Tips To Staining Maple

Tips To Staining Maple

If you are considering staining maple cabinetry or maple cabinet doors this post will help you learn how to use maple wood stain.  Learning the right way to do this is especially important if you want to know how to stain maple dark.  The darker you go the more you will notice splotches if you haven’t prepared the maple wood or applied your maple stain correctly.

If you’re a DIY’er staining maple might be challenge, but it isn’t impossible.  Before you decide to stain maple you may also consider using a dye as it is easier to apply without blotching.  In addition staining maple will require the use of one of various seal coating techniques.

Tips To Avoid Blotching In Staining Maple

Hardwoods like hard maple, cherry, pine, and alder all have variations in density throughout a single cabinet door.  Stain is absorbed in different amounts based on the density in the various sections of wood.  This is where staining maple gets tricky and can end up having a blotchy look.  Areas that are less dense will absorb more stain than and cause darker sections in the door.   This isn’t a matter of defective or cheap wood, just a natural property of these wood species.

Pre-Treating Maple

When staining maple wood you will need to pre-treat the door with a coat that limits the absorption of the stain.

Test Stain – Before jumping straight into staining the door you should consider testing the stain and your skills on some scrap hard maple wood.  This will be a valuable experience and will let you know if you’ll be able to do it, or if you should consider using a dye instead of stain.  Scrap wood that matches the doors you order is usually available by request and can be sent with your cabinet doors for practice and testing.

Sand it smooth – If you’ve decided to proceed in using a stain on your hard maple, use a 220 grit to sand the cabinet door panels and use a 300+ grit to sand the endgrain.  Smoother sanded wood absorbs less stain and will help control blotching.

Seal the wood – To limit excessive absorption of the stain you should also apply a coat of sealer.  Minwax Pre-Stain conditioner is a great option. End grain can also be sealed with a mix of white glue and water.  Mix 1 part glue with 10 parts water for this coating.  After using the glue allow it to dry and sand with 400 grit sandpaper.  This avoids the end grain from sucking in a disproportionate amount of stain.

Staining Maple Cabinets

Applying The Stain

Once you’ve pre-treated the wood you’re ready to apply the stain.  Follow these steps to apply your stain.  The darker color of stain you’ve chosen the greater chance you have of darker sections.  Ensure that you’ve practiced applying stain on scrap wood and can evenly apply the stain in even strokes.

Apply the stain – Once you’re sure everything is sanded, sealed, glued, smooth and clean you can proceed to applying your stain.  It goes on much like paint so try to avoid taking excess stain onto your brush.  Apply the stain in even and intentional strokes in a pattern that avoids excessive overlap.

Finish Seal Coating – After you’re sure that your stain is completely dry you need to apply a final coating of sealant. Choose a high quality wood sealer to apply over your stain to provide a barrier to dirt and moisture.  Unsealed wood will expand and contract more with variations in humidity and you might ruin the finish while cooking if you don’t apply a coat of sealant.