I had the opportunity to make a brief case for my step-daughter to use to carry small bottles of her Do-Tera essential oils. I had some purple heart on hand. She and her husband are loyal Texas A&M aggies so I decided to stain the purple heart to the maroon side for her case. The wood working was no sweat. I planned a rabbeted edge on the two flat sides and a single board with mitered corners around for the sides. A fitted lip was routed for a nice secure seating of the closure. Purple heart is very dense. It was heavy enough that I took it down to 5/8 to work with. It creates tiny splinters and will crack so going to 1/2 – leaving me with 1/4 edges minus a bit for the tolerances of opening and closing or glue ups was risky. I had more splinters doing this case than I did doing my entire kitchen in curly maple. The wood is so pretty it is well worth it.
I had not seen Rustoleum wood stains before. There was a black cherry stain in that and I looked at the Minwax bombay mahogany. On the tests the black cherry hit the right tone of maroon so I gave it a try. The directions say to leave for a minute or two and not allow it to dry before wiping off. I left it about 30 seconds and noticed that it could not be wiped off at that point. I had to sand it down. When I just wiped it on the color was good. It did not allow a lot of the wood grain to show through but the color was nice. I did a second wipe the next day to even it all out. Two days later I sprayed a coat of SPAR lacquer to seal it. Twenty four hours later I sprayed a second coat. Twenty four hours later it was still a bit tacky – odd but in this humidity in Houston that can happen even in the AC. I waited another day and it felt dry. I started putting the hardware on the case. I noticed many scratches and found that I could scratch my finger nail through the stain to make a light purple streak. I tried buffing it only to find that the entire finish was unstable and unacceptable. I had to sand it down to the bare wood. Stains generally soak into the wood and do not sit on the surface like a paint would, and like this stain did. I reread the directions and it said to use polyurethane as a top coat. I needed another small can so I bought a new one. This time instead of having a red base to the black cherry as the first can did it had a deep purple base. It was a different color than the first can. (Both from Lowes, both from the same batch.) It also went on the surface and did not stain the wood. I sanded it back off, again.
I switched to Minwax red mahogany and it stained beautifully. I took the next two days to to get two coats nicely settled in. The wood grain was shining through but in the proper Aggie Maroon color I was going for. I had purchased SPAR poly and did four complete coats over the next week. Hardware went on and the case is lovely. Still heavy but all of that sanding had to help, right? It can handle bumps and scrapes and they will buff out easily.
So why SPAR, why lacquer, why poly? Poly is very water proof and hard – excellent for flooring. The problem is that UV rays of the sun cause it to break down and flake off. If you have ever had a gorgeous hardwood front door age quickly and seem to break down it is because it was coated with Poly alone. Lacquer does not break down sun light, but it is not as hard wearing. It can be buffed up to a gorgeous shine and is preferred for fine furniture. A SPAR rating added to either poly or lacquer gives the wood finish and stain the UV protection it needs and has an added water proofing as well as hardness. SPAR coatings are used on wooden features on boats. For any piece that will be in the sun, banged around and exposed to moisture a SPAR coating is the way to go