Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dark Reflections

Two or three weeks ago I promised to post pictures of the 2nd floor hallway floor shellacking I was finally, finally getting done.  Here they are, with commentary (including a great deal of whingeing and wailing):

The work commenced a little around a quarter to one AM on the 13th.  First step was to float a fresh coat of mahogany-tinted shellac over the stairs to the 3rd floor that I did a year ago October.  I made the mistake back then of letting the animals with their capers and their claws back onto the finish too soon, and in several places they'd scratched the treads to the bare wood:

With cat and dog scratches
What you see above is actually after I took some plain, untinted Kusmi #1 shellac to it and rubbed some of the worst of the scratches out.  Here the upper stairs are with the fresh coat:
Too dark and red
Now, I wouldn't take the evidence of my Canon PowerShot SX120 camera to convict a cockroach.  It knows nothing of accurate color-rendering, and it's useless for depicting degrees of sheen.  But this photo does testify true, first that the scratches were colored in, which is good, and second, that the color of the top shellac coat is too damn dark.

All this is what I get for failing to look for the scratchpad where I wrote down the proportions of mahogany and walnut dye to shellac a year ago.  As it happens, it wasn't actually up in my study where I thought I'd left it; no, that notepad has to be in the avalanche that is currently my guest bedroom, where I dumped everything before I started repainting the study in late August.  In any event, I didn't even try to look for the recipe when I mixed up the latest batch.  Instead I used a formula inverse to that I used to mix the walnut shellac for the trim in March (meaning, mostly mahogany with a smidge of walnut instead of vice-versa).  And even with that, I used less dye than the formula called for.  I thought it'd match.

So my first mistake was laying on that shellac at night, under insufficient light.  It wasn't till I got to the bottom treads down at the hallway that I noticed how dark the new color was, and how I'd merrily killed the golden-brown color I'd loved so much in those steps.
This I loved.  Too late now.
My next mistake was not drawing the obvious conclusion from the effect of the new shellac on the upper stairs. No, I was so keen to get things moving that I went ahead and used it on the floor. You'd think when I saw how reddish and dark it was on the first floorboards in the back of the closet, I'd dip a rag in the jar of alcohol, wipe it off, then go dilute the mix with more shellac and alcohol and start over.

But no, I had to keep going.

You'd think I'd remember that the first coat on the study stairs looked like this:

But somehow I thought it'd be All Right and marched-- I mean, brushed-- on.

This is where I left it around 3:30 in the morning on the 13th.  The camera with the flash makes it look more finished than it is.

But this isn't exactly accurate, either:

Since then, it's hit me that I made another mistake: I forgot that with fully-stripped and sanded wood with no patina, the first colored coat sets up so much better if an untinted coat is laid on first.  So even though I knew good and well by the next evening that what I had was too dark, in the following days I still had to lay on two or three more coats of mahogany-tinted shellac, though not half as strong, so the color wouldn't be just a watered-down burgundy red.

The next two days, the 13th and 14th, I finished the first coat on the hallway and brought it down the stairs. 
The second stage starts at the bathroom door

Then on in front of the upper stairs

Did this in 3 stages, to have a dry place to perch on
And if I thought looked watered-wine color up in the hallway, did it ever go red on the main stairs!

My friend Frieda* came by about the time I finished up the bottom tread.  She thought it looked "beautiful."  I'm trying really hard to take her word for it and so make the best of it.  Wiping it down and starting over wasn't an object once I got to this point-- too much damage to the walnut-shellacked risers and stringers.  I'll follow up with a post or two on how it looks now, two weeks later, with the caveat that my crummy camera is not to be trusted . . . And I'll promise to buck up and not whinge any more.  Really.


Karen Anne said...

It looks super to me. It's just the color the Douglas fir was stained in my old house.

Kate H. said...

Check out the next post and see how different the color of the floorboards is from that of the treads. Same shellac, but maybe not the same wood species?