Staining Softwoods Dark Colors Like Mahogany
Recently I started building a custom built-in entertainment center that consists of white painted wood cabinets and a wood countertop that needed to match some existing Brazilian Cherry in the house. In an effort to save time and money I wanted to build the 10′ long countertop from plywood and stain it a dark reddish-brown so that it matched the color of the Brazilian Cherry floors and accent trim in the room.
Brazilian Cherry resembles a dark mahogany finish which is the polar opposite of white pine! While this can be a very difficult result to achieve it’s not impossible. Keep on reading and see how I turned a pine plywood countertop into a beautifully finished top that resembles Mahogany or Brazilian Cherry.
Mixing Custom Stain Colors
The first trick or tip to this topic is realizing that 90% of the time you’ll need to custom mix a stain color to get the results you’re looking for. This sounds complicated but the reality is it’s as easy as trial and error. For this project I was trying to match the color of Brazilian Cherry flooring (which was pre-finished) and some Brazilian Cherry wood accents throughout the house.
So I went to the local hardware store and picked out two stains that were close to the color I needed. I chose the following:
- Minwax Sedona Red #222 (Minwax Color Chart)
- Minwax Red Mahogany #225
I started by testing several samples. For each color I tried several pre-finishing steps including:
- Sanding the wood sample followed by applying the stain.
- Sanding the wood sample followed by a pre-stain wood conditioner, followed by the stain.
After testing both stain colors with those methods I realized neither color was really the result I needed. So then I started mixing the colors and repeating the application process. I needed the color to be darker than the Sedona Red and lighter than the Red Mahogany. So I dumped out some of the Sedona Red and slowly started adding Red Mahogany to the mix. After several tests I decided the mix was finally producing the color I needed. What this short video for more information on mixing stains.
Apply Several Coats of Stain
To achieve the dark, rich, reddish color I was shooting for meant that I needed to apply several (actually five) coats of stain. This is really the most important step in creating the dark colors on soft, light colored wood such as pine and poplar. I continued to apply stain until the wood top matched the color I was comparing it to. As you can see below the end result is a really nice dark brown with a heavy hint of red
Apply Sealer For Final Color
The final color can’t be realized until you’ve applied a sealer. For this project I went with a very durable Spar Urethane from Minwax. I applied four coats of the Spar Urethane. Below is a picture of the top in the room with the Brazilian Cherry floors and the other architectural features.