Match new stain to old wood
Deeper, darker: Longer
To darken the color of the stain, try adding another coat of stain after the first has dried. Keep in mind that your results will vary, because the binders that help stain stick to wood form a mild seal coat, hindering the absorption of more stain. Or, you may darken the color by waiting to wipe off the excess. This delay deepens the color not because the color soaks in deeper (in truth, stain does its job almost immediately when you apply it), but because more of the stain's solvent evaporates, increasing the ratio of colorant to liquid.
So, if waiting darkens the color, can you go superdark by flooding stain onto the wood and letting it dry that way? Possibly. If your stain contains lots of pigment, brushing on a heavy coat and letting it dry about an hour will leave a layer of pigment solids on the wood's surface. With careful, selective blotting and wiping, you can remove some of the thickened stain while leaving more color where you want it, as shown in the photo right. (If it's too dark, wipe with a rag dipped in stain. The solvents in the fresh stain soften the dried stain to more effectively remove the excess.)
Keep in mind two things, though: First, the heavy layer of pigment could obscure the wood grain. Second, be sure to spray on, not brush on, your first topcoat, because a brush and the solvents in the topcoat can redissolve the stain and muddy the finish.
Finisher's color wheel: No. 17881, Rockler, 800-279-4441, rockler.com.
Dyes vs. pigments
Oil-based stains get their colors from dyes or pigments -- or both. To see the difference, brush on some stain from the top of a can that has rested undisturbed for a few days: Any coloration you see in the wood comes from dyes. But the muck you stir up from the bottom of that same can is the pigment. These heavier particles require frequent stirring to keep them from settling out of the liquid.
Dyes and pigments act differently on wood. Because dye stays dissolved in the liquid, it tends to soak into the wood. Pigment particles, though, are too large to get inside wood cells, so they sit on the wood's surface.
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