stain in quite a long time.

 

OH! One more thing I just remembered. I know it's important to leave the raised panel "floating" in the door frame to allow for expansion/contraction. I assume I should use the blue tape inside the joints to keep it from getting on to the panel?

 

Thx for your time!

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Howard Acheson
Posts: 1,082
Registered: ‎10-24-2009
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Re: Stain before, or after glue up?

Let me say that any sanding you do to uneven stained surfaces will be impossilbe to re-stain without it showing.  Oil based stains contain a small amount of resin (varnish) to hold the  pigment onto the wood.  When you sand you will be removing some of the resin and pigment.  A future application of stain will not penetrate the sanded wood to the same extent as if does virgin wood.

 

Test it out before you decide which to do. 

 

Another approach is to dri-fit and clamp your parts and then sand them even.  Then disassemble, tape off the surfaces that will be glued and stain.  That way you will not be sanding off any stain.

Howie..............
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ynoT
Posts: 10,474
Registered: ‎10-23-2009
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Re: Stain before, or after glue up?

Howard gave you good example on stain work.

 

For door panel, because it wont be glued, you can stain it before the assy.

For rail and styles use blue tape on parts that will be glued.

 

Tony

"Why worry about things you can't control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you."
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Steve Mickley
Posts: 1,567
Registered: ‎10-21-2009

Welcome…

Jason;

 

…to the WOOD Magazine Forums, particularly to the Finishing & Refinishing Forum. I hope you will visit often. You will find a number of accomplished woodworkers and finishers here who stand ready to assist you with your finishing and refinishing questions.

 

By way of introduction, I made by living as a cabinetmaker for over 12 years.  During that time I never engaged in coloring wood before gluing-up frame & panels (whether doors or other casework elements).  Further, the only time I applied finish to panels before assembly was when the panel was to have a different finish than the surrounding frame.  You have already offered the primary reason in your follow-up reply to Tony; your “…concern about sanding the joints and removing some of the stain in those areas…”  This concern is well placed.  It will be virtually impossible to obtain a proper fit in joints that are stained before glue-up.  This means sanding after assembly and that will inevitably lead to significant removal of color that will require you to attempt to repair the damage to your color coat.  “Attempt” is the operative word!  It is doubtful (highly improbable) that you will be able to sufficiently match the texture of the sanded surface or to achieve a satisfactory stain blend.  Remember, stain is composed of pigment held in place by a binder, usually varnish.  The boundary between the re-sanded areas and the areas not touched by sanding will not be sharp.  This overlap will result in a perimeter of stain/binder atop residual stain/binder surrounding each joint.  You will also create slight depressions around each joint that will likely be more prominent since you will naturally be attempting to keep your sanding as confined to the joint area as possible.

 

In my view your problem is not with the stain, it is with your glue-up procedure.  In your question you wrote the following:

 

“I'm having a hard time deciding whether to stain the pieces before glue up (in order to prevent the glue from penetrating the grain, or to go ahead and glue up and try to remove most of the squeeze out before it dries, which is nearly impossible and leads to more sanding time to get rid of the glue.

 

This, in my view, is a flawed technique for removing glue squeeze-out.  (I know, Norm did it this way; but, it is still a flawed technique).  One should never attempt to wipe wet glue from a joint.  Neither should one use a wet cloth to wipe away wet glue squeeze-out.  Think about it for a moment.  Wood, even very fine textured wood, is a porous material.  Wood species like mahogany present an especially porous texture due to the size of the pores.  When glue is wiped from the surface the wet glue is literally packed into the pores.   When a wet rag is used to remove wet glue, the glue is diluted by the water in the cloth and penetrates deeper into the grain structure.  It should come as no surprise, then, that the dried glue would then be difficult to remove and would require extensive sanding to cut below the level to which the wet glue had been forced. 

 

How, then, to remove squeeze-out?  The best way is to avoid excessive squeeze-out in the first place.  Learn to apply enough glue to completely bond the joint without having large volumes of glue forced out of the joint when it is clamped.  By applying most of the glue to what will become the interior of the joint with lesser amounts at the edges squeeze-out can be largely eliminated when the joint is drawn tight.  (Heavier glue applied to the base of mortise and tenon joints will “squeeze” into the rest of the joint when the joint is clamped.  Apply only a very light film to the shoulders.)

