Testing Stain, Testing Wood

We're set that we'll be using cherry for all of the face frames and doors of our future hutch, but now it's time to test out stains for it. I have become a stain testing master at this point. We love the quality of the Zar stain we've used on the floor, so we opted to use the same brand for our hutch. I headed out to MacBeath to pick up 2 samples, and also grabbed one that we already had

I was pulling for Moorish Teak, and I had a feeling Chris would like Dark Mahogany the best. And I just wanted to see how Early American would turn out and thought it might look nice. I cut down some pieces of cherry from a sample we'd purchased at MacBeath

And I labeled the back of each piece so I knew which stain was which

Then I slapped on a coat of each stain

The top is Early American, the middle is Moorish Teak, and the bottom is Dark Mahogany.

A day or two later I came back out and applied the second coat of stain

Early American was totally out. It looked like baby poo to me. So it was between Moorish Teak and Dark Mahogany (Moorish on the bottom, Mahogany on the top in the below pic)

And just as Chris and I predicted of each other, I liked Moorish Teak the best and he liked Dark Mahogany the best. Chris tends to like more reddish stains and I just don't like red. But after looking at them together, I liked the Dark Mahogany, and though I liked Moorish Teak more Chris lets me win most of the time when it comes to house stuff, so Dark Mahogany it is!

The next decision was figuring out what size our herringbone pattern will be and what kind of wood we'll be using for our future countertop. While Chris was working on his jig I hung out outside in the sunshine and worked on drawing out the pattern for the countertop

How could I deny that beautiful sunshine?

Drawing out the pattern on scrap paper is easy...

But getting it more exact on my graph paper proved a bit more difficult. Our initial idea was that each piece of wood would be 1.5" x 6" and figuring out how to lay it out on paper got my brain slightly confused at first. But I found the center point, got the angle down correctly, and then started drawing it out angle by angle

The first set of herringbone took me about 20 minutes (which looking back on it, that's sort of pathetic)

But after that because the angles and lines were already started, expanding it was a lot easier

I LOVED the pattern, but I got a little concerned at how busy it was going to look. With the pattern set at that size it came to (about) 220 pieces of wood. For only an 87" x 21" countertop that seemed like way too much for me. So, like a completely crazy person I spent another hour drawing a new pattern in a larger size: 2" x 8"

And Chris made fun of me the whole time. But in the end I was totally glad I did it because the 2x8 pattern looked way better, and we never would have known unless I drew them both all out. Duh. :)

The next step was figuring out what wood we wanted. Of course we headed out to MacBeath (because they've basically become our best friends at this point) to get some samples for the countertop and talk to them about the project and what they might suggest. They have an awesome display of all the woods they carry and what they look like with just a very thin coat of poly on top so you get an idea of what the natural wood looks liked finished

Chris and I were pretty sure we wanted our herringbone pattern to alternate between Mahogany and Wenge. But we were also enticed by a rare species called Bocote. So we took a sample of that home as well

From left: Cherry (our face frames and drawer and door fronts), Bocote, Wenge and Mahogany. The Mahogany is a lock, now it was just a matter of figuring out what our second piece of wood will be. We really loved the Wenge

But the Bocote was pretty enticing too

When we were talking about the project with a salesman from MacBeath he told us that over time the Bocote will basically turn black. The lighter parts will continue to get darker and darker until their color matches the same deep color as the grain. Even if the wood wasn't in the sun or susceptible to other natural elements, it would still turn black. We still really liked the natural grain of it, but over time that would go away, and we realized we really didn't like that.

With our wood pretty much decided, we looked through the handy dandy price packet we'd picked up on one of our visits

This'll actually be really handy for future projects as we're doing more and more woodworking because it's got all the prices of all the different kinds of wood in all their different sizes and types

We knew we'd have to buy about 13 sq. ft. of wood, split into the two different kinds came out to about 7 board feet for each to be safe. After calculating everything it came out to about $250 for all the wood for our counter (the Wenge was pretty pricey at $16+ per bf). We both let out a big sigh, and looked through the list of woods and thought about other wood we had seen that we liked. I remembered liking Chechen when we were at Macbeath, and because we had decided on the Dark Mahogany stain for the body of the cabinet, I thought the red shades in this wood would pair nicely with the Mahogany and also go well with the stain on the rest of the cabinet. I went back to MacBeath and picked up a sample

The good news is that this wood was a big cheaper than the Wenge and cut off about $25 from the total. Which is always nice. And I think the bits of red grain in it look really good with the mahogany that will be paired with it on top

And we cut down a couple of rough sample pieces to see what the pattern of using two woods would look like

And then we tossed in the face frame cherry that had been stained in dark mahogany to give us an idea of what all the woods will look like together

Of course the counter will have a light layer of tung oil on the top to really make the colors pop, but I think it's looking awesome so far!

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