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How to Make a Kayak - Staining with an Edge


Two Tone Staining

Although I used different color woods to make a pattern on this boat, after looking at it for a bit I decided the contrast could use a little more "pop". I decided to stain, but I wanted to keep the accent down the center of the deck and the two-tone bottom. In the past I have scraped accents, but I have not had a transition from one tone to another in the field of the boat surface.

Scraping Stain

With a narrow accent it is hard to avoid getting stain on the strip. I have thought about painting a strip of epoxy as "resist" so the strip does not soak up any stain, but this either requires a very steady hand with a small brush or masking tape. It is hard to mask on raw wood because the grain sucks up liquid. Capillary action will draw epoxy or stain under the tape creating a fuzzy edge.

Instead I just stained right over the accent strip and then came back and scraped off the stain. The stain soaks into the wood to only a very shallow depth. I have some tiny little chisels that I got for doing inlay work. One of these is about 1/16" wide and was a good match for my accent strip. Holding the chisel vertically made it a good scraper. This does remove some wood from the surface so the accent is now slightly inset, but not far. I had to go both ways with the scraper to get all the color removed. A straight edge helped keep me on the accent.

Masking Stain

After just saying that masking tape doesn't work that well on wood I went ahead and used it anyway. I already had a color transition between the strips. I used that color change to camouflage the fuzzy edge caused by the masking tape. I put the tape on the light side of the line, but overlapping about 1/16" (1 mm) on to the dark. I used a green masking tape that has aggressive stick and rubbed it down hard. My logic was the stain might wick under the tape a bit, but would stop at the glue-line between strips.

I also wiped upwards from the sheer line to the tape so I was not hitting the tape when the rag was at its wettest. The results were good. There are places where the stain did not make it all the way to the edge of the darker strip, but it is hard to tell that the color fades a bit. The eye is drawn to the natural contrast between the strips and does not notice the slight change in color within the dark strip.

Stain Color

Because the strips were somewhat dark to begin with I chose a light colored stain to just give the wood a little added color. This looked good in my test strips, but just didn't have the effect I wanted when I covered the whole boat. So I came back over with another darker stain to deepen the color.

This alcohol based stain dries very fast and is hard to keep from blotching. I use a very wet rag soaked with denatured alcohol to blend the color after applying the stain. There were a few places that I found I wanted to sand more after applying the stain because the stain highlighted sanding scratches that were not previously visible. I just sanded those areas as needed, then applied more stain where it was needed. Following the stain touch up with another full boat rub-down with alcohol blended everything together nicely.