How to Finish Maple and The Difficulties of Staining Maple Dark

Can maple wood be stained dark? The answer is yes, but it’s tricky. Compared to other kinds of wood, maple resists taking an even, consistent stain. That makes it hard to stain successfully, particularly when you’re trying to achieve a darker tone. Fortunately, you can get the look you want as long as you follow the correct technique - and who better to teach you than the cabinet door experts at cabinetdoors.com? Follow this guide to get the best results.

The Challenge of a Maple Wood Finish

Maple has a tight grain, meaning the wood is denser than other species. That makes it harder for stain to seep into the wood, except for the spots with a more open grain, which appears randomly and unexpectedly. As a result, stained maple doors often have a blotchy finish where some sections are noticeably darker than others. But now that you know the source of the problem, you’re well on your way to achieving whatever maple finish you desire.

A Step-by-Step Guide for Maple Finish

Before diving into the steps, we strongly encourage you to test the stain you intend to use on a piece of scrap wood similar to the maple in your cabinet doors. We recommend it so highly that we will even include scrap wood in your order for free if you request it in the “Additional Instructions” sections of the order form. Follow each of these steps for how to finish maple on the scrap before the actual doors:

  • Sand Thoroughly - To get an even maple wood finish, you need to make the maple wood grain as consistent as possible. That way the stain absorbs everywhere to approximately the same depth and displays the same degree of dark or light. Sand the wood panels with 220-grit sandpaper and the endgrain sections with 300-grit sandpaper. You will need to use an electric sander to ensure an even finish.
  • Condition - You can further limit stain penetration by applying a wood conditioner. This product fills the pores in the wood, making it harder for areas with less density to absorb the surplus stain. Home improvement stores sell a number of wood conditioner options, but we recommend Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner or dewaxed Zinsser Sanding Sealer cut half-and-half with Denatured Alcohol. Whatever you use, follow the manufacturer's application instructions exactly.
  • Treat the Endgrain - The cut side of the wood, known as the end grain, tends to be less dense, meaning it tends to be darker when stained because it soaks up more of the stain. Mix together one part white or yellow glue with 10 parts water before applying it to the endgrain. After letting it dry for several hours, sand with 300-grit sandpaper to seal the surface.
  • Apply Stain - At this point, you’re ready to apply the stain according to the manufacturer's instructions. Whether you want dark maple stain or just want to avoid blotches, your chances improve greatly by following the steps above. To improve them even more, use wood dye instead of stain. We suggest TransTint or Transfast. Follow steps one through three, then simply apply the dye instead of the stain.

Cabinetdoors.com - Custom-Built Maple Doors

If you’re going to take the time to carefully stain your cabinet doors, make sure your doors are worth it. Cabinetdoors.com custom builds maple cabinet doors to your exact specifications and in a wide range of popular and timeless styles. Imagine what a rich stain would look like on one of the many maple doors in our selection.

Sign up for our newsletter: