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4 Proven Finishes for Oak Washington DC

The layered finishes start with a ground color of water-based dye. People like water-based dyes because they don’t bleed back out of oak’s pores like alcohol-based dyes do. Next, a barrier coat of dewaxed shellac seals in the dye.

The Home Depot
(202)526-8760
901 Rhode Island Ave
Washington, DC
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Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Home Depot
(301)839-9600
6003 Oxon Hill Road
Oxon Hill, MD
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Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Home Depot
(703)823-1900
400 S Pickett St
Alexandria, VA
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Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Home Depot
(703)534-9580
6210 Seven Corners Ctr
Falls Church, VA
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Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Home Depot
(703)642-3660
6555 Little River Trnpke
Alexandria, VA
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Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Home Depot
(301)891-1106
3301 E West Highway
Hyattsville, MD
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Mon-Sat: 6:00am-10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

The Home Depot
(301)324-0180
150 Hampton Park Blvd
Capitol Heights, MD
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The Home Depot
(301)345-6774
4700 Cherry Hill Rd
College Park, MD
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The Home Depot
(301)805-8149
10301 M L King Jr. Hwy
Lanham, MD
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The Home Depot
(703)619-5124
7710 Richmond Hwy
Alexandria, VA
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4 Proven Finishes for Oak

4 Proven Finishes for Oak

by Dave Munkittrick

A good finish should highlight the best characteristics of the wood it goes on. I’ve put together four finish recipes that make the most of oak’s contrasting grain. The first three recipes use two different color layers, each separated by a seal coat of shellac. Light penetrates and reflects back through the layers, giving these finishes stunning depth and beauty. The fourth is a simple, out-of-the-can recipe that produces a surprisingly good-looking finish. 

The layered finishes start with a ground color of water-based dye. I like water-based dyes because they don’t bleed back out of oak’s pores like alcohol-based dyes do. Next, a barrier coat of dewaxed shellac seals in the dye. Shellac dries fast, allowing you to move through the steps quickly. A second layer of color, called a glaze, is applied over the sealed dye. The dark glaze fills the open-pored earlywood, increasing its contrast with the light-colored latewood. I use a gel stain for the glaze because it doesn’t run all over or bleed back. Another coat of shellac seals in the glaze. The dewaxed shellac allows you to use your favorite topcoat. (Check out “Tips & Techniques for Fantastic Oak Finishes” .)

Mission Oak

This finish is designed specifically for quartersawn white oak. Sanding the dye coat ever so lightly really enhances the ray flecks. 

1. Apply a 50-50 mix of Trans Tint Dark Mission brown and medium brown dye to the bare wood and let it dry.

2. Very lightly scuff-sand the dyed wood with 320-grit paper. 

3. Seal the dye with a barrier coat of wax-free shellac. 

4. Scuff-sand.

5. Glaze with Minwax walnut gel stain.

6. Seal with wax-free shellac and scuff-sand when dry.

7. Apply a topcoat of your choice.


Golden Oak

This is a classic oak finish familiar to any antique lover. The glaze layer darkens the open-pored earlywood and contrasts beautifully with the brownish-gold latewood. This finish looks best on red oak.

1. Apply J.E. Moser’s Wizard Tints honey amber dye to the bare wood and let it dry.

2. Seal with shellac and scuff-sand when dry.

3. Glaze with Minwax walnut gel stain.

4. Seal with shellac and scuff-sand when dry.

5. Apply a topcoat of your choice.


Deep, Dark, Red Oak

This finish looks great on plainsawn red oak boards and  is impossible to get straight out of a can. The red dye is incredibly strong. But the gel stain is applied without a barrier coat so it darkens both the earlywood and latewood.

1. Apply J.E. Moser’s Wizard Tints bright scarlet to the bare wood and let it dry.

2. Apply Minwax jet black mahogany gel stain. 

3. Seal with wax-free shellac and scuff-sand when dry.

4. Apply a topcoat of your choice.


Simple, But Nice, Oak Finish

This finish is as easy as it gets. Its results are not as spectacular as those of the othe...

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