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Ahoy, Mates :D


As the time is nearing for me to add some color to my build I have started testing, would like to post my findings, and hear from others


Basswood does not seem to like darker stains. My first tests were abysmal. After I started using a sanding sealer they improved greatly, but not to a point where I would use them


My experience with plastic showed me that you could “create” a wood grain using paint, so I decided to try this on basswood


Using a water based oil paint I first applied it with a brush to a piece of wood, treated with Zinseer Sandseal. It came out blotchy as darker stain did. The difference was the oil paint could be worked. Using a Q-tip I stippled the paint on the lighter areas balancing the color getting much better results. My test is far from perfect but I think it shows possibility.


I will do more tests and post but would be interested in hearing from others :)



Note: Anyone following my bleach test, Yes it is :P



Edited by JPett
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Am not totally sure what you mean by abysmal with the darker colors.  However,  I can take a stab at a couple of the possibilities.


1)  Is it that it is TOO dark?  If that is what you mean, you can mix whatever stain you are using with a bit of "natural" stain to lighten the color but still keep the character of the tone you want.  You almost create a "scaled" stain color.   You can do different ratios of course and mix and match to get the tone you are looking for.


2) Blotchy? (which I think is what you are talking about since you mentioned it in there)   Basswood,  heck hobby woods are very prone to blotchiness for a variety of reasons.  The best way to combat this is using a prestain conditoner.  If you do that pretty much straight as the instructions say, you will get incredibly nice even color that comes out really nice.



Then, when done - either with one or the other or sometimes both;  a quick hit with some satin sealer and you have some mighty fine looking wood finishes.


This, by the way, is all from the reference of using Minwax brand stains and sealers.



Edited by SkerryAmp
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Hi JP that effect don't look too bad,


I tend to stay away from stains on softwoods because of the uneven finish due to differences in the grain texture.


I prefer to use water based varnishes which I can alter in shade by adding water based paints.

I find it is not always necessary to use a sanding sealer with varnish, and two or three coats rubbed down inbetween  give a fairly even finish.


Clear or medium oak varnishes are my particular choice with adde ochre where I want to replicate say a boxwood finish.





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Ahoy Adam


Thank you for responding


Abysmal meaning "really bad"


When trying to get a rich dark "even" tone on Basswood. Sorry I did not make that clear in my first post.


With stains; even with the conditioner (zinseer sandseal) I could not control the color. It would be too dark here and to light there creating a very unappealing uneven look. With the oil based paint this was a still a problem but it seems I might be able to correct it. With lighter colors I found it was not too bad but trying to achieve something nice with a rich darker tone "for me" still proves to be quite a challenge. So I posted




:) Thanks B.E. So I am on the right path

Edited by JPett
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I use Minwax prestain conditioner and then Minwax oil based stains. I have been able to get a nice even cherry color using this combination on basswood. You apply the stain within a few minutes of the conditioner and then allow it to soak in. The longer you leave it on before you wipe it off, the darker the color.



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I echo Russ's observation.  The pre-stain conditioner does a good job of preparing the surface and is formulated for that purpose so it does a better job than sanding sealer.  I used it for the masts on Bluenose and was very happy with the result.  When I get to that point in my log re-build, there will be some photos showing the process.



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It's a pitty that Chucks buildlog on the Mayflower is gone (at least, I didn't manage to find it)

but Chuck Passarro does absolute wonders on basswood. I think he is also using the minwax pre-satin /stain combination.



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That sample does not look bad at all. 


There are a lot of things that can cause your stain to be uneven.


Sanding technique is one. Make sure you follow the same sanding schedule for everything. Virtually all of the stains you get in the local paint/hardware store are a combination of pigments and dye in a carrier. The pigments lodge in the pores and tiny scratches left behind when you sand. If you sand part of your hull to 220 and another part to 320 for instance the area you sanded to 320 will be lighter. How MUCH you sand with a particular grit affects it also. If you REALLY sand one area you run the risk of burnishing the wood and the stain wont penetrate. Also, as I am sure you are aware, sanding cross grain is not recommended, those scratches pick up the stain and leap right out at you. Its posable to break that rule if youre carefull. I sanded my hull to 400 because there were several places where it was very difficult to sand with the grain, at 400 you really have to look to see the scratches. Keep in mind though on dense fine grained woods sanding to that grit can make it so you get very little color.



Some woods just have a structure that makes them difficult to stain. Birch and cherry are two of the biggest offenders. In the ship modeling world it is starting to become apparent to me that many of the preferred woods for modeling are difficult to stain. I would agree with the others about the prestain conditioner. As others mentioned it very easy to use and you get very nice results. If for some reason you (or others) cant find it or are too far away from a paint store, you can make your own with nothing more than 1 part linseed oil and 10 parts turpentine or paint thinner. 


You can also use a technique called washcoating. It is very similar to stain conditioner. I use a 1lb cut of blond shellac. That is 1 pound of shellac flakes to 1 gallon of denatured alcohol, more than you will use in your life probably. You can scale it down to whatever amount seems appropriate to you. I make a pint at a time, so you scale down to 1/8. (8 pints in a US gallon) and 2 oz of flakes. Easier is to buy your shellac and thin it down. Buy the smallest can you can find and pour out about 2 oz in a sealable container then add about 4-6 oz of alcohol to that and you will be good to go. Brush on a coat, let it dry, scuff sand to 320 and stain on top of that. You can do the same thing with water based clears but I dont know how much to thin them since I dont use water based finishes as a rule. As a guess three or four to one should be about right.



Always make a test board first. I would strongly recomend you make a board at least 4x6" or larger with your planking material and experiment. You really wnat to try to use the same material you're in your project. That way you can find out in advance if your going to have any problems with staining.


This is the test board for my build. I used the display base that came with the kit since I will be building another display board. Ideally you want to use some of your planking to make your board, I was practically out. Left to right is Varathane Chestnut, Brown Mahogany, Traditional Pecan, no stain and then Gold Mahogany. From top to bottom is a washcoat, grain filler and stain. Second row is grain filler and stain, no wash coat. Third row is washcoat and stain, no grain filler. Bottom row is stain on raw sanded wood. It is kind of hard to see in the picture, but the biggest color change was with the wash coat, it blocked a lot of the pigments from settling in the pores.  




There are a lot of other ways to combat splotch prone woods, gel stains, dyes, glazing, chemical staining (hazardous if your dont take the required precautions) but require many more steps to get a finish. 


Looks like you are well on your way. I have most likely given you more information than you needed. I am generous like that!  ;)

Have fun!


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  • 2 weeks later...

Basswood is a very useful timber depending on the scale.

I built a large static model of a 1930's commuter cruiser (6 feet long!) for a client last year using Basswood exclusively  The real thing was built of teak and the Basswood grain mimicked it perfectly.


I stained the sheets of Basswood using Minwax stain/sealer before I cut them, taking care to match similar sheets together.

Here is a link to a photoshow of the whole process.



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