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Wooden display bases

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Wandering around my local Spotlight (craft) store recently, I noticed a bunch of small plain pieces of wood in various shapes. Circular, rectangular plaques, etc. They looked like the unfinished version of decorative wood bases used to show off a nice paint job.

 

Was thinking they'd be great to use as display bases...except, I'm completely ignorant in all things wooden. How would I go about turning plain wood into nice slightly-glossy dark-stained display bases?

 

The little I managed to read online mentioned stuff like sanding them down really well first. And then applying some kind of wood stain.

 

What kinds of stains are there and which aren't terribly noxious to use? I'm a little leery of buying a big tubful of stain from a hardware store, meant for staining an entire cupboard or something, and killing myself with fumes in the process. One article mentioned gel stains in tube form? Anyone know of any mild versions in an art or craft store?

 

Any special technique to get the glossy shine after staining, or is it just spraying it with a gloss sealer that does it?

 

Thanks in advance.

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You can get very small cans of stain. Minwax sells some small little 8 oz cans (Home Depot) so you don't have to worry much about big huge cans of stuff lying to waste.

 

Fumes are not horrible, but it is a solvent based item, so make sure you are in a well ventilated area and/or use a respirator.

 

Sand your wood piece initially.

Slop stain on, allow it to penetrate for a few minutes, and then wipe off the excess with a clean, lint free rag. Allow to dry. 4-6 hours.

The moisture of the stain will cause the grain of the wood to swell. You will need to give it a light sanding with fine grit paper to level off the wood.

Add a second coat. Repeat as above, you won't need to sand as much this time.

Add your protective coats - Polyurethane.

 

Minwax also sells stain/poly combos which are not bad. You use them the same way.

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Most of those bases are not to rough. Start with 100 grit sandpaper, work with it till the surface feels like glass. Then do it again with 150 grit sandpaper. Then stain, then sand lightly with a 200 grit sandpaper, stain again until it is as dark as you want it.

 

Sanding is an artform at least according to my Mom.

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Your mom is 100% right. Sanding makes the project. You can have a beautifully built piece of furniture, cabinetry or display piece and if you slack off with the sanding, and then try to finish it, it will really show up and kill a piece. I've seen pieces that looked great from a distance, but then when you come over and run your hands over it, you can feel the roughness, ridges and missed spots.

 

Thanks for including the grit Heisler. It's been awhile since I've done any woodworking so I was blanking on the actual numbers.

 

Oh, and soooo absolutely important. After you have sanded. Make sure you wipe down the piece to remove all traces of the sawdust generated from the sanding. A slightly dampened, lint free cloth works very well for this. Also make sure your work area is clean and clear of the dust as well. Ideally, sand at one station, stain in another, if you have the space available, to reduce the amount of dust being in your finishing area.

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I also use inks and paint washes to stain wood bases. Works well enough, and I like the fact that they are water based.

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A lot of how you finish the base will depend on what you want to have your base look like.

 

Sanding is the #1 thing to take into account. I would go to a 200-220 grit at the very least. Depending on how smooth the base is already, you may be able to skip straight to the 200 grit sand paper, though more often you will need to use something like a 100 first. To actually sand it, try to get something that will conform to the routed edges of the base. Look to see if a dowel or other rigid object is the right diameter, or use the foam sanding blocks.

 

When it comes to choosing a stain, you have a lot of different choices. Some will merely enhance the wood grain, while others will cover almost like paint. Some are oil based, while others are water based. If you really want to you can water down acrylic paints and use them as stains as well. I tend to prefer oil based stains since they don't raise the grain as much when applied, however you can use them all to get good results. Whichever you choose - follow the directions on the container...if you decide to use paints or inks, apply them in thin coats following the grain of the wood.

 

Once you apply your stain, look to see if the grain has swollen much. Softer woods like pine and fir will tend to swell more than hard woods. Water based stains will cause the grain to swell the most. Gel stains have the least ammount of penetration and tend to raise the grain least of all. Anywho - if the grain has risen a lot, sand again with a 400-600 or so grit sand paper. If it has risen just a little, use a 00 or 000 steel wool to smooth things out. If it hasn't risen much at all you can apply your varnish.

 

When you apply your varnish, you again have a lot of choices. Normally I use a french rub (oil/stain mix...no varnish), however you can also use a shellac, a laquer or one of the newer finishes (acrylic, poly-acrylic, polyurethane...). With the shellac and lacquer you can apply a coat - let dry and apply the next coat. The chemical makeup of the finish will dissolve the previous layer to make a single thicker, smoother layer. With the newer finishes you will want to wet sand between layers in order to get a good ammount of tooth for the subsequent layer to adhere to and also to smooth out any imperfections. Normally three coats will give a glass like finish.

 

Between all of your sanding runs use a tack cloth to remove dust and dirt.

 

If you decide to go with a retail stain product (Minwax, Valspar...) use the complete system (Minwax stain and Minwax Varnish - Art type paint and Acrylic Clear Coat...). Different additives can interact badly and it can be hard to correct after the fact.

 

If you want to play around with different woods and bases - check out home stores and hardwood lumber yards in your area. In addition to stains, wood can be exposed to various chemicals in order to get different effects (bleaching, pickling, ebonizing...). Also, try different things like inks (real inks...like the callagraphy type) and what not.

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Hey this might sound weird but it really works.

I got it from reading an article in Popular Mechanics, about Adhesives written by those Mythbuster guys.

using super glues (zap-a-gap CA)as a stain.

here is a snippet from the Article from PM's web site.

 

JAMIE HYNEMAN - "You can also use a CA as a varnish. Not only that, but you can take a softwood, like redwood, and make it feel like a polished hardwood. You can buy it in a larger quantity at a hobby shop--you can get 2 ounces or larger there--and squeegee it onto the surface with one of those credit cards that companies are always giving away. Try it first with a medium-viscosity glue. The porosity of the wood usually kicks the glue within a few minutes, although if you use the spray kicker very lightly and evenly, you can lock the glue right away.

 

One weird thing: The glue sets so quickly that you don't get "grain raise," which occurs when a varnish soaks into the wood and dries. The woodgrain swells somewhat unevenly, and you end up repeatedly sanding and revarnishing. Very tedious. Not so with a CA. Let it soak in and kick, then sand the surface and you instantly have something that is as smooth as glass and feels like the kind of old wood that is velvety smooth from having so many hands touching it for a long time. Note: CA is expensive compared to regular finishes. When you use CA, you trade cost for speed. I wouldn't finish my floors with it, but on small projects it's a reasonable thing to do and a little goes a long way."

 

its cool, i have used it when i need to base a larger fig that won't fit on a standard sized base. the wood sucks it up like water and then i shoot it with some kicker. then i hit it with some sand paper. the wood get nice and smooth. Mind you i use those little wood round pieces that you can get like 5 for $.99 at Michaels. but i have made some nice painting handles out of wooden spools and a couple of CA stained disks glued on either end.

 

its not high art but it works for me.

 

 

My 2 cents,

Scoot

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