Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Crisp masking lines

Q: How do I achieve a nice crisp symmetrical line when using two different stains? For example I want to stain a light triangle inside a dark rectangle. The stain has bled under the painter’s tape in my tests.
A: There are a variety of techniques, but they depend on both the type of stain you are using and the type of wood. Without knowing both, I can’t advise you of the best course of action. Here’s just one of the many ways to approach this that works well with fairly absorbent wood and pigmented stain.
Stain the lighter color over the entire surface. Mask off what will be darker, and seal the light triangle with a sealer that will not dissolve with the solvent in your darker stain. Now reverse the process; mask off the light triangle using either lacquer tape (typically green) or pin striping tape, (typically olive). Now add the secondary dark stain to the exposed areas. The combination of the correct tape atop a sealed surface should prevent the dark stain from creeping onto the light area, and still give the look of stained wood rather than a tinted finish.