On a recent trip to Woodcrafters here in good, old Portland, I picked up, at the recommendation of one of their knowledgeable and helpful employees, a gel stain to complete the arcades and accidentals. I explained that I was shooting for an Arts & Crafts/Craftsman look for them, so he suggested I try this:
As with nearly everything I do with wood, especially when I have no experience with something, I tested the stain out on a couple of 1/16" strips of quarter sawn:
They look like, in a word, crap.
When I posted the tests on the Facebook project page, I received a flurry of suggestions, most of which were centered on just oiling/finishing them in their natural state. I do not consider this a bad idea at all. I'm going to try some Tru-Oil (which is really a varnish used on gun stocks) on their reverse sides tonight to see how that goes. It will take much less time because I'm going to apply it as Owen Daly originally recommended - with a rag, not a paint brush.
The point of this exercise is to keep them light enough they contrast nicely with the naturals, all of which are capped with African blackwood. I need a hard enough finish on them that playing over the ensuing years doesn't start to wear them down and I believe Tru-Oil is just the ticket. Or maybe not. We'll see tonight.
Until next time...