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How do I get an espresso finish?

September 11, 2010 |
40 replies [Last post]
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Joined: 2010-08-31

I just finished cutting out my very first project today (the entryway bench/shelf unit). I want it dark like the espresso finishes but with a hint of red undertones (maybe mahogany?) for warmth. What stain(s) do I use to get the desired effect? Or is there a paint that would give the same tones? OH...I'm using pine if that matters. My husband thinks it would be better just to paint it and get it done but I want to eventually get all my furniture to match and I want this darker color so I'm willing to put in a bit more elbow grease to get it the way I want it right from the start.

Thanks for the help.

Michelle

wahome's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-07

I just finished the console table with pine. I too wanted an espresso finish. I picked up Minwax wood finish in Jacobean. I don't have the red undertones you mention, I imagine you would want to use a two layer and some sort of red mahogany or chestnut as your first layer.. I also made sure to use a pre-stain wood conditioner, as this is recomended for light, soft woods, like pine.  I am very happy with the color. I only  used one coat of stain, and let it soak in for 15 minutes.  I will post a pic later today so you can see the color.

Cori

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Joined: 2010-08-31

That would be awesome! I bought the jacobean yesterday but everything I looked at online didn't look like what I am wanting. That could be cause they stained oak with it though. I was thinking a mahogany base too but I would like to see how dark the jacobean gets before I decide.

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Joined: 2010-09-05

You can mix stains if they are the same type (oil with oil, gel with gel, water-based with water-based).  My favorite blend is General Finishes Gel stain – half Georgian Cherry and half Java … it is a very dark, slightly reddish brown color. Straight Java gel stain is a deep chocolate brown (like the fancy furniture places that Ana knocks off so well).

http://www.generalfinishes.com.....gel-stains

 

Be careful with "red mahogany" and other red stains because red is really intense. I used half a tiny can of red mahogany oil stain per quart of dark brown walnut stain to get a color like an old oak floor – brownish/reddish.

Do test staining on bits of scrap wood from your project until you like what you get … write down the quabntities you used.

 

1 tsp + 1 tsp for testing can be scaled up to 1 can + 1 can for a room full of furniture when you like the color.

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Cool...those colors look like the piece we have that I'm wanting to match. Do you have any photos of the finished product using that blend of stains?

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Joined: 2010-09-05

Seriously, it takes some experimenting with scraps of wood
and different recipes. Start with a brown that is a bit darker than you
want, and when you add a small amount of the reddish stain it will
lighten up.  Mix using known volumes of each stain - if you test using teaspoons, you can duplicate it using pints, gallons or buckets.

 

Here's the laundry room cabinet refinish (wiped over the top of walnut).  I ended up making them darker by using a second coat of Java.

http://www.associatedcontent.c.....ins.html 

 

This is oil-finished pine and fir, done with a mix of oil-based liquid stain (cherry and a walnut)

http://i46.photobucket.com/alb.....3units.jpg

 

If you are staining pine or fir, they have areas that will "grab" so you have to start with a pre-stain conditioner that prevents it.

ferbit's picture
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Joined: 2010-08-30

I used two 15-minute coats of Minwax red mahogany on the storage daybed (plywood & pine) and loved how it turned out.  I made sure to use wood conditioner first to give it a very smooth, even tone.  You can see the photo in my signature below.  I would experiment with blending red mahogany and the Jacobean on some scrap.  I'd love to see your test results!  :)


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Joined: 2010-08-31

OK, so I've decided to go with the General Finshes Java gel stain. I made a 20 mile trek to the north side of town to the only place here that carries it and fell in LOVE with the color on the rather large sample they had out. I've just completed building the shelf and am waiting to get the bench finished to start staining them both. I'll post pictures of the finished product. I'm so excited. Thanks for all your help!
Michelle

wahome's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-07

Okay, so I was a bit behind on posting the finished table, that's what I get for having twins…:) but here it is. I have a before and after. I used the minwax prestain conditioner and the Jacobean stain. 

