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It’s so easy to stain and dye ash to create the color you want because it’s so pale in color and because it doesn’t blotch. Sure, you could finish this wood with a totally clear finish no problem. But that’s not what we’re going to share today. Instead, let’s look at how you can get dramatic and amazing finishes with a very simple 3-step finishing technique: color, sealer, contrast. Take a look:

Finish #1 Basic Stained Ash

ash cabinet door stained with maple stain

Ash stained with a Maple colored oil stain. Notice how well ash takes the stain. But there’s still a lot more you can do with ash.

You might not find a wood that stains as well as ash does. Its natural pale color allows it to agree with just about any color you can imagine, and basic oil stains take to it evenly without the need for a conditioner or a washcoat.

Products used: Old Masters Maple Wiping Stain

A successful stain job starts with a well prepared surface. Ash should be sanded to 220 or perhaps 320 grit, but no finer. A general rule about staining is that there’s a sweet spot at which a wood is sanded to a just-right grit. If you’ve sanded to a too-coarse grit the stain highlights scratches, and if you’ve sanded too fine the wood won’t accept the stain very well. Ash is forgiving and easy to sand, so a 220 to 320 grit window is a safe bet.

Like most oil stains, the stain pigment gets delivered into the large open pores in ash and create a darker color in the grain. With a little imagination and knowledge of how other finishing products work, you can create some exciting and dramatic finishes in ash with a little bit of stain.

Finish #2 Basic Stained Ash with Added Dark Contrast for “Tiger Fur” Appearance

Believe it or not, this door is stained with the same maple oil stain. The difference is in the two steps that followed the stain.

Believe it or not, this door is stained with the same maple oil stain. The difference is in the two steps that followed the stain.

Building on the concept of using a basic oil stain to color ash, you can also add extra contrast for a unique look. This door at right is stained with the exact same stain as the door above. The difference is that we applied another darker stain on top of the first color.

Products used: Old Masters Maple Wiping Stain, Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain.

  1. Prepare the wood by sanding to 220 grit.
  2. Apply the first stain color of your choice; this one is Old Masters Maple Wiping Stain.
  3. After that stain dries, apply a coat of clear sealer (ie Zinsser SealCoat) to create a barrier.
  4. After it dries, apply a black oil stain; this one is Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain (contrary to what the name may suggest, it’s a nearly black oil stain). Scrape it off in the direction of the grain with something like a putty knife while the stain is still wet. You may need to also use a lint-free rag to wipe off the surface. Evaluate as you work.
  5. Protect the project with your top coat of choice.

Here’s what’s happening in the process. The first stain color establishes the basic overall color you want. The sealer puts a clear barrier between the two stain colors. The second stain then won’t color the wood, instead it to only deposits color into the open pores. Simply wipe it on and wipe it off while it’s still wet.

The wood takes on a darker yellow color while the pores are darkened virtually black, creating a look that’s not too unlike the coloring of a tiger’s coat of fur.

Finish #3 & #4 Dyeing Ash with Vibrant Color and Filling the Grain with Black

You can do some very wild things with dye and woodgrain filler on ash. Bright colors, solid black, and high contrast.

You can do some very wild things with dye and woodgrain filler on ash. Bright colors, solid black, and high contrast.

Ash also accepts dyes remarkably well, and it also can be grain-filled when you want to lay down a perfectly smooth topcoat. Here are a couple of samples that use colorful dye and black-tinted woodgrain filler under a lacquer clear coat.

Products used: Solar-Lux Brown Maple Dye, Solar-Lux Jet Black Dye, Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Woodgrain Filler, Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain.

Steps used on the panel:

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Dilute your dye by 25%, apply one coat. Let it dry. Repeat until you’ve dyed the wood to your desired color
  3. Apply 2 coats of Zinsser SealCoat. Allow it to dry
  4. Mix the woodgrain filler with the Spanish Oak stain, 2-to-1 ratio (filler to stain). Use a putty knife,  scraper, rag or brush to work it into the grain
  5. While it is wet, scrape off the surface. The grain filler should remain in the pores. Then gently wipe off the surface with a rag, being careful not to pull filler out of the pores. Allow it to dry.
  6. Protect it with your favorite clear top coat finish.

