In this episode we take a look at the materials, tips and techniques used by classic boat builders for getting that incredible mahogany finish that makes people say “Wow!! How do they do that?”
We achieved a major milestone in our 1957 Century Palomino preservation project today. The hull is now stained in the traditional two-tone Palomino manner. Blonde Avodire (African white mahogany, graces both the fore and aft decks, save for the crescent just aft of the windshield, which is stained to match the covering boards.
We used Interlux IInterstain thinned about 10% and applied it with plain old chip brushes. Besides being thinned to a consistency that approximates house paint and applying it liberally on the surface, t here are two keys to achieving a stained surface that is uniform and free of blotches.
First, is being patient, but not too patient. Way too many stain teams assign application to one person while the rest follow immediately behind scrubbing stain off the surface. Doing so prohibits the stain from penetrating the wood fibers. As hard as it might be, wait until the stain “flashes,” at which point the surface begins taking on a dull look. Do not wait too long, however, as the stain continues curing, and if you wait too long, scrubbing the surface clean becomes a nightmare.
Now it is time to begin scrubbing across the grain, not with the grain. A filler stain is designed to fill the valleys in the grain left by sanding with the grain to 80 or 100 grit. (Sanding the surface smoother than 100 grit max robs the surface of the ridges and valleys — the teeth — that the stain will fill.)
Scrub, scrub, scrub. Change your cheese cloth or terry cloth toweling when it becomes caked with residue. (Be sure to drape the used rags over a close line, or something similar to avoid spontaneous combustion. They are safe to discard only when they become stiff as a board.)
How do you know you are finished? The surface will begin feeling smooth and almost slippery. And your towels will come away nearly clean when you burnish across the grain with them.
Staining is anything but glamorous, but nothing can do more harm to your project than scrubbing too soon or too little. The varnish will amplify every blemish and every blotch a hundredfold.