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/2.....otostream/

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/2.....otostream/

Cori

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Its saying the photos are private and won't let me see them. Totally understand on the kiddos keeping you busy. I've got a 5 yr old boy and an almost 2 year old girl. They are a handful. =)

wahome's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-07

Okay, so here I try again. I do usually set all my photos to private, so I had to go uncheck them.

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/2.....2@N06/4993

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/2.....2@N06/4993

Cori

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Joined: 2010-08-31

That's not bad at all for just 1 coat of stain. I wonder how much more stain it would absorb with additional coats.

My project has come to a halt. The baby got sick, then hubby got sick and today I started feeling puny so it all just sits on the back porch waiting for me. We're supposed to get rain the next 2 days so maybe Sunday I can try to get started on the staining. I am so anxious to see how its gonna turn out.

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Another question, slightly straying from the original topic but not totally...our poor dining room table (which I will be replacing once I build the kids new beds=) ) is terribly scratched on the top. its a dark rosewood/cherry/mahogany kind of shade. Do you think the base and chairs remaining that shade would look awful if I refinished just the top of the table with the Java stain? Since it's all I have and the table isn't very big, I thought it might work. I just don't want it looking like somebody went all ADD on it while refinishing it. My parents bought it for us and apparently got jipped on quality cause the finish is blistering and peeling off leaving huge unstained chunks of bare wood. Also if you lay a magazine or paper down on it with print facing down, the ink stains the finish so it looks like parts of the table have been run thru the printer. =P
My husband would probably think I'm crazy for wanting to even try refinishing it a different color, but it needs help so I figured I'd ask the "pros".

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Ok. I just finished applying the 1st coat of Java stain to the shelf and wanted to share a pic. Its out back drying right now. Will do a second coat tomorrow, then Tues will start on the satin urethane finish. I'm so excited.

Hope the link works.
http://www.facebook.com/photo......1387787838

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Joined: 2010-09-05

darlintxmomma said:

Another question, slightly straying from the original topic but not totally...our poor dining room table (which I will be replacing once I build the kids new beds=) ) is terribly scratched on the top. its a dark rosewood/cherry/mahogany kind of shade. Do you think the base and chairs remaining that shade would look awful if I refinished just the top of the table with the Java stain? Since it's all I have and the table isn't very big, I thought it might work. I just don't want it looking like somebody went all ADD on it while refinishing it. My parents bought it for us and apparently got jipped on quality cause the finish is blistering and peeling off leaving huge unstained chunks of bare wood. Also if you lay a magazine or paper down on it with print facing down, the ink stains the finish so it looks like parts of the table have been run thru the printer. =P

My husband would probably think I'm crazy for wanting to even try refinishing it a different color, but it needs help so I figured I'd ask the "pros".


I would sand the top lightly to get rid of the old finish and re-stain the whole thing. .  Just checkled my stain mmix, and it is 1/3 Georgian Cherry (for reddish) and 2/3 Jave (for dark brown).

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Joined: 2010-09-23

Minwax dark walnut makes a beautiful rich dark brown on pine. Not reddish, but you could mix it with a red toned stain I'm sure. I've found the Jacobean to be a little cooler or more of black-toned brown than the dark walnut.

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Joined: 2010-09-20

I know this is late for the original poster, but in case others find this thread, I want to second the above poster who mentioned General Finishes stain. I used the EF espresso stain for my media cabinet and bookcase and I loved everything about it! In one coat, it created a beautiful dark espresso with rich undertones. The guy at the Rockler store told me that you have to like the color after one coat because additional coats won't change the color with this type of stain (I ended up doing a bit of touch up to ensure full coverage but this did not affect the color. Which made it REALLY forgiving, because I could just keep putting stain on without worrying about blotching (this is with Red Oak). Additionally, I am building in an apartment and it was great to have a water-based stain that hardly smelled and was SUPER easy to clean up (I even dropped a bit on the carpet and you can't tell where, just a bit of soap and warm water and it's gone!). 