Steps used to make the frame jet black:

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Apply Solar Lux Jet Black aniline dye. You may need to apply 2 coats for even coverage. Allow the dye to dry.
  3. Dye won’t reach down deep into the pores, so you might still see tiny spots of white showing through. Apply Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain. Wipe it on, wipe it off. Allow it to dry.
  4. Protect it with your favorite clear top coat finish.

Finish #5 Enhancing the Natural Contrast with a Black Wood Grain Filler

Ash likes to take wood grain filler, too. Here we left the natural color of the wood but applied a black grain filler to demonstrate the contrast.

Ash likes to take wood grain filler, too. Here we left the natural color of the wood but applied a black grain filler to demonstrate the contrast.

Why color the wood if you don’t want to? Here’s a way to improve the natural contrast in ash while keeping its main pale color.

Products used: Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Woodgrain Filler, Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain.

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Apply 1 or 2 coats of a clear sealer like Zinsser SealCoat. Spray if possible, otherwise use a cotton pad to briskly wipe it on and being careful not to overlap the sealer while it’s tacky
  3. Allow it to dry
  4. Mix Woodgrain Filler with the Spanish Oak stain in a 2-to-1 ratio, filler to stain.
  5. Apply the tinted filler with a scraper, putty knife or cotton rag and work it into the grain
  6. After about 5 minutes, scrape off the surface. The darkened filler should stay in the pores and mostly come off the wood. The dark color will not come off 100% at this time, but do not worry.
  7. Allow it to dry, then sand with a 220-grit sanding sponge. Sand until the dark color comes off of the surface wood completely. It will take some effort. However, the color will come off of the surface wood long before you happen to sand the filler right out of the pores, so do not worry if you feel like you’re sanding too much.
  8. If you want to fill the grain more, repeat the entire process starting with the sealer.
  9. Apply your protective top coat of choice, like lacquer, polyurethane, varnish or shellac.

Finish #6 Dyeing Ash Black and Adding White Contrast to the Pores

Replicate old reclaimed barnwood or a weathered wine barrel with this dying and staining technique.

Replicate old reclaimed barnwood or a weathered wine barrel with this dying and staining technique.

Here’s a slightly different approach. You can also dye ash solid black – or build on the solid black color by making this pores white. Here’s how.

Products used: Solar-Lux Jet Black aniline dye, Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Pickling White Gel Stain.

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Apply the jet black dye. You may need to do this in 2 full-strength coats. Allow it to dry.
  3. Apply a coat of Zinsser SealCoat, allow it to dry.
  4. Apply the Old Masters Picklinig white Gel Stain and wipe it off right away.
  5. Wiping off the gel stain will take some effort to lift the white completely off of the surface wood.
  6. If your final color doesn’t have as much contrast as you want, apply another coat of the gel stain.
  7. Once the stain dries, apply your favorite clear top coat finish.

Vice President of Operations – Woodworkers Source
We’re a family-owned lumber & woodworking supply retailer with 3 delightful stores in Arizona, and 35 friendly employees.
Mark oversees the company and creates tutorials on wood finishing and woodworking tips for hardwood lumber.

Discussion, Questions & Answers

  • wayne

    Mark, I’m looking to apply Finish #6 to a guitar body but the presanding will take me all the way down to about 400 grit sand paper and the pores will be very prominent or deep being so smooth. I’m wondering how effective the white gel will be on a much smoother and finely sanded wood. Do you still think it will be effective? Thanks for your video and help!

  • Jake Bee

    Super article! I would also love to hear what can be done with water based stain products which are a bit more user friendly

  • Andy Chan

    Hi Mark, thanks for your video!
    I would like to refinish my snooker cue.
    Can the method of Finish #5 be used on a snooker cue that is linseed oil finish to like shiny and smooth?

  • Julien Auberger

    Hi hey ! Thank you so much for your video!
    I am working on my guitar finish…
    One question: does the sanding sealer (shellac) from Briwax would do the same job than the sealcoat front Zinsser?
    If no, which kind of product would be similar to sealcoat ?
    Thank you so much !

    • I don’t know with certainty. If it’s dewaxed, then yes.
      Let’s work the other direction, though. Which top coat do you want to use? You can simply use lacquer sanding sealer instead of you’re going to do a lacquer top coat.

