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Staining / Finishing Red Oak in a Kitchen

9297 Views 22 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  fibertech
I am beyond the point of no return in our kitchen remodel. I have solid oak doors coming to replace the white laminated doors with the single band of oak trim. My dilemna is the cabinet frames that are remaining are covered with a faux oak paper with a butter cream coloring. As long as the cabinet doors and drawers are white laminate faced, it's no big deal. I need suggestions for matching the fresh wood to the frames and also a recommendation for a permanent satin finish. I have numerous paint and hardware stores around and Rockler in Seattle. A point in the right direction is greatly appreciated. -Derek
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Derek, Watco danish oil finish might be a good choice here. It comes in clear and different shades like red oak and walnut. You can blend the different shades to get the tone you want. It is very easy to apply and has the advantage of soaking into the wood and when fully dried actually hardens the surface of the wood to a depth of about 1/16". If you get any nicks in the surface you can repair them and reapply the treatment for a perfect match. This produces a nice satin finish. Test it on some scraps of wood before commiting to your cabinet doors.
Why not replace the face frames with the same kind of oak as the doors and finish it all the same way.If not then why try to match the new oak to whatever the "other" wood is, perhaps it could be stripped and finished to match the oak. Whatever you decide do not even consider any danish oil as a finish for kitchen cabinets. A quality varnish is a much better choice. If you need any help in determining what the existing finish is just ask.


This is the project. Removing the white doors and replacing with solid oak, removing the folding green door and putting a double oven in its place and taking out the stove and replacing it with a gas cooktop. The cabinet frames have apaper finish similar to what we called Contact Paper years ago. Replacing the cabinets all together is not an option. Our kitchen is so small that the space is already maximized. We won't have to replace the countertop either. It started out to be cost-effective but is still a lot of money. If I was around when the house was built, the cabinets would have been solid to begin with. Thanks -Derek


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I'm with Jerry on this one,new face frames is the way to go.
They are easy to make with pocket holes and fix them to the case with biscuits and most of it can all be done with a router.
Face frames are the lowest cost item in case work ,you can also glue on the face frames to cover the ones now in place with 1/4" oak stock.
Then they will match the new doors.

Good luck with the Kitchen rework.

Bj :)
If the faceframes are covered in a type of contact paper I'm not so sure gluing on new face frames would be an option (without scraping them clean first) - and it sounds like you intended to keep them - if so, a perfect match is gonna be tough and being a little off can actually look worse - maybe consider not trying to match and going for a contrast instead if you intend to keep the faces as they are. Have to agree with the others though, new faces would be pretty quick and look nice if you're up for it - at any rate post some pics when you're done - I'm sure it will be nice whichever way you go.
Gilbear, I was planning on the pics. The major drawback to that much work on my project is that I work 12 hour night shifts for a major wireless company (1800 to 0600). Recovering and adjusting back to days gives me a little over a day each week to put into my remodeling. I am planning on going to the Woodworking Show in the Seattle area on Sunday. I am hoping to find the best way to come close to a match. Your assessment of my dilemna is right on. More to follow. -Derek
I take exception to Jerry's comment: "Do not even consider danish oil". Danish oil has been around a long time. It protects the wood, it is easy to apply and maintain. A quick wash with Murphy's oil soap and it looks like new.(An important consideration in a kitchen) The soft sheen lets the beauty of the wood come through. "Do it my way or you are wrong" is a poor attitude in a place open for an exchange of ideas. Not everyone looks at wood and see's the same things. There are many methods for finishing wood, and there is not one universal method that pleases the eye of everyone.
Guys, I value all of your opinions greatly. This is by far, is my favourite forum. I believe that we are all hobbyists first and truly enjoy the satisfaction of being creative. What one person believes to get desired results may not be to someone else. Sharing thoughts and ideas is what this is all about. I can't begin to tell how good it makes me feel when I put a question out and so many responses come in return. To the Jerry's, Bob J's, Mike's, Gilbear's and the others, and especially MARK- Thanks. -Derek
I'm sorry if my comments about "Danish Oil" offend you. Rather than point out many reasons why any oil varnish(or with the addtion of mineral spirits DANISH OIL) is a very poor choice for kitchen cabinets I would suggest you research what some of the well known experts in the field of finishing have to say. Two names that come to mind quickly are Mr. Bob Flexner and Mr. Jeff Jewitt. I take exception to that Madison Ave statement that Watco or any oil varnish mixture hardens the surface of the wood to a depth of 1/16th the danish oil cures much softer than any common furniture wood. How is it possible for a soft curing finish to make wood harder. Every one is entitled to their own opinion,but not their own facts.

I can sympathise with the hours worked - it's rough when work get's in the way of our passions!! Enjoy the show and learn a bunch - I expect a full report, and pics of your finished project as well!
I am leaning toward a product called "Waterlox" which is a combination of oil and varnish. Anybody have experience with this? -Derek
Waterlox is a brand name they offer Original sealer and finish,Original varnish(gloss&semi-gloss)Polyurethane varnish and marine varnish. I have used the Original varnish(usually gloss) for years,it is a phenolic resin tung oil varnish that looks excellent on most woods including oak. Waterlox is a little pricey but a very good product. It is not necessary to use their sealer first or at all.

Good Luck

Q: One of our members is making a kitchen renovation and needs a finish for red oak doors on his cabinets. He is concerned with color matching and wants a satin finish. I suggested trying Watco Danish oil on samples of red oak to find a color match. I know Watco Danish oil is fine for walls and creates a very nice, a warm sheen, but is this a poor choice for cabinet doors?

A: It is adequate, and if enough coats are applied, can be durable. The problem is that with only a couple of coats, you have a perilously thin finish that is not likely to hold up to the rigors of a kitchen use for very long. Personally, I would suggest an oil based polyurethane, once he gets the stain the color he wants it. Such finishes are also available in a wipe on mode that is almost as easy to use as Danish oil, and in fact, Watco makes one.

Michael Dresdner

We all live and learn. I checked this question out with my favorite expert and got this reply. I stand corrected.
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Well I just gotta say, this forum continues to impress me - both with the collective knowledge as well as the quality of the folks that hang out here ... (OK, can I breath now?! :sold: )
OK... I have made my purchases and can report. Yesterday I mentioned an interiors store in Seattle. They are rated very high and I was impressed with the attention that I got. I purchased two quarts of a blended stain that will give me both the wheat and honey shades I want. I also bought a gallon of a matte acrylic polyurethane finish. If I want some gloss, I can do that later. I will start posting pictures as it comes together. Thanks to all for the input. I really needed it. One word about high-end stores: the gallon of finish was $73. -Derek
Here are a couple of progress pictures. I made the cabinet for the cooktop and the frame under the double oven. Thanks again to all. -Derek


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Just checkin to see how the cabinets have been goin ...
The oak doors are being shipped on the 22nd from somewhere in Ontario. I have the vertical plate rack to start on Sunday and about 6 drawer fronts to make. They are plain with a 3/8" roundover. The end is in sight. -Derek
Finally, here are a few pictures. I was hoping to get these posted before. -Derek


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