Wood Colours – When Is Medium Oak Not Medium Oak?

When looking to colour real wood flooring, wood veneers, furniture, decking or for that matter, any sort of interior or exterior wood, getting the right colour is always an important factor. From rich teak to medium oak, stripped pine to mahogany, there are an amazing array of wood stains, wood waxes, coloured varnishes and wood oils for any project.

Choosing the right colour

One of the difficulties with wood specific colours is that every manufacturer of wood finishing products and indeed most people’s interpretation of what particular wood colours should be called differs. A classic example of this is demonstrated by going to Google Search, typing in ‘medium oak wood‘, then clicking on the ‘images’ link beneath the search box. Google will display literally thousands of images that companies and individuals have tagged on their websites as ‘medium oak wood’, and it becomes immediately obvious that a lot of these websites have a very different idea of what a ‘medium oak’ colour should be. The same can be said for pretty much any type or colour of wood when searching in Google Images.

A common approach we take at Wood Finishes Direct when customers call to discuss the staining of wood is to ask them to ignore the colour names and to focus more on the actual colour swatch. It’s often the case that although they come to us initially looking for a medium oak wood stain, they may very well feel that our medium oak stain is too light, too dark, too warm or not warm enough but then see another colour which exactly matches their expectation such as our Dark Pine or Teak wood stain.

Oak Wood Stain Colours

Staining different wood species

Another major consideration with wood finishing products is that the coloured product, be it a wax, oil, stain or varnish, is designed to be translucent, i.e. it allows the wood grain to show through the colour. As the natural colour of the wood will always have a major influence on the colour of the applied wood finish. There will always be a different result if the same product is used on a piece of Pine, Oak, Larch, Beech or any other type of wood. The same is true even if sticking with the same type of wood. Taking Pine as an example, with hundreds of Pine species, all will give a different final tone to the colour in one way or another. This can be an issue with old floors where the majority of the boards are original but some have been replaced over the years. The replaced boards will react differently with the applied finish and will probably give a different look to the original boards when coloured, even if they are the same species. The difference in colour can usually be made less obvious but may take some experimentation and testing to get it right.

What’s the solution?

So what is the best approach when looking to colour wood with a coloured or pigmented wood finishing product? In short, trust your eyes and go with the colour that looks right rather than by the name of a colour. Always keep in mind that the colour of the product on your floor or furniture will likely differ to the example colour swatch on the tin. Another thing to take into account is that when viewing wood finishing and indeed paint colours online, everyone’s monitor is set to a different contrast and colour setting similar to when you see the same TV programme on many TV’s when you walk into a TV shop.

With so many factors to take into account when choosing a colour for a wood finishing project, our advice is to always do a test area first on the actual wood to be stained and finished. If you find that the colour is either too light or too dark on the test patch, there are probably things that can be done to fine tune the final colour. For example, a water-based stain can be diluted with water to lighten the shade. This is by far better than completing a major project to then be faced with the prospect of having to sand it all off and start again.

Need help?

If you have any questions regarding choosing the right product for your project, our resident experts are on-hand to offer help and advice – just give us a call.

6 Responses to “Wood Colours – When Is Medium Oak Not Medium Oak?”

  1. bob huffman Says:

    i have fiberglass medium oak door needing a small patch repair. where can i buy a medium oak oil based stain can?

  2. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Bob,

    We have 2 ranges of Tinted Oils the first is Osmo Polyx Oil Tints and the second is Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Tints if there is a colour in either of these ranges that would match, you could use them.

    They are available in sample sizes and can be mixed with in the same ranges to create another colour or tone. Alternatively you could have a look at the Manns Classic Oak Stain to colour match and finish with a Clear Oil from Osmo.

  3. Gary Says:

    I have just used medium oak Danish oil to do a pine stair rails and bannisters. I don’t like the finish as there are too many blemishes in the wood and residue from glue etc making the finish blotch and untidy.

    I would now like to stain the top of the rail with a walnut colour and paint the bannister posts white.

    Is it ok to use undercoat and silk emulsion on the posts and what wood stain would you recommend for the rails and top. Thanks in advance. Gary

  4. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Gary,

    Thank you for the inquiry, dark rails and white post are a great look and I would recommend, once you have removed the Danish oil, using Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Tints in Walnut for the rail and then Osmo Country Colour in White for the posts.

    Both are Oil based products that won’t peel or flake over time and will protect and colour in one as well as being easier to maintain. Simply ensure that the wood is clean and grease free and than apply a fresh coat of the Oil, when you feel it needs it, without having to remove any of the previous product. I hope that helps and please let me know if you have any more questions – Sam.

  5. Stuart Airlie Says:

    I have a old dutch dark oak unit. I sanded it down to the bare wood, revealing chipboard
    in places were i had to sand deep. I wanted to stain and varnish medium oak so filled the chipboard problem with Ronseal medium oak filler. I sanded this down to a perfect finish, then applied ronseal medium oak stain varnish over the entire surface. In truth it now looks bad, were the filler was put stands out from a distance. Is there a paint I could use to camouflage this area

  6. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Stuart,

    It can often be the case that when applying a finish over filler that there can be some colour difference. Some fillers will take the product better than others and blend but some will highlight the colour difference. The best way for you to cover it now would be to apply a opaque varnish or paint over the top. Manns Classic Wood Paint is the only product we do and to to have colour match there is a minimum order of 5 Litres. You may be able to apply a paint over the top but adhesion could be a problem with some types of paint. We always recommend a test area with what ever you try before starting the main project. I am sorry I could not be of more help.

    Kind regards Sam.

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