      • Julien Auberger

        So far, I thought of using a Satin yacht varnish.
        But a sanding sealer (shellac) finish seems to be a good idea though…!
        Does an oil stain would do the same job than a wiping stain? Because I can’t find any wiping stain here (uk).
        My plan is: dye (oak)the wood, then clear sealer, then oil stain (kind of dark white/beige) for the contrast in the grain, then wipe it off and finish it with shellac…
        Should work right?
        Thank you so much for your help again!

  • Matt

    Hi Mark, your video is excellent, and explains how to go about getting the effect I want to achieve. My question is about color tone. How do you recommend I get a color similar to the red in the following attachments? Thanks! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ab07639ba5453e3575888c1542d445aad5077cf92d705b5f58f68182bd332178.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/37560741d94d0824ea94f468ccfabd921b2647a259c6b46a273aa05ff2a2c06b.jpg

    • You need a blood red dye to color the wood, then use a black (or super dark brown) color in the grain filler.

      • Matt

        Thanks! I picked up the Solar-Lux Blood Red.

  • David Marty

    It’s not clear to me how you achieved the results in panel #3 This is the look I want please provide exact sequence and stains/ dyes

    • These steps apply to the products I actually used. Different products, such as a different grain filler in step 5, might need to be applied in a different order. Understanding how your products work is pretty crucial, but it’s also not rocket surgery. Do a couple of tests to get a feel for the whole process:

      1. Dye it to get the orange/red color. Behlen SolarLux Golden Fruitwood was used on this one. Dye should be diluted with water or Behlen’s reducer so you can apply 2-3 coats to build up to your desired shade. Apply dye heavy and fast, wipe off excess immediately. When it dries, lightly sand to blend lap marks and knock down wood fiber “fuzz”.
      2. After it’s satisfactorily dyed, let it dry and maybe give it another light scuff sanding.
      3. Seal the wood with a clear sealer. Here I’ve used Zinsser Sealcoat which is a dewaxed shellac. Best technique to applying it is with a pad. A spray sealer works too as long as it’s compatible with your clear top coat choice. Dewaxed shellac just happens to be quite universal and it dries fast. The goal of this step is to put a clear barrier between the dye and the grain filler in the next step. It’ll help the grain filler stick into the deep grain pockets, but let it slide off the wood’s surface. That’s how you get the visual accent in the grain.
      4. Sealer should be scuffed to remove runs, drips, dust nibs. If your technique with padding on shellac is pretty good, you won’t have any runs or lap marks.
      5. Apply the grain filler. The one used is Behlen oil based Woodgrain Filler, and it’s tinted to a nearly black color with Old Masters Spanish Oak oil stain. Instructions are right on the can. 2:1 ratio of filler to stain. Apply the filler to the panel, work it into the grain with a pad, rag, spatula etc and let it sit for ~15 to 30 minutes. Use something with a blunt edge to scrape off the excess from the surface. They make plastic grain filler scrapers, but a plastic putty knife works as well as an old credit card. Scrape off at ~45 degree angle to the grain so your scraper rides on the surface of the wood and leaves the filler locked into the open grain. May need to use some rags or shop towels to get additional residue off the wood surface, too. Depends.
      6. After it dries, you’re at a cross roads. You might want to use a synthetic finishing pad (aka “Scotchbrite”) to remove any dried filler that’s left on the surface. Or maybe not. Depends how it’s looking.
      7. You can also do another application of grain filler or just move on to your clear top coat finish. You would apply more grain filler if you’re trying to get a perfect glass-smooth surface (recommended if you’re going for a glossy final top coat). Usually it’ll take 2-3 applications to get it perfect on a wood like Ash. One application is fine otherwise.
      8. Apply a clear top coat. I used spray lacquer. You can use what ever you’re comfortable with.

  • tami


    Thank you for the reply. Sounds like your the right person to ask. Is there a way to perhaps do something like glaze them with a grey color? I really don’t want to attempt the project unless I can make them look like they were originally done that way. I’m not a fan of things when they’ve been altered and you can tell a professional wasn’t involved?

    • I know it’s nerve-wracking, but it’s also a very, very easy process. And you can undo it, while the gray stain is still wet, if you don’t like the look. Try it on the back of one of the doors. Apply the stain, wipe it off the excess.If you don’t like what you see, take a fresh paper towel dampened with Mineral Spirits and wipe it all off. Mineral Spirits cuts the stain and releases it from the surface.

