“The windows have been an ongoing project.”
I feel like I say that in every blog post. Now that my work schedule has ramped up I don’t have time to run over to the house just for an hour here or there. I moved the whole window project to my basement, which is great because now I can just run downstairs and do a a little sanding, staining, finishing, or whatever. The only downside… it’s cramped!
The kitchen windows were an easier process because we knew the trim and sashes were going to be painted white. The five sashes I am working on now are not going to be painted on the inside so it is necessary to decide how we are going to finish them. This has lead to a full out standoff between me and the windows. Progress has stopped. I stare at them, they stare at me, then we both agree to go our separate ways. I will back up and explain how we got to this point in our relationship.
It all started with the original trim and hardwood floors in our house. The floor is pine and the plan is to just sand them and add several coats of polyurethane. Here is the current condition of the floors…
Here is what it looks like once sanded with 80, 150, and then 220 grit sandpaper…
Here is the look after a couple coats of poly…
We are not sure when we are going to refinish the trim. We plan on it eventually, but we aren’t sure if we will stain them a different color. For a while we thought that we would need to decide the stain color for the rest of the house so that we can match the windows. Turns out it’s not that simple. The windows are pine, the trim is oak. Pine is a soft wood and absorbs stain too well – resulting in a blotchy finish. From what I can gather, the sashes were not stained… just finished with shellac or polyurethane. That seems simple enough. I know how to do that. But will it matter that the newly finished window sashes won’t exactly match the trim??? Indecision and paralysis begins creeping in…
We don’t have a big problem with the current color of the trim, but if we had a choice we might choose a slightly darker tint. We also aren’t really sure how the trim is going to look compared to the newly finished pine floors. After staining the oak and then putting on a coat of poly, all the of the samples were actually a little lighter than the current trim. I took a piece of trim that we had already ripped off the wall, sanded it down, and then began systematically trying different stains.
A friend of mine recommended trying Formby’s to just remove the top coat and then use a finish coat to bring back the original look of the wood. The advantage of doing it this way is that we wouldn’t have to remove and sand the trim. We also wouldn’t have to worry about getting an even stain everywhere or deal with the difficulty of a polyurethane that is going to run and leave an uneven finish.
Once again, I grabbed a piece of trim that I am pretty sure we won’t end up using, carefully read the instructions on the Formby’s product at least three times, and then tried out the process. It was a pretty simple procedure and did not require much work… but, I’m not sure of the final results. The area in the middle was left a little splotchy…
My guess is that I pushed too hard in the middle. I have put on two coats of the finish, which you are supposed to treat like car wax, but I am not getting much of a sheen. I might need to try it with the glossier finish option, or maybe it needs more buffing, or maybe I’m not buffing with the right material. Once again, so many questions.
My questions don’t stop there. You might remember that I had to completely replace two sashes from the south side of the house. I also had to replace the bottom piece of two more sashes. The replacement wood is pine, the same as the old wood, except that it is 100 years younger.
This wouldn’t matter if we were just painting them white to match white trim. But we aren’t. The windows will still be finished wood because the trim is not painted. Somehow I have to match the old wood to the new wood. My first test failed miserably. I did pretreat the new wood with a conditioner that prevents the stain from being absorbed too much. This is necessary on pine because the wood is so soft and overly absorbent. I followed the instructions for the stain and left it on the wood for 5 minutes before wiping off. It looked awful.
My next attempt involved the conditioner again, but this time I just wiped the stain on and then immediately off. This worked much better and resulted in a finish that didn’t look nearly as bad. But it still doesn’t look anything remotely like the original and isn’t even close to being the right color.
Next I tried adding another level of stain that was a different color to try to add some depth. Didn’t really work. After a little more research I came across many people that recommended using an amber shellac to coat the wood and bring out a warmer color. Tried that. Didn’t work. It just looks yellow.
I have done a lot of research on how to match new pine to old pine. From what I gather in the woodworking forums, there is some magical combination of chemistry, plant biology, astrology, and sorcery involved in matching stain. After a couple trips to some woodworking shops to talk to real people I am now going to try dying the shellac with a concentrated dye called Transtint.
I really to get moving along on these 5 sashes so that I can reglaze them. It takes several weeks for the glaze to ready for paint and winter is quickly approaching. Trying to stay positive… My problem is only with these 4 sashes. The rest of them (barring any unforeseen rot) should be pretty straightforward. If I can figure out this non-sanding approach to refinishing the trim, it should allow for a relatively painless process. Also, the windows that I have already sanded and finished look awesome and I think the floor is also going to turn out great.
Meanwhile, our application for the new windows was approved by the historic preservation committee and we are in the process of selecting those windows. That decision hinges on the paint colors for the house. We are getting close to committing to that. Hopefully.