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I'm currently not in the US and overseeing a personal wood project, unfortunately, the woodworkers here are illiterate so I need help to properly guide them.

We're getting custom Ash wood doors built for our house entrance. The doors will be exposed to hot, humid and rainy weather and we want to stain the doors in a matte finish.

Please list the steps I should follow to achieve the best result i.e. Sanding, Staining, Sealing etc?

Ideally, the finish should last 3-4 years. The common problems I see here are stain coming off (whitish wood showing) and sometimes bloated wood panels. Is there a way to avoid these?

  • This will be difficult to answer satisfactorily because of the availability of suitable products where you are. In the UK for example you'd just go to a paint store or hardware store, buy a 'stain' product specifically made for this and brush it on the wood after it has been sanded. That's it, that's the entire process — sand to an even surface, apply 2-4 coats of a coloured finish and the job is done. – Graphus May 7 '18 at 19:07
  • What if such an All-In-One product wasn't available? I know we have Stain and Sealer available as separate product. AFAIK, the Sealer seals the stain, doesn't seal against water? – tunafish24 May 9 '18 at 4:44
  • One of the problems in this area is that the terminology is used vaguely and inconsistently in the finishing industry. So one maker's "stain" is a coloured finish (that may not need something on top of it) while true stains always need a finish applied on top to add protection. Similar with "sealer" which is too vague to really be a useful term. But if it's sold for use in exterior woodwork it may be exactly what you need. [contd] – Graphus May 9 '18 at 12:20
  • Note that most exterior finishes dry with some degree of gloss, from a slight sheen all the way to a full 'wet-look' gloss in the case of marine finishes. The gloss of marine finishes is not an accident, any finish with a matt surface is unfortunately slightly more inclined to degrading from exposure to weather because of its surface texture, so you'll get a longer service life with a satin, semi-gloss or gloss final finish. – Graphus May 9 '18 at 12:24
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Where in the world is this project? I'll assume this is a somewhat remote Third World location. Even in the most remote locations, materials as simple as wax or paint may be of use (if reapplied regularly). Also given the resources, creating your own varnishes may be feasible.

As for steps there are many sources. I'll simply outline them here:

1) prepare the surfaces - removing all tool marks, bumps, etc. leaving the surface smooth to the touch.

2) alter the color (if desired) - in remote areas, there will be craft traditions familiar with locally accessible materials (like people who dye cloth). Where I live, walnut husks can be cooked to make a great stain for wood called Vandyke brown. I'm sure there is some source near you; commercial or craft-based that will work.

3) coat with a protective layer - oil, wax, varnish, etc. are applied to resist water and other elements. This step usually is repeated: add a coat, perhaps apply sand or steel wool to smooth, add a coat, and so on, until desired result is achieved.

Steps 2 and 3 can be combined if you are using paint or a product that both colors and protects at the same time.

My suggestion is to look to local boat-builders and follow their lead. The finishes used in wooden boat building will have the characteristics you are looking for (given your comments about moisture) and the boat-builders will know how to apply the finishes they use.

Books like the following may be useful (depending on your location):

Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing

Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish

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  • Thanks for the detailed answer. Actually, I found a guy who seems to know what he's doing. He used Jotun Woodshield Exterior product. However, he first stained, then sprayed lacquer, then Jotun Woodshield and I think used a Wood hardener inbetween as well. I felt that staining and applying Jotun Woodshield would have been enough? – tunafish24 Oct 18 '18 at 19:10
  • " I felt that staining and applying Jotun Woodshield would have been enough" - It is. In the bigger picture, nothing lasts forever so if the wood is exposed to the elements (sun, rain, etc.), something will need to be reapplied (or redone) 10, 20 or 100 years from now. In my opinion, not knowing all the variables, either approach will get you out of the 'redo next year' category. – ewm Oct 21 '18 at 17:32

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