      You can see the process in this video (starting about 8:30) of how to wipe on and wipe off a gray stain.

      The one I used in this project is thinner than a glaze or gel stain, so the look is different from what you’re probably going for — but the process is the same. This will help you get acquainted with it.

      • tami

        thank you so much for the info.. i am hoping to get the 80’s orange hickory to be grey and show the grain just like your standing desk does. what i’m not understanding is how will the grain grab that glaze since there is what i assume is a finish on the cabinet already??? I have seen grey cabinets with a glaze and they are beautiful. I’m sure they did the same treatment you have done on your desk, although like your project, there was no finish on the project.

        thank you so much for your info.

        • Gel stain or glaze will “stick” to the clear finish, no problem. Be sure to scuff the existing finish with something in the neighborhood of 220 to 400 grit sand paper, sanding sponge, or a synthetic finishing pad (my preference). The micro scratches will give it something to grab onto. No need to go wild, just a few swipes is all it really needs.

          It is possible to wipe off too much, but it’s also just as easy to add it back on again if you do. You’ll get the hang of it after a couple of doors, you just work it until you like it.

  • tami


    Please help. I am desperately trying to change the color of some hickory cabinet which are stained and 1980’s golden color. I am hoping to get them to either more grey toned or a darker, more saturated brownish, therefore taking away the golden/orangish tint. Many are suggesting lightly sanding and then applying gel stain. do you believe to be the best approach?

    • Don’t worry, Tami. Yes, a gel stain would work, and it’s perfectly acceptable way to do it.
      It’s probably the best way to do it, too, considering that it’s the kind of job that you’d want to get done quickly, and with the least amount of fuss, without having to deconstruct your kitchen (?). Test the gel stain color on the inside door of one of the cabinets, and have some mineral spirits handy. You can clean off wet gel stain with mineral spirits and paper towels, so don’t be too concerned with “ruining” the cabinets.

      Conversely, sure, you can have your cabinets stripped and sanded to bare wood again and have them totally refinished with a brand new look. But it would arguably be less invasive (and probably cost less) to just have them totally replaced with new cabinets.

      Do the gel stain.

    • Alisa Spilman

      I’m not sure if this is helpful or not, but I finally tried the gel stain on my cabinets after months of debating. I use the Old Masters and it was extremely easy (aside from dry time…I’m not a patient person). I topped it with a satin poly spray (also easy) and it’s held up well to the last 4 year so of heavy use (four kids). I would highly recommend it! These are (kind of) before and after pictures, really more mid project but I think you’ll get the idea. One thing I read was to make sure you mark where each door/drawer goes as it helps make sure they all hang correctly when replacing them. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/93785fee6b9e6eb48f6f354c257a89ddba0edb6213415a915bf195a3eb037d22.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ed08373ab27f7ed394a70af9713bec196269b94a21a5388d7801fd4058e187ce.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a301ccacdbbdce892d516ffca5470499b4a2f0a04c2b39520e7cd5fca39eb245.jpg

      • tami


        thank you so much for your reply and pics. Sounds like something I could do, I hope…lol
        I am hoping for a grey color. All the pics I’ve been able to find so really really dark and although that’s an option I would prefer a grey.

  • Anthony Zarrella

    Question.. Is Zinsser Sealcoat Universal Sanding Sealer the same product as Zinsser Sealcoat Wood Sealer? If not which should be used after applying the black dye? Also is this the sealer used as a clear coat too?

    • Yes, it’s the same thing. To be fair, you can use any clear finish as the sealer after the dye. SealCoat just happens to be a universal kind of sealer that’s pretty easy to use and it dries fast. I wouldn’t use it as the final clear coat, though. It’s a little delicate for that, at least for most furniture projects. What to use as the final clear coat finish depends on several things such as the kind of project it is, the kind of protection you need, how fast you want it to dry, how you want to apply it, etc.

  • Mark Hopkins

    Great videos, Mark. Very informative.
    I have a question. I want to stain already-stained wood cabinets. Now, they are a tired, brown and I want to stain them almost black. I DON’T want to sand or strip them down to the bare finish. How would you suggest I proceed?
    Mark H.
    Westerville, Ohio

    • To be fair, no one WANTS to sand or strip finish . . . so welcome to the quest! But anyway, the thing you could do is use a black or super dark brown gel stain right on top of the existing finish. Brush it on and gently wipe it off, but you’ll need to use an artist’s touch to create an even shade of color. It might sound hard, but it’s virtually impossible to screw up because if you don’t like how it’s looking you just wipe it all off with mineral spirits while it’s wet.

