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Stains: best brands, what to choose?

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Selecting a stain for plywood planking (see examples in http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/489-oseberg-ship-by-von-kossa-billing-boats-scale-125-800-ad-first-wooden-ship-build/page-2 - not my ship, but I have same ordered).

What stain brands should I look at? Preferably the ones sold in small quantities, for hobby.

I googled a lot, and read that forum, but cant find any tests or comparison of different stains. Want to buy a selection of different colors in small quantities and experiment what would look better.

Already learned that conditioner should be used.

Thanks in advance for the advice!

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mike v

Stains in small quantities  really starts to limit your choice, Admiralty stains  from Cornwall model boats Ltd, in the UK do offer some stains .but again limited . I buy 250 mil cans , any DIY store has a large selection,  and selection  and easy to get  is the key .  My main go to stains are teak, light/medium/ oak, Antique pine, teak oil, Canadian cedar, walnut and mahogany. I only use satin stain, avoiding anything gloss.  Danish oil is a good brand, but really any store brand will due plus store brand is cheaper.  Ship staining is all about Trial and error , I mix different stains to get certain effects, or I might stain one color then overstrain it with another,  each coat slightly changes the look. it’s all about what effect you want, and how it works on different types of wood. It is also a good idea to keep good notes on all your experiments. I even keep and label Allot of my test wood strips . You will always go back to your notebook.  When I find the right mix or wood combination I want to use on the build , I always number it in a stain log just for the build I’m working on   for example  # 1 cedar  all deck areas,  or #2 light oak with teak over rub  hull below the whale.  This way as you progress thru the build you will know what you used in each area.  I finish all staining with a light coat of matt varnish .first question on conditioner when staining is have you ever tried it ?  The standard school of thought  for painting wood is always prep or condition , which I guess has prompted the you should condition when staining debate.  Everyone has a different mindset when it comes to picking a path you want your build to take. As for me its all stain and natural wood tones, very little paint, please see my POB build log  “rattlesnake by MOG, “ it will give you some idea where I’m coming from , Like I said staining is all about trial  and error , getting the right tones and depth of color , and what works on different  types of wood  is the whole deal. , conditioner is a sealer, holding in the grain,  as so the stain will lay on top and not absorb into the wood,  it also effects the  stains  color   example a light pine or cedar stain will turn dark  when applied over conditioner. Again it’s your build , so your call , I would experiment with and without conditioner to find the effect you want.  For me it’s all about what statement you want your build to make.  I believe staining brings a ship to life,  Anyway these are just my thoughts ,  long winded but  if it helps in anyway  great,

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After many years of building furniture and various wooden toys, etc. I am a firm believer in using water based stains.

I do have some 'Miniwax' leftovers and a few others that are based on spirits, but I really should throw them away. If I were to open one of those cans I know they would show a solid layer. Yet, if I were to do that with one of my water-based stains, it might require a simple stirring and perhaps an addition of a few drops of water.


My favorite is made by General Finishes here in the US. It is easy to use with brush or paper towel. Cleans up easy, can be applied a couple times if necessary (to darken or remove) and takes subsequent coatings of finishes such as urethane. Again, regarding the latter, I use water-based products.

The industry has come a long way to remove solvent based products and substitute water-based materials, especially for indoor use.

Of course, you cannot mix the two.

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In the US the General Finishes stains are available at Woodcraft. I happen to live close to one of their stores and don't know of any other distributors, but I am sure if you search the web, you will find an outlet.


In fact, I just did that. Google 'General Finishes' and you will find several links.


For export to Europe, for example, go to http://www.generalfinishes.co.uk/index.cfm?page=delivery

Edited by Modeler12
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