View Full Version : Question about steaming/staining & sealing ribs procedures

06-08-2015, 04:21 PM
I've decided on using white oak for rib replacement on my cedar strip. I've seen this done before and am not fond of the fact the ribs stand out like zebra stripes against the red cedar hull after varnishing. What I'm wondering is if I can pre-stain ribs before steaming, or would I have to steam, clamp, cool and then stain prior to permanent fastening? Am I overthinking this? (just tape off and stain after fastening??)

If I use green ribs, can those be stained and varnished right away, or do they need drying time or pre-stain/varnish treatments?

Also, can I use an epoxy sealer after staining? (S1 or CPES)

Thanks in advance

06-08-2015, 05:29 PM
Personally I'd think that just living with the color difference would be better, as anyone knowledgeable will look at the red-stained White Oak and do a lot of headscratching.

But otherwise you should install the ribs and let them fully dry (to perhaps 15% ??) before doing any sort of coating, including epoxy sealers. If you seal the wood, you'll be painting more than staining, and any variations in the wood or fasteners areas are likely to be different colors after staining.

Jay Greer
06-08-2015, 07:17 PM
I really have never even considered that which you propose. Acually the contrast between the oak and cedar, in my opion, adds to the appeal of the visual structure of the boat. However if you have your heart set on reducing the contrast a bit, I would reccomen d the use of a mordant to change the color of the oak. A mordant is a chemical that will react with the basic chemicals in the wood itself and cause a change in color. Potassium Dichromate is a chemical that will turn white oak rust red or brown by reacting to the tannic acid it contains. I usually apply a warm mixture of this chemical to oak prior to applying a finish to it. The depth of color will vary with the strength of the mixture applied to it. It will also increase the contrast of the grain pattern bringing on an almost 3D effect in some cases. I have never used it in the application you are asking about so I would urge you to experiment prior to making a final decision. I suspect that the steaming of the wood will intensify the depth of the color you are seeking. Bear in mind that Potassium Dichromate is poisonous and for that reason, a mask and gloves are a must when working with it. It will burn the skin if it comes in contact with a bare arm or other body part. There are several other means of changing the color of oak. Fuming it with aqueous ammonia is one and another would be to use an anilin dye such as can be obtained from Mohawk Finishes. However, again, you are working in unexplored territory. If you do choose to follow up on changing the color of the oak, we would all like to hear as to how it turns out for you. Do take the time to experiment prior to jumping in and going for it.
Good Luck

Gib Etheridge
06-08-2015, 08:30 PM
If I remember correctly about 30 years ago I turned some white oak brown with an application of plain old household cleaning ammonia.

06-08-2015, 09:13 PM
I know what you mean. On wood and canvas canoes, the new ribs can stand out like sore thumbs. It is a total turn off for me. I stain the white cedar ribs with Minwax Early American or colonial maple after steam bending them and installing them in the canoe. By the time I am done with sealer coats of shellac and finish coats of varnish, they might pass the 2 or 3 ft rule or even better. It is important to try and match the grain of the original ribs too.

06-09-2015, 11:41 AM
Minwax Gunstock is also a lovely redish color, and I've used it for a couple of Mission furniture restos.


Eric Hvalsoe
06-09-2015, 01:10 PM
Pre soak the milled rib stock in boat sauce with a good dollup of pine tar. Put em in the steam box. They will come out a little darker and essentially presealed. And probably easier to bend retaining heat a little longer.

06-10-2015, 03:40 AM
Perhaps you can kill two birds with one stone by using a semi-transparent epoxy coating and doing both the sealing and coloring in one step. This particular product seems a little pricy but I'm reasonably sure more economic alternatives are available.


Peerie Maa
06-10-2015, 03:45 AM
My take on this is that it is just a part of the history of the boat.

06-10-2015, 08:42 PM
Thanks everyone, wow, there's some serious science here! I think I'm ok with a 2 or 3 footer. Minwax gunstock does look good. I certainly do not want contrast like #9!! History is great, but I think there will be enough patina left in it anyway to show its age