A Custom Finish for Affordable Doors
Layers of dye and glaze add instant character to an inexpensive interior door.
Synopsis: A door that looks like a million bucks doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Finisher Peter Gedrys shares his professional advice on creating custom finishes to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind doors. For Gedrys, the beauty comes from layering different staining products to achieve unique colors. Gedrys begins his process by sanding and washing the door’s surface. Next, he dyes and seals the door. Finally, he applies glaze and a top coat of shellac and wax.
More often than not, wood interior and exterior doors are finished using a premixed pigment stain. To be perfectly honest, the results are typically less than stellar. The stain ends up too dark, the wood grain becomes muddy and obscured, or the overall finish is blotchy.
Besides, there is more to finishing than just changing the color of wood. I don’t care if you are working with poplar or mahogany. By first understanding the finishing products available to you and by learning how to combine them in creative ways, you can go beyond a remedial finish and dramatically improve the final product. Even a brand-new pine slab door like the one featured here — found in a lumberyard clearance pile — can be finished with a warm, antique glow.
Get a feel for sanding
If the door is already installed, I suggest you pop it off its hinges and bring it to your shop, your garage, or another well-ventilated area of your house, then lay it flat on sawhorses.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a store-bought door will be ready for finish. Every square inch of wood needs to be sanded, wet down, then sanded again.
On a softwood like pine, I start sanding with 150-grit paper; harder woods should begin with 120 grit. I occasionally use an orbital sander for…