I topped it off with several coats of poly and I'm pleased as punch about how it worked out. So easy to work with, so easy to clean up, recommended for children's furniture because of it's relatively low toxicity for a stain AND beautiful! This was my first staining project and I think I'll be using General Finishes stains for a loong time!

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/5.....94010@N22/

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/5.....103508481/

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06

Thanks for the stain recommendation--especially including the low-odor, water clean-up part.  I want to refinish our dining room table and I think I will go with the General Finishes in espresso based on your experience.  It is pine rather than oak, but I'll take my chances.  I want to build/buy a new one in the next few years anyway, but it is in such sorry shape right now that it is embarrassing...

 

Your projects turned out fantastic--great job on them!

pinktoesandpowertools.com

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Joined: 2010-09-20

Thanks! I would highly recommend chatting with someone at a Rockler or other woodworking store about your plans - they were really helpful to me and would know whether you might want to pre-condition on a soft wood like pine to make sure it comes out consistent. Since it seemed to just dye everything the color I wanted, I would imagine it should work great, but that way you don't have to stress about it. I didn't know anything about staining and just asked a million questions while I was buying it and it turned out awesome and was even fun to do.

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Joined: 2010-08-31

nickybecky1 - your projects look awesome. I love that color. I wonder how well the water based colors work on pine. I had the GF gel stain (which is oil based) recommended since it sits more on top of the wood...It still stains it but I guess it doesn't sink in quite as deep or something. It still looks awesome but if you aren't careful, your arms will look almost black like mine did for several days afterwards. =) How long did the WB stain take to dry? How long did you wait between coats? The gel stain says to wait 8-24 hours between coats. What poly finish did you use?

Kristen - I like the concept of the water based better too...guess you can test it on pine for the rest of us and see how it takes. =) I did have to condition the pine with a mix of 50/50 shellac and denatured alcohol (but thats what the guy at Woodcraft recommended for the oil based stain, not sure if its the same for waTER BASEd) (sorry my 2 yr old started playing with the caps lock). It dried in a few minutes and was ready to start staining. I can't wait til I get the time to finish my projects. Mine are still just how they are int my photos up above...1 coat of stain on the shelf and a bare nekkid bench. We've had too much going on for me to finish them and this weekend is booked up solid with the church so its a no-go too. =(

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Joined: 2010-09-20

darlinxtmomma - The WB stain dried SO fast! It was not very messy at all and mostly came off with hot water and soap. I waited 2 hours between coats but I think it actually dried much faster than that. I used the GF High Performance water based Poly-Acrylic blend top-coat and did 5 coats (I was able to do this in one day with a 2 hour wait in between). After the 2nd coat, I gently buffed in between each coat because the Rockler guy said this helps the finish fill in until it is smooth. After 5 coats, it is pretty smooth, but if I wanted it to be really really smooth, I would just keep on putting on the top coat. It's also important not to over-brush either the stain or top coat because you can take off layers apparently.

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Awesome on the fast drying time. I will definately have to try that next time. With the gel stain, I actually wiped it on with an old tshirt i cut into strips and folded up, then just dipped and wiped it on. I did have to use a small brush for the corners and cracks and such but thats not a big deal. I also like that the water based doesnt seem to be too smelly since i will be moving into the garage to work once it gets cold rather than using my back porch.

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Joined: 2010-09-20

I bought a pack of foam brushes and used them. There was actually nothing to wipe off, like I hear you need to do, it was as easy as painting. I was also relieved that it wasn't smelly because I don't have a garage or any outside space - I built and stained the whole thing in my guest bedroom!

