Don’t stain my wood!

I was watching TV recently and two different shows reminded me of my greatest woodworking pet peeve.   But before I go into that detail, let me offer some back ground as to what my issue is and where it originates.   My love of woodworking really exploded when I was introduced to the world of exotic woods through a show called “Woodworks”.  The host of the show, David Marks, was always using woods that I had never heard of.  Each wood was uniquely beautiful and boasted colors and grain that I had never seen before.  From that point on I was sold, and decided to only offer things done in natural wood with a clear finish to protect it.  “Stain” is a dirty wood in my house, because stain is just that…. Dirt.  I don’t want you to rub dirt on the finely crafted work that I created, so why would you want me to?

It is probably one of the most common questions I get asked: “what color are you going to stain it.”  The question is asked as though staining is how wood is always finished.  So I make it my goal to educate people to not cover up their beautiful wood, but rather appreciate the variety that exists in nature.

Now, this leads my pet peeve.  I was watching a recent show of “Son’s of Guns” on the Discovery Channel were they were building an old fashioned looking gun called a “blunderbuss”.  As part of the build they were restoring an old walnut stock and they used a walnut stain to “bring out the natural beauty of the wood”.  Really?  You are going to take a piece of beautiful walnut wood and then use a “walnut” stain on it?   You are already at your end goal of a walnut colored stock by virtue of nature and dirt in the stain will actual hinder some of that beauty, not highlight it.  I can’t be too mad at them, they are gun people not woodworking people.

The other show was “The Vanilla Ice Project” on DIY network (yes, the 90’s rapper).  They are rebuilding a million dollar house and bring in 3 huge and beautiful African Mahogany planks and promptly gave them a “nice dark stain.”  Mahogany is one of my favorites to work with and has a beautiful color and grain pattern.  Mahogany will naturally darken over time, but rubbing dark dirt on it is no way to do this.  If their end goal was to have some dark wood, they could have slopped some stain on some cheaper Oak wood.  I have worked with design and styling people before, and to be honest, they aren’t known for their practicality.  They are just trying to make real life match their vision.  I can respect that, but I bet they could have achieved their vision with another species of wood had they known, maybe they should consult me next timeJ.

Even professionals can fall victim to this as well.  I remember early on in my woodworking “training” watching an episode of “The Old Yankee Workshop” were Norm made a “Mahogany poker table” and the last step involved “mahogany” stain.  That pained me greatly!  Although, I also don’t pump finish nails into my project either, everyone has their own style – it is just not one that I agree with.  Maybe when PBS offers me a show we can revisit that table and do it the right way.

So the moral of the story is, don’t stain my wood.  If you are looking for a Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry finish, then I’ll start with those woods.  Also, stain can’t alter the look of the wood grain, so you end up with a similar color, but not the natural hues and features that come from nature.  The natural wood will look better and stay looking better longer then some colored dirt rubbed into the surface.  If you want something that stain can’t match, use some exotic woods like Cocobolo, Zebrawood, or Wenge (just to name a few).  No stain will ever match these woods and while pricey, they are truly spectacular!

-Derek

http://handmadewoodgifts.com

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HandMadeWoodGifts

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