When a customer asked me to replicate the finish on her antique Stickley sideboard for the pieces she had commissioned, I grabbed my yellow dye and a few gel stains, because I knew that a layered finish was the only way to achieve the richness and depth of that old Arts and Crafts era finish.
I find layering colors much more rewarding than trying to mix a single stain to match a color. A “matched” stain never looks right, because it turns everything the same color. An old finish contains many different colors. That’s why layering works so well. I’ve also learned that colors applied separately in layers create a different appearance than when the same colors are combined and then applied.
It’s important to note that the grit you use to finish-sand the wood also affects the color of the finish. A rougher surface—sanded to 100 grit, for example—will absorb more color than a surface that’s sanded smoother. I sanded the frame shown here to 180 grit.