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Joined: 2010-08-31

That's awesome! I was thinking about using a foam brush on mine but then I realized I would have to buy in bulk because I don't have anything to clean up the oil based stain...so I just stripped one of my DH's holey t-shirts and folded it into small pieces and used that. I also didn't have anything to wipe off. I have enough strips of shirt left that I can just let the one I've been using dry out then pitch it and get a new one for the next layer. Also had to let the shellac/denatured alcohol cloths dry out because if you pile them up wet, they could ignite. That is also a stinky combo.

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06

I had to come back and tell you guys thanks for all the advice on getting an espresso finish!!  I love, love, love the General Finishes stain and poly--thank you so much nickybecky!!  I mentioned you on my blog and pointed to this thread.  I thought others might want to see what the espresso water based stain looked like on pine:

I did not use a preconditioner (I had planned to) when I saw that it required mineral spirits to clean it up.  That always means "stink" to me, so I took my chances and I'm not disappointed.  This stuff DOES NOT SMELL!  I was doubtful, but there was no smell after the first night (just slight stain/poly smell the first night). 

Thanks again for the advice!  I also asked a ton of questions, as was suggested, once I was in the store--they were so helpful and I felt a lot more confident after I left.

pinktoesandpowertools.com

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Kristen. that looks great!!! I love the whole piece. Which plan is that??? I think I might have to add it to my list.Laugh

eta...nm. i just saw your other post.

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Joined: 2010-09-20

Kristen,

That turned out great! I'm glad to see how it looks on Pine too, in case I go that way with future projects. Thanks for the mention in the blog! I'm not sure I've ever been mentioned in a blog post before! Thanks!

I hope things are going well. I am trying to figure out what I want to do next, but since I have to build everything in my apartment, I've also been enjoying actually living in my apartment, so it's been nice taking a bit of a break.

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Alrighty!!! My bench is done and ready to be brought into the house...Can't wait to take pictures of my very first fully complete project in its new home.
Totally didn't expect it to take this long but life happens and its done now. I'll try to post pictures tomorrow. Gotta grocery shop tonight. =P

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06

nickybecky--  I'm anxious to get started on the Logan classic storage base and hutch knock off after the holidays.  You're welcome for the blog mention--your projects turned out beautifully!  The order of my project list continually changes--just when I think it is set, Ana posts another fantastic plan that I want to build.  Let us know when you decide on your next one :O)

 

sugahtate--can't wait to see your finished product!

pinktoesandpowertools.com

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Joined: 2010-12-20

nickybecky1

 

I was googling espresso stains and happened on your post. I love the color of your espresso stain and am going to order it online. However, could you tell me what you did beforehand. How did you prepare the wood? Did you seal it etc. If yes, how many coats and what brand/product did you use? Lastly, how many coats of espresso stain did you do? Any other tips?

 

Thanks so much.

 

Silvercity 

 

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Joined: 2010-09-20

Silvercity, 

To prepare the wood, I simply sanded to 150. I did not seal it, it's not recommended to seal oak if you are trying to get it very dark. I am not sure about pine, maybe Kristen can answer that question. I put on really just one coat of the espresso - I did fill in some places where it had not coated well or I had been thin with it. But, just as the man at the Rockler store advised, it is essential that you like the color after the first coat. Because this type of stain does not get darker with more coats. This is one of the nice things about it because it is very forgiving. If you like that color, you can re-apply in places that you accidentally missed a spot and it will cover without creating a blotchy effect. But if it is not the color you want, it is not going to change with more coats, so a test piece is really essential. 

The real key to getting a beautiful finish is to keep it very clean. Make sure there is no sawdust when you start and pour the stain into a clean container rather than dipping your brush into the can. This way, you can always replenish with clean stain. Finally, if you want it to be smooth, the key is to put on LOTS of clear coats and buff in between (after about the 3rd. Apparently if you buff right away, you can take some of the color off!!)

Hope this helps - I really loved the GF Espresso, so I hope you enjoy it! 

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Joined: 2010-08-31

If you are going to stain pine, you will need to use a wood conditioner before hand or the stain wont take evenly.

