Match new stain to old wood
Look for a close match
The windows might reveal several blends that come close to your target. If one looks too light and the other too dark, choose the lighter one, because you can darken stain more easily than lighten it. For our example, cordovan and raw umber blend for a good start.
Now, decide which off-the-shelf stains come closest to the cordovan and umber. Pick up stain palettes, shown, at a home center to narrow the options, keeping in mind that the grain or color of your project wood may affect your results.
In this case, a stain named Red Mahogany is awash in cordovan, and Early American or Provincial might provide enough umber. If you're not sure which stain colors you need, you can save money by buying half-pint sizes rather than quarts.
Quick tip: Some manufacturers sell inexpensive stain samples the size of ketchup packets perfect for experimenting.
Factor in the variables
As you prepare to mix and test, keep these tips in mind:
- For consistency, test on a scrap of the same wood -- and sanded to the same grit -- as your project.
- Before blending, stir each stain well to get all the pigment into suspension.
- Let your test samples dry fully. What initially looks spot-on can appear different a few hours later.
- Apply a topcoat to the test samples, keeping in mind that your choice of finish will affect your results. For example, adjust the stain color to allow for the ambering from shellac or oil-based polyurethane; even crystal-clear finishes will alter the stain's final color.
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