 

Second, when squeeze-out does occur don’t attempt to remove it until it reaches the “rubber stage” (the point at which it has become firm but not yet hard).  When glue reaches the rubber stage it is easily removed with a sharp chisel or plane iron carefully worked along the joint with the bevel down.  The firm, rubbery glue will be easily lifted from the joint leaving no glue residue in the wood grain to be removed.

 

Finally, having nothing to do with the issue of glue squeeze-out, why do you feel it is necessary to apply stain to your mahogany?  Have you done a test finish to see how much the mahogany will darken beneath a clear finish; or perhaps even an application of BLO followed by a clear finish?  What finish schedule are you planning to apply?  What look do you want to achieve?  If added color is necessary you may want to seriously consider water-soluble dye in place of pigment stain…

 

Steve

 

      

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jasonaambute
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-21-2011
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Re: Stain before, or after glue up?

Tony, Howie...thx for your advice.

 

 

 

I'll get back to you later with the results!

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jasonaambute
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-21-2011
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Re: Welcome…

Steve, thanks for the welcome and your detailed response!

 

I'll try to answer as best I can...

 

First, I tried a few samples last night and came up with the same results all three of you mentioned...could not achieve a uniform "blending" between the two areas. I even tried to scuff sand an area away from the joint(taking off just the surface stain) and then re-apply finish. Didn't look too bad, but it was obvious to me and I'm not going to go down that road.

 

Second, I had learned that using a damp rag to clean up squeeze out was not advisable...not for the reason you stated (which makes total sense) but for the fact that some water could seep into the joint and compromise proper curing/bonding and may weaken the joint. I've used the technique of waiting until the "rubbery" stage before and that will be my plan.

 

Third, I'll do my best to not overload the joint with glue, especially in the corner areas. I also entertained the thought of putting in some small pieces of wax paper inside the corners, and then carefully use an exacto blade to cut out any if it appears.

 

Lastly, trust me...I really wanted to use a natural finish! Mahogany is such beautiful wood.  The problem I ran into when I did some tests on scrap stock was the disparity between the color of the veneer on the 3/4" plywood I'm using for the cases, and the solid stock used for the face frames, door frames, and raised panels. The plywood has much more of a reddish color than the solid stock and the difference stood out like a sore thumb...with both natural and mahogany stains. That little problem drove me to using the darker stain. To go on...this also led to an adventure in mixing stains to achieve the match between the ply and solid wood I wanted. I spent a number of hours mixing various stains to come up with the combination that is nearly identical.

 

What is BLO? Do you think that may solve the color difference?

 

My wife and I don't want (don't like) a glossy finish. We prefer a satin tone to the color. I like seeing the natural wood stand out rather than underneath a thick coat of poly. I also want something somewhat durable that can be wiped off should water or other things splatter on it.

 

The finishing technique I've been using in past years (I 've made dozens of military shadowboxes, flag cases, and frames for paintings, among other things) is that I sand up to 180 grit, apply the finish (normally natural), then I apply 2-4 coats of Tung Oil (buffed with 0000 steel wool in between coats). The amount of coats depends on the amount of luster I want. Then I finish it up with a coat of paste wax. (If my technique is flawed, please tell me! I can take constructive criticism)

 

I'm going to ponder all the advice over a few beers, and for a few more days. With as much time and money I've put into this project so far, patience will pay the dividends I want!

 

Thanks again for your time!

 

Jason

 

 

Esteemed Advisor
p_toad
Posts: 3,200
Registered: ‎12-31-2009
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Re: Welcome…

[ Edited ]

What is BLO

 

Boiled Linseed Oil

 

And I wouldn't be at all surprised if they have comments / questions about the Tung Oil...... 

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jasonaambute
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎05-21-2011
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Re: Welcome…

I'm interested in their comments too...I'm all for new ideas/suggestions!

 

It does look good. In fact, I recently received an email from a 2-star General I made a retirement shadowbox for about 4 years ago...said it still looks great and low maintenance to keep looking nice. Made it out of Red Oak with Walnut inlay.

 

He said he uses a slightly damp rag with lemon oil every so often and it still has the same nice luster to it...

 

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