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Staining Wheels 101 – Old School Way with New Products

Applying a finish to purchased or homemade wheels has always been labor intensive and time consuming.
There are many ways to apply a finish to wheels, just to name a few:
 Seal or prime, and paint by brush or spray can, sand, apply final coat and do it again.
 Cook them in the oven (Outside of course) and apply a finish if desired.
Or Apply a wiping stain using some of the newer materials available today and again apply a finish.

One of our members, Ken Martin, brought to my attention a wiping stain to experiment with and because I was having difficulty finding this product he was gracious enough to send me a tube.
Thanks Ken for your generosity.

Let’s take a look at the products I used for this article.

1 Products Used.jpg 
Minwax Water Based Wiping Stain & Finish Express Colors Onyx and Mahogany.
Two (2) pieces of common framing lumber 2x4 ripped into 1/8” test strips.
Eight (8) pre-made hardwood wheels.
Craft Gloss Varnish
Cynthia’s Child Safe Non-Toxic Bee’s Wax Paste

Let’s take a closer look at the raw materials after applying the wipe on stain.

2 After Stain Applied.jpg 

The manufacturer instructions for applying the stains is quite straight forward.
Sand the parts first, remove dust and shake tube.
Apply stain to the wood with a clean cloth, I used a brush to get into the center grove of the wheels.
Remove excess by wiping gently, preferably in the direction of the grain.
Easy on the two (2) test strips, not so easy on the wheels.
Wait one (1) hour and apply a second coat.
Wait overnight before using or three (3) hours before apply a finish coat.
I waited overnight before I applied the gloss varnish on some of the wheels.

Now let us take a closer look at the Onyx (black) test strip.
Stains are not a product that are forgiving when it comes to concealing imperfections.
Near the bottom of the black test strip, close to where you see the natural wood you can see a diagonal grove in the wood which was not sanded out.
I left this grove in intentionally to show the results of poor surface preparation prior to staining.
The stain clearly amplifies the surface imperfection, so be aware of this before you apply the stain.
The mahogany test strip shows no imperfections because more time was spent preparing the surface.

The wheels themselves resulted with very good coverage, especially the Onyx ones and the Mahogany wheels do display a very small amount of variance.
All the results were quite acceptable to be used.

Economy priced bulk wheel purchases do not guarantee perfect wheels as you can see below.
Sometimes you really get what you paid for.

3 Wheel Imperfections.jpg 

The lower Mahogany wheel shows all kinds of roughness around the center portion of the wheel and a little bit on the top outside side surface of the wheel.
The Onyx wheel shows a flat spot on the outside diameter of the tire.
Not the most ideal selection of wheels to apply stain to.
If the Mahogany wheel was unfinished, meaning no stain applied, it could be used if primer and paints were applied.
Filling in the imperfections with a few coats of primer or paint would salvage this wheel for use.

Let us look at the completed wheels after receiving various finishing treatments.
4 Finished Wheels.jpg 
Bottom two (2) Mahogany wheels were stained, 2-coats, and Bee’s Wax applied.
Great finish and wonderful soft feel, even the areas of the imperfections in the wood.

Above them, the two (2) Onyx wheels were also stained, 2-coats, and Bee’s Wax applied.
Again, a wonderful finish and feel.

The third (3rd) row from the bottom received 2-coats of stain on unfinished wood wheels and 2-coats of Gloss Varnish was applied with sanding in-between the coats.
Nice shine and nice feel.

The top row received the full treatment.
2-coats of stain, 2-coats of Gloss Varnish and Cynthia’s Child Save Non-Toxic Bee’s Wax paste.
Outstanding shine and feel.

The test strips did not receive any finishing and were left untreated for comparison only.

In conclusion:
If you are looking for an easy way to modify the color of your wheels try using a wipe on stain.
As you can see, you can achieve acceptable results with a minimum of work.
Note: Even thou these stains are water based, I would recommend wearing a pair of disposable gloves when applying the product.

The sample strips are to demonstrate to you that you can also apply and use stains on piece parts of any assembly you are making with favorable results.
The stains are available in many colors of wood.

Give it a try and let me know now you make out.

5 Final Shot.jpg   

Happy Toymaking and Staining

cynthia lewman

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Posts: 438
Reply with quote  #2 
Great article Udie! I have never seen or heard of MinWax stains in a tube before reading your article. I really like the concept. No messing can lids to deal with.


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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for taking the time to show us this Udie.
Being basically lazy myself, I am happy to try anything that makes it easy for me to complete my toys [thumb]


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