Outdated To Outstanding Golden Oak Cabinets

10 Materials
$15
2 Hours
Easy

Hi, I'm Rhonda, and today I’m going to show you a super cool trick that I found to update your golden oak or honey oak cabinets without painting! I know you've all got 'em. These dated oak cabinets that were very popular in the 80's and 90's but today...not so much

The technique I'm going to show you today is called toning and it doesn’t require any stripping or painting! Toning changes the tone of your cabinets by applying a coat of stain mix over your existing cabinets. It'll bring out the natural grain of the wood while beautifully darkening the color of your cabinets.

I am going to show you this technique on a lighter pickled oak cabinet. You might have these in darker or lighter tones, but I'm sure you recognize these cabinets in some form or another. And...it's time for these guys to go!

Today I'm using General Finishes water based wood stain in Espresso, and the General Finishes High Performance water based top coat. Espresso is a dark color that I love and is very popular right now, but if you'd like to go lighter, the General Finishes stains come in lots of colors.

Mix 1 part stain to 1 part top coat (in a 1:1 ratio). I like to mix well in these disposable plastic containers with lids, because the mixture stays a long time if you keep it sealed tightly.

I also like to add some paint extender which will delay the drying time of your stain, giving you more time to play with the stain once it goes on, to get the color you want. Add a squirt of extender directly into the stain/topcoat mixture, and mix well.

Before you start staining, you'll want to lightly sand down the surface of your cabinets, just to rough up the edges a bit so that the stain really gets into the wood. You don't need to do any heavy duty sanding. I used an 80 grit paper with a medium grit sanding block. When that was nicely sanded, I went over it with a 220 sandpaper as well. When the sanding is done, wipe down well with a cheese cloth to get rid of any residue.

I also use denatured alcohol and water (another 1:1 mixture) and cleaned off the cabinets well. This mixture is a great de-greaser, and will remove cooking oil from kitchen cabinets as well as hair products from bathroom cabinets too. Wipe down your cabinets well with this mixture, and when dry, you're ready to tone!

Apply the stain mixture with a sponge brush, brushing on like you would paint.

Cover the whole cabinet with stain. Keep going, you got this!

For the next step, you'll need a natural bristle brush with lots of "poof".

Lightly brush with your natural bristle brush, feathering out the stain while darkening the natural color of the cabinet. Keep brushing the stain until the stain is