Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Bigleaf, big pattern

Q: I am making a cabinet door of solid cherry with a quilted maple panel. I want a bit of contrast between the cherry and maple and to show off the quilting in the maple. I was planning to stain the maple with a cherry color oil based stain and sand it lightly with 600 grit before applying wipe on polyurethane on the entire door.
A: Most quilted maple is western bigleaf maple, and unlike its eastern rock maple cousin, will absorb some pigmented stain. However, the ideal way to intensify grain in maple is to go with something that has a lower molecular weight. In the case of stains, that would be dye. A weak dye, flooded on and wiped off, will intensify the quilt pattern as well as adding color. Of course, an oil based finish, such as wipe on polyurethane, will add a slight amber color, which will also intensify the grain. In short, you don’t need stain to bring out the grain, though if your goal is to change the color to match the cherry, yet still pop the grain, dye is the way to go.