Q & A: Matching Old Stains | Popular Woodworking Magazine
 In Basics, Techniques, Wood Finishing

AW73Jun99 Q&A


I have to match an old stain. I’ve come pretty close with a new stain I bought at the hardware store, but it’s not good enough. Is there a way I can tint the stain?


There are several fairly simple ways to alter the color of commercial stain. Probably the easiest is to mix two or more colors of the same type and brand of stain to match what you need. This guarantees that the components and drying times are compatible and consistent.

You can also alter a stain with small amounts of concentrated pigment pastes called “universal tinting colors.” They are compatible with both oilbased and water-based stains and are available from most home stores and many craft stores. Because the universals, called UTCs, are so concentrated, you probably won’t be adding enough to substantially change the drying time of the stain you started with.

If you are certain that the stain is oil based, you can also tint it with artist’s oil colors or Japan colors. Both are available from most craft and art supply stores. Again, the small amounts you are likely to add probably won’t affect the drying time much, but as a rule of thumb, oil colors will typically slow down the drying time while Japan colors will not.

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  • just4today

    I have an old player piano. I have stripped the piano stool and would like to finish it fairly close to the original piano finish which is a dark mahogany. I understand back in these days they used a stain/shellac or stain/lacquer mix for finishing. So the stain did not penetrate as much into the wood. Does this sound correct?
    My problem I cannot find any shellac or lacquer supply houses which now supply a stain/lacquer mixture. Thus what to do? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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