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06

silvercity-- sugatate is right, it is generally recommended that you use a wood conditioner on pine.  Having said that, I didn't Smile.  I am very pleased with the results I got without the conditioner, but you may be going for a different look.  You can see how mine ended up here and the staining process I used here.  Nickybecky gave you some really great advice--test on some scrap wood that is the same as your project, then there are no surprises.  Surprises are great, just not when you are finishing something!

pinktoesandpowertools.com

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Joined: 2011-01-05

I'm sorry if this has been asked before, I tried to read through the posts but may have missed it.

 

We're planning on building the Madison nursery wall system. I've read that PBK makes theirs in MDF. We've built the Cameron media wall in MDF but painted that white. This time, I want to have the espresso finish on the nursery wall system.... 

 

My question is, can you stain MDF and get a good stain of espresso on it? Will we need to sand it first, then stain? Or will it be better to go with a different kind of wood?

 

Thanks in advance!

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Joined: 2010-09-20

I am not an expert but I think you cannot stain MDF. Use MDF if you're painting, but to stain you need something with a woodgrain, like plywood. If PBK is making theirs out of MDF, it looks like they have some sort of wood veneer on the outside. I think you'd be much better off to go with some sort of plywood if you're hoping for espresso. 

 

Any other thoughts?

thedabblingcrafter's picture
Joined: 2010-10-24

I second the inability to stain MDF.

I have a question for you gals, if I use the wood conditioner on pine, will I avoid the wood grain showing through? I don't want that particular look. I'd prefer a more even smooth look. (probably what I would get from paint)

n/a
bghodge@cox.net (not verified)
Question on your Stain Dry Time

I have a friend doing some work with this exact stain. She is scared to death that it still feels tacky. It's been 24 hours since the first coat.Is this normal? Thanks for your feedback. And by the way, your piece looks amazing!

Gina

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Joined: 2010-08-31

Krista, I used the wood conditioner on my project and I don't see any wood grain. It looks like its painted the espresso color but its not, its 2 coats of stain. I think though if you use a stain that is a lighter color than the espresso, there will be wood grain showing thru no matter if you condition or not.

jennhoff's picture
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Joined: 2010-08-30

So I have done like 5 coats of stain of the jacobean and it is never dark enough!  The dark part of the grain is, but the light part is still too light.  I want to see the grain, but I don't want it to be so pronounced.  I'm thinking of getting some flat paint and REALLY watering it down, doing one coat over all the stain, and then doing polyurethane.  Is that crazy?  Does anyone have any ideas on how to make just the light part of the grain darker?  I even used a couple coats of wood conditioner first.  Gr!@#$@!!!  .....I mean, please advise.  :)

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Joined: 2010-09-06

Jenn--I'll jump in, but not sure how much I can help...was it an oil-based or water-based stain?  That might affect whether you can use a watered down flat latex paint over it since I don't think you can use a latex product over an oil product without first using a primer, but I'm not positive.  What I would highly recommend before investing any more time in the entire project is to start a test piece.  Use some of the leftover wood from your project and stain it with the Jacobean just like you did already.  Then play around with it until you get the scrap looking the way you want it.  Then you can apply the same method to your project.

 

Also, I think I've read that oil based stains do not end up going on as dark as the water-based.  And that if you sand to too high of a grit before staining that you make the wood grain too close together and it doesn't allow the stain to penetrate as much.  These could be consideration for any future projects.

 

If anyone knows that something I've said is incorrect, jump in and correct me!! I'm not an expertSmile

pinktoesandpowertools.com

jennhoff's picture
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Joined: 2010-08-30

Wow!  I didn't realize that oil-based or water-based would make a difference!  I used oil-based, and I did sand it down really well first.  Shoot.  I guess I will have to stain a test piece of wood 5 times now.  :)

Thanks for your help, Kristen, I really appreciate it!

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