If you are looking to buy unfinished maple kitchen cabinets, you will want to take a few things into consideration first. Unfinished maple cabinets are expensive, and you will probably not want to cover the beauty of this expensive wood with paint.
When staining maple, coloring appears blotchy and unclean. If you try to stain your cabinets, you will probably not be very pleased with the results. Your cabinets will appear dirty as darker colors show in some areas, with very light colors showing through in other areas.
No matter how hard you try, you will never get the professional look obtained by manufactures that stain unfinished maple. Factories obtain their finishes through a long and expensive process that a homemaker cannot match, much less afford.
Why You Should Not Paint
Your unfinished cabinets already have beauty in the wood alone. The beauty of maple should never be covered with paint. Maple is an expensive wood, and if you paint it, you may as well use a cheaper wood because one will never know the difference. On other words, you are ruining what is the whole point of unfinished maple.
Leaving The Maple Unstained And Unpainted
You could leave your maple kitchen cabinets plain, by not applying any stains or paint. The only problem with this is that unfinished maple is almost white and is considered bland looking by most people.
Unfinished maple cabinets may look well in your decor if you have a very white kitchen, but they would be extremely difficult to clean. The smallest amount of dirt, grime and dust will appear to be magnified against the brightness of unfinished maple. This is not a good thing for a kitchen, as grease and grime are sure to accumulate on your cabinets. If you have small children, you certainly would not want white (or light) cabinets, as children can sometimes be quite messy.
There is an alternative that you should consider for your cabinets. You can use dyes instead of stain to create a uniform coloring. If you purchase the softer maple, it will accept dyes more readily than it does stain. Soft maple is a wonderful selection to use for cabinets and one that is also much easier to maintain.
Dye finish for wood is also known as analine water stain. They are water soluble staining dyes that color the wood without covering up the natural lovely grain and texture of maple. You can find analine dyes at woodworking supply shops or order them online from places like Woodfinishsupply.com or Lee Valley.
To dye your unfinished maple, you will first want to sand with fine 180-grit sandpaper. Wet the wood lightly using a damp cloth, and then apply the dye following the instructions on the can. When dying your cabinets, you may want to first dye a test piece of soft maple to ensure that the coloring is uniform and of the shade that you are seeking.
Once you have applied the dye, allow it to dry for 24 hours and then apply vinyl sealer for water protection. Allow 24 hours for the sealer to dry and then apply a coat of pre-cat lacquer. Allow 24 hours for the lacquer to dry and then polish until it has a shiny finish. When polishing the lacquer, you can use virtually any polishing compound and any soft buffing material to get a beautiful shine.
See Also: Different Wood Stain Types
photo of maple cabinets by Thao