Personally, I like those
stain markers that Minwax sells. I use them for touching up
the nail holes when I install pre-finished stained wood
trim. They also work great for coloring scratches. But these
markers just stain the wood, they don't provide any type of
hard clear coating.
It's my understanding that
most cabinet manufacturers use lacquer to finish
their cabinets. You can tell if the finish is ordinary
old-fashioned nitrocellulose lacquer if it can be dissolved
readily in lacquer thinner. However, today there are newer
types of lacquer that are "catalyzed", which means they
undergo a chemical reaction while they dry, so just because
lacquer thinner doesn't dissolve the finish doesn't mean
that the finish isn't lacquer. Lacquer thinner will also
dissolve urethane, but it takes much longer, from my
Cabinet manufacturers use
lacquer because it dries very fast and it does not change
the color of the stained wood (like oil-based urethane
does). But lacquer is not as durable as urethane. New
catalyzed or cross-linked lacquers may be more durable. But
cabinet manufacturers also seem to use a fairly thin coating
of finish, which I suppose explains why it wears off so
I have used spray cans of
lacquer, so it's possible to touch-up the worn finish on
your cabinets with a spray can. But I don't know how well
the patch will blend in with the original finish. I suppose
you could lightly sand the worn areas with fine sandpaper,
spray them with lacquer (after you've touched up the stain),
and then spray the entire door with a final coat of lacquer.
I would prefer to refinish the entire surface of each door.
lacquer can be hazardous. Read about
spray finishing locations.
Doors and Trim:
It's likely that the "clear coat" on your
doors and millwork is just plain old urethane. I have not
had much luck with touching up spots of urethane, because you
can usually see the boundaries of the new spot.
My approach is to just do a
quick light sanding of the old finish and apply a complete new coat.
You don't normally need to remove all the old finish, just
"feather" it so there are no stark transitions. Only
light sanding is desired here, because if you sand too much
you will begin to remove some of the stain. I always apply at
least 2 coats of urethane, 3 or 4 coats on high-traffic areas.
A light sanding is necessary to scuff-up the urethane before
re-coating. I can't say that the results will look absolutely
perfect, but they won't look scratched up either. Just try a
An important issue with wood
is sheen (shininess or gloss level). Most cabinets I've
seen are a satin sheen. That "glass" look you mention sounds like high-gloss,
but highly glossy wood doesn't appeal to everybody. I never
use anything shinier than semi-gloss... unless I have a good
Matching stain color is
something else. Unless you know the exact brand of stain used
originally, all you can do is try some samples on a piece of
wood of the same species. If your wood is oak, it's probably
red oak, which is the most common hardwood used for stained
trim these days.
Personally, I don't always
try to make stained wood match. In the case of your doors, if
you can't get some samples to match closely, I would consider
trying some complimentary stain color... but only if you are
planning on refinishing the entire door.
I wouldn't be surprised if
your millwork stain is either a name-brand of "golden oak" or non-stained
oak. This country is awash in those two colors of millwork.
There are many manufacturers of stain and finding the exact
color may require shopping around to find a few different
brands of Golden Oak or Honey Oak stain.
Usually you can re-stain
light-colored woods to a darker stain color. You can do a lot
of experimenting, that's all I do.
If you want to re-stain any
woodwork, you will need to completely remove the old urethane.
Chemical strippers work well but require
washing and drying and this takes a bit of time. The stripping
is best done outdoors in warmer weather. I recently did a few
test pieces on our 95-year-old oak trim. The stripper took the
stain out completely. I've got a whole house full of trim to
strip, re-stain, and urethane. I can't wait until spring! Read
stripping old varnished trim. Also, read this article
stripping furniture with chemical paint stripper, which
may be more applicable to the task of stripping urethane
from trim or doors.
I have made custom-blended
stains by mixing carefully measured quantities of various
Minwax stains. But keeping track of the color proportions is
critical, or else you won't be able to reproduce the stain
again. For small test batches I used eye-droppers and count
the number of drops of liquid.
Bruce W. Maki, Editor.