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Ask the Staff


I am refinishing an old dresser (1986 vintage). It is made of a white pine or similar species. It has been stripped and I want the original deep red color. About the color of bing cherries. A lot of the Chippendale furniture had this color.

I have tried some samples of stain and am not satisfied with the result. Opaque stains don't seem to be the answer. I need a tinted transparent or translucent finish. A stain or dye aren't going to measure up because even though the wood is stripped, my samples were "blotchy". Any spot that still has a trace of the original finish is going to be lighter, even though the wood appears clean and completely stripped.

There used to be varnish stains which were a one step finish. They had a tint in them and they gave a uniform color, if the base color was uniform then the finish would be uniform also. Adding more coats gave a darker tint.

MinWax makes Polyshades but none of the offered tints are the deep red color.

I am open to suggestions at this point.

Thanks for your help.



Because Chippendale style furniture was generally made of mahogany (and in America, furniture makers often used cherry rather than mahogany), getting a deep red color was easier since the background color of the woods were reddish to begin with.

Pine will be more difficult to get to a deep red, even (mahogany) color. It is pine and as you've seen, and it can be blotchy as you try to color it. Attempts to minimize blotching usually lessen the intensity that a wood can accept color (because slightly sealing the wood to get even color absorption means the wood does not take the color as readily since it is sealed.) Also, if you think you have areas that are not completely stripped, they will be problem areas as far as taking color as evenly as bare wood. Whether you use products that are one step or you use multiple products, I think it may take more glazing effects to get a color you seek. This will hide some grain definition of the wood. More than likely it will take staining, glazing, toning and then the final clear top coats to get you a finial finish you like.

The product you mention has pigment mixed into the varnish. As you add more coats, the color layers on itself and darkens the color some. You could add Universal tint color to the product in an attempt to add the red hues you want. Whether or not this will give you what you want, only your test samples would reveal the answer to you.

If you do not already own a book on wood finishing, we recommend Understanding Wood Finishing , an excellent book that will help guide you through staining, dyeing, glazing and toning.


Ed Scent
Highland Woodworking

Check out the Book that Ed suggests
Visit Highland Woodworking's Wood Finishing Supplies Department

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