While we've discussed popular oak finishes before, we've never gotten specific as to the exact Minwax color names. Here are the 4 best stain colors to use when trying to achieve the popular "white oak" tone. These color names and codes are intended for Minwax's Performance Tintable stain base, which can be custom mixed at any Sherwin-Williams store.
(Design and photo credit: Amanda Teal Design)
1. Grey Elm, MW 401
2. Birchbark, MW 411
3. Whitewash, MW 423
4. Amber Pine, MW 433
The purpose of stain is to simply change the color of the wood. Stain, by itself, offers no protection to dings, moisture, and other daily wear-and-tear. This is where a clear topcoat comes in. While I'm generally a fan of staying within the same finish system or manufacturer, Minwax's topcoats aren't the best option available. Their Polycrylic has several drawbacks: very long dry time, not very durable, and can push the color very yellow. This is why we're such big fans of General Finishes High Performance. This can be sprayed or brushed, won't change the color of the wood, and offers very good scratch, dent, and moisture resistance.
This is by no means the best clear topcoat available, but it is the best of both worlds: very durable and very easy to work with (specifically for homeowners attempting to DIY, or stuck dealing with low-skilled painters, or less-than-helpful cabinetmakers responsible for their new cabinets' finish).
(Photo design and credit: Rose Rock 918)
Sample, Sample, Sample
While the colors listed above are excellent starting points, the only way to find the perfect stain color is to have the person applying the final finish to sample, sample, sample (there is a lot of technique involved in staining... one person's sample will rarely look like another's, ever when the exact same wood and stain are used).
Staining Is More Than Just The Stain
If there is one thing we try to impart in this blog and our Facebook group is nuance. There are very few one-size-fits-all answers in building, and that couldn't be more true when dealing with stained finishes. Wood type, wood cut (rift vs flat vs quarter), solid wood vs veneer, stain type (water vs oil), sanding technique, et al all play a major role in how the finish ultimately turns out. Unfortunately, once stain goes onto a piece of wood, especially veneer, that's usually a wrap.
This vanity was stained by a "professional" and, as you can tell, looks pretty bad. Blotchy, inconsistent tone between the center panels and frames, streaky, and on and on. We bring this up not to frighten or dissuade anyone, but rather to help educate that even though a stain color has been selected, the finisher still has all his or her work ahead. This is one of the main reasons Wayhome exists: to prevent frustrating and expensive mistakes from happening in the first place.
If you have a cabinetry project coming up (or are in the middle of one), consider booking a Cabinetry Consultation with us. From helping you vet cabinetmakers, to specifying a professional grade finish for a lower skilled finisher, to helping save you thousands of dollars, our unbiased expertise is there for your peace of mind. No matter your project, question, concern, or frustration, we'll help you find your way home.