      However, it’ll really pay off to spend a little time scuffing the existing finish before applying the stain. It’ll help the gel stain to adhere to the finish. I’d grab a synthetic finishing pad (commonly known as Scotchbrite) You don’t need to sand down to bare wood, just give it a scuffing.

      It should go without saying that you need to clean the cabinets so they’re free of grime, oils, and other detritus of life in a kitchen. So, in order, clean the cabinets, scuff sand, apply gel stain, then top coat with a clear finish if you desire.

  • norumba

    very informative, as well as the video on the desk. ..Thans so much for sharing!
    Like others posting here, I’m working on finishing a guitar with a similar approach to #6: wanting a pretty glossy black finish with a slilver or gold metallic for the grain highlights. Researching what to use on that, but I’m curious in either instance (#6 here, or the desk project) why you didnt use a grain filler… pros/cons? would love to know your thought process, thx!

    • Sure thing. If you want glossy, you really should use a grain filler to create a good, level surface. One of the purposes for a glossy finish is to get that mirror like shine. Grain filler is one of the critical steps to getting there. The only reason for not using grain filler in #6 above is just to show that you can add accent colors to ash grain without using a grain filler. You can use gel or wiping stains instead if filling the grain isn’t important to you. Same thing on the desk. I wasn’t going for a gloss finish on the base, so I didn’t bother with a filler. The wiping stain is easier to work with than grain filler, fewer things to think about.

      • norumba

        Hi Mark,
        thanks so much, that helps clarify for me :).
        My plan is to use a water-soluble aniline dye for black, sand, seal with clear dewaxed shellac, then a mica powder mixed with water based grain filler (probably drywall compound, a lot of guitar builders are using that as grain filler), seal again, top coat. I think that should do the trick…

        • Yep, agreed. Good luck!

        • Bob Tickel

          did you get your project finished? got any pics? I am working on a similar project.

  • Paul Salisbury

    Mark, I tried the black dye and pickled oak and although the finish does look awesome (I will be using on another project), it’s a little blue. I’m struggling with this project, as the customer wants a rustic finish but does,not want a brown tone stain due to the colour of their floors. Do you have any other ideas?

    • Paul Salisbury

      Ha, I completely missed your post about the desk and keeping it from looking blue

  • Paul Salisbury

    Thanks, dye is on order!

  • Paul Salisbury

    Can the #6 technique be accomplished using black stain? or is dye the better choice?

    • I’m out of town until June 28. I will reply to your email then.

      Or you can reach customer service at 800-423-2450 or helpdesk@woodworkerssource.com
      Thanks for your patience.

      Mark Stephens

    • If you’re talking about a typical oil based black stain, no. It won’t transform the wood to solid black. You’ll get a cool look, but it won’t be the same. Use dye.

  • Kathryn Hilger

    Hi Mark!

    I made a table using ash, and I really love the natural tones and shade of the wood.
    I would like to protect it from potential damage like glass rings, and the elements in general.
    I’m not sure if I should condition the wood before applying a clear satin top coat of some kind.

    I simply want to protect the table the best way possible, and to do so without turning the wood a golden hue. Keeping it as clear as possible is my goal.

    I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

    Thank you,

    • In my experience, one of the best ways to keeping ash as light and pale as possible is to use two products. 1). seal it with Zinsser SealCoat. This does a nice job of sealing with a crystal-clear coating. 2). protect the project with a water-based finish (I’ve had quite good long-term results on ash with Deft Waterborne Acrylic interior finish. Aerosol.)

  • Veronica Clark

    Hi Mark. We have natural tongue+ groove ash paneling, that was just oilef, nothing else done. How do I sand+finish it so it stops darkening? I can’t use my arms too much, as it causes migraines, so am stumped. Please help!

  • Kryssy C

    Hi Mark, I’m a little new to using dye. I was wondering how you think #6 will work on pine? Or do you know of a link I could look and see this kind of technique done on pine. Thanks!

  • Max Gavilanez

    Hi Mark, I’d like to “Thank You” for the video, for sharing your techniques, and for suggesting to “keep an open mind”. I used your technique, but changed the order a bit, and transformed the hardwood floor finishes throughout my house.

  • alyano keny

    HI Mark, excellent video by the way! I love the look #6
    Would this process work on oak veneer also?

  • SuperStrapper

    I am just completing construction on a solid ash bed frame. I really like the look of #6, but wonder if it will be too much work to do that for an entir bed, as you mention that it can be difficult getting the gel off of the wood and I like the high contrast so it would probably need to be done twice… thoughts?

    • I think you’ll be fine. The process isn’t terribly hard at all, you’ll just want to work sections at a time, not the whole bed at once. The filler/gel won’t darken the project any more with each coat, so there’s no concern of overlapping. It will take some time to get it all done, that’s for sure, but there’s very little that can go “wrong.” Just apply it to one section, let it set up, then scrap off that section. Move on to the next. One section could be 3 of 4 square feet unless you’re dealing with parts that have details like lips, coves, curves, etc. Those will take more time.

      • SuperStrapper

        Thanks. I have been experimenting on some finished offcuts in order to try and iron out the process, and for whatever reason couldn’t get the same effect you did with the same method. I actually got an interesting result by applying the pickling gel first and then applying an ebony aniline dye.

        Regardless, it will look great and I appreciate your time in getting back to me.


  • Matthew Connell

    HI Mark, excellent video! Would this process work with a black dye on the wood, then a red dye mixed with grain filler for the pores? If so, would you still apply the main coat (black) first? Also I have sanding sealer lying around, will that work the same as the sealcoat? The finish i’m after is below and it might be a bit far fetched for someone as novice as me!


  • Javier Salcedo

    Hi Mark, i’m building a guitar now and i tripped with this video searching for a cool finish to a nice swamp ash body that an excellent luthier friend of mine hand carved. I really like the look you achieve here, and i think proceding in a similar way i can get my “goal” look, its something like this image i made in photoshop from several parts y found on internet. But, if you can maybe give me a tip or thoughts about how can i do it i will appreciate it very much.. i’ll like to have a rustic, non glossy finish, more vintagy and satin. Thank you very much, greetings from Venezuela, South America

    • Sure thing. There are a couple of ways to achieve this color, one of them his falls right into the video tutorial. Even though I didn’t do this exact color combination, the technique is the same. Dye the wood to get the dark brown color, seal it with a dewaxed shellac sealer, then use a dark-tinted wood oil based paste wood grain filler. That will get the color. Let it dry, seal it again with dewaxed shellac, then apply a satin sheen lacquer.

    • One more thing I didn’t mention or address. The finish on this guitar has a vignette or starburst-like characteristic. It’s dark on the edges and makes a subtle transition to a lighter color in the middle. There are a few ways to do this, but most often it’s done by spraying a couple of toned/tinted lacquers in series to generate the effect.

      • Javier Salcedo

        thank you very much.. and yes, in guitar world its called “sunburst”, and its done the way you said.. but the general look of dark tinted grain is what i was after.. and your tutorial will be really usefull.. 😉

  • joethecarpenter

    well thanks for the quick reply. I can now start my project with some confidence ,going to stain different color chevrons cant wait to get started thx again

  • joethecarpenter

    I want to build a desk with file cabinets. I want inlay a thin 1/4″ ash and oak and other hard woods with some of the staining done here. My question is will I have any problems with expansion and contraction using different woods? I like the different grains of some of the wood at my wood supplier.any help would be appreciated

    • You’ll be fine. Troubles with expansion and contraction have to do with conflicting grain direction (regardless if you’re mixing types of woods). But if you’re just talking about small inlays, no problem. Large panels are a different story.

  • Connie

    Hi, I am finishing some ash wood for a hammock that will be hung outdoors. I was planning on using Helmsman spar urethane to seal the wood from the elements. Could you tell me if it might be possible to do a finishing technique like the ones shown here and then seal the wood with the helmsman spar urethane? Would any of these finishing techniques cause problems for how the wood might respond when exposed to outdoor elements? Thank you, I found your video to be a great resource! Connie

    • I’m not acquainted with using Helmsman spar, so I can’t be certain. But I believe that particular spar varnish can be used on top of wood stain. Better check the can to be sure. Some brands cannot.

  • James

    Would finish number 6 be suitable for a swamp ash piece of wood? I am new to this but want to replicate finish 6 on a swamp ash guitar body- also can I polish it up using tru oil? The dyes won’t have any reaction to the tru oil will they?

    • Sure, that would work on swamp ash. Tru oil will work with the dyes. Stains, on the other hand, might be a problem. But I don’t know that for sure. Better check with Tru Oil for certainty.

  • Florance Tebbutt

    Hi Mark, i’m a university student in London studying jewelry design and am completely new to the world of wood but am very keen to do a project with coloured grain! My home kitchen is ash with a blue coloured grain (see image attached) and I was wondering whether you could advise how this finish was created. My parents have no idea as it was kept a “trade secret”! For my project I have designed a series of wooden pendants, 20 in total with 4 colour variants. I know you’re state side so I was also wondering whether you could recommend any brands of stain or gel that I could get hold of here in the UK? Sorry for all the questions, I’m just so intrigued as your video made the process seem so achievable and really visually stunning! Thank you so much,
    Florance Tebbutt

    • Wow, I’ve never seen anything like it! But here’s what I would do to try to replicate the look. The process is just like finish #5 above. Seal the ash with dewaxed shellac. Then I’d try a paste wood filler and I’d tint it with oil based artists tints. Mixol is a European brand. To achieve the right shade, you’ll need to perform several tests by mixing blue, red, yellow, and/or black to dial it in to right where you want it. I don’t know for sure if that’s how that look was made, but that’s where I would start.

    • After a little more thought here . . . A more straight forward method would be to simply paint the ash with the blue color of your choice (water based latex, probably), then sand it off. The color will remain in the grain.

  • James

    Hi, Mark! Regarding Finish #6, how many coats of Old Masters Pickling White Gel Stain were applied ()and wiped off) for the example shown in the photo? For my project, I might want slightly LESS contrast — so I’m hoping that example had at least two coats. Then I’ll just use one.


    • It’s been a while, but I think I did put on two coats. Try one coat and see how it goes, but there’s a bit of a catch. The gel stain also leaves a very thin layer of color on the surface, which is why the door in my picture appears grayish rather than black. One coat of the gel might not do what you’re expecting, but try it on a sample (and make a sample with two coats of stain, too, so you can compare the difference).

      If that’s still too much contrast try a thinner oil stain instead of the gel. Old Masters in particular makes all of their oil stain colors in three viscosities and gel is the thickest. The Penetrating stain is the thinnest, and the Wiping stain is in the middle. I’d be inclined to try the wiping stain as well, just to see how that changes things.

  • joel

    Any ideas how to stain ash an opaque white but still have the grain show through? I tried using Minwax white pickling stain but it is too transparent and I get too much of the wood color. I was thinking of trying thinning some latex paint and using it as a stain.

    • Use a stain but be sure it’s a gel stain. Not just any stain but specifically a gel. They’re just the thing for going for an opaque coating over your wood. I presume you used a “regular” Minwax stain, not their gel?

      Thinning paint will be fine, as wood stain is more or less the same thing as thinned paint. But you’ll need to experiment to get your dilution just the way you want it. Therefore, I’d suggest just buying a pickling white gel stain.

  • John C.

    Regarding the Solar-Lux Golden Fruitwood Dye, do you know what the close equivalent color of that would be in the Old Masters Wiping Stain? Thanks.

  • John C.

    Regarding finish #3 and #4. You indicate that one uses Solar-Lux Brown Maple Dye. Is this the reddish looking one? What is the other one? Solar-Lux Golden Fruitwood Dye? Thanks.

    • Actually it’s the other way around, John. Golden Fruitwood is the reddish one. The other is Brown Maple.

      • John C.

        Thank you!

  • Áron Berényi

    Hy! Amazing description, and ideas.
    Could I do the filling part with black wood putty? If I want an oil finish (Danish oil)? Because somebody said me that if I want an oil finish I couldn’t do that, just with laquer finish. If I couldn’t do it with wood putty, what about with grain filler? It is also wrong in this case?

    • Try Timbermate wood filler. It will fill the grain and accept the Danish oil. Plus it is available in a black color, as well as other colors. You’ll thin it with a little warm water (~10% so it takes on the consistency of ketchup), and apply it right to the bare sanded wood. It dries fast. Scrape it off while it’s still a little wet, go diagonally across the grain. Then sand it once it’s dry to get it off the surface. Repeat until you’ve filled the grain to your satisfaction. Then apply your Danish oil.

      Of course, test the process on a piece of ash so you get the feel of it before doing it on your project.

      • Áron Berényi

        Hi again, I’ve looked after this topic a little bit, and because of i wasn’t able to get any black wood filler, I tried several other methods too, and I’ve found that i could replace the filler with black oil based stain (or paint?) And it looks exact the same, that i want. It is easy to work with, and i can use oil finish over it. What do you think about this method? Has it any disadvantage compared to the filler? ( Yes, it may not fill so well, but it isn’t a big deal)

  • Dazz

    Hi there,
    Just watched you YouTube clip and I feel it could be the answer to solve my problem which is ,I am trying to find away to stain my guitar like this guitar on this guitar site http://www.mayones.com/en/katalog/signature_guitars/Mayones_Regius_6_Katatonia_II
    Is this possible by using the same example in your last door in the clip.
    All help much appreciated thank you Darren

    • In short, yes. I can’t say I’ve replicated that look before, but the way to achieve it is by coloring the wood one color and coloring the open grain another color. In this case, that’s red and black.

      So you could color the wood red and the pores black, or do the opposite. Here’s how I’d do it. Dye the wood bright red. Then seal it … and seal it well, maybe two or three coats just to be certain. Then fill the grain with something black. That could be oil based paste filler that’s stained black, or water based black wood filler (ie Timbermate “Ebony”) or something else that gets the job done. Then top coat it with your lacquer or whatever.

      However, I think Mayones does the opposite (black body with red in the grain pores). So the body would have been dyed black first, then filled the grain with bright red-tinted grain filler.

      I hope it helps.

      • Dazz

        Hi mark.
        Thank you very much for your reply ,that’s does help very much ,now I just need to do lots of testing.
        Thanks again Dazz

  • Walter

    Maybe this will work.



  • Walter

    Sorry, thank you for the input. It is very much appreciated. I like you’re your techniques on Ash it is a long time since I have used it and should do so again.

    This is what the plank looks like. Sand and stain again then sealer, and an image of the poster.


  • Walter

    “Without more info about the poster and your application, it’s tough to give good directions about that part.”

    What information do you need?

    The stain on the wood is oil base, then nitrocellulose sealer using lacquer thinner then 3M 27 adhesive on the poster pasted on to the board and finished with clear polyurethane (several coats).


    • I was curious about how you were adhering the poster — if indeed it was going to be displayed outside, and what your intentions/hopes are for the final project. All of that plays into how to decide on your finishing process. I don’t believe the polyurethane will adhere to that kind of sealer over the long haul. If you’re dedicated to the poly, then use a sealer that’s compatible instead of the nitro/lacquer sealer. There are several other considerations to make here, too. The wood expansion and contraction might cause the poster adhesive to fail over time. I’d be thinking about ditching the wood panel and using a different substrate. Aluminum perhaps. You could put a wood frame around it if you wanted the look of wood around the poster.

  • Walter

    Hello, I need information on what product to use.

    I intend to place a poster 28.5 x 37.5 inches, over a wood plank 32.5 x 41.5 x 1.5 inches (very dry pine) however, I am not sure how to proceed.


    The project has an exterior application.

    The wood will be oil stained.

    The poster is a thick semi-shine paper that has been rolled in a tube, It can be flattened out but it will not be totally flat – What type of glue should I use?

    A polyurethane finish (sprayed) with several coats, on all sides – Will this be sufficient for an exterior application?

    Further, I would not like to use epoxies or two part pour on finishes. Having once attempted a similar project with a much smaller poster, calendar size, with disastrous results.

    Any further information and assistance will be greatly appreciated.


    Walter A. Copenhaver

    P.s. I saw your video “6 Easy & Fantastic Finishing Techniques for Ash Lumber” and decided to ask.
    P.s. I saw your video “6 Easy & Fantastic Finishing Techniques for Ash Lumber” and decided to ask.

    • An exterior polyurethane will be more or less fine for a wood finish on an exterior project. That’s not to say it’ll last forever. The sun and the weather do what they do with enough time and exposure. Without more info about the poster and your application, it’s tough to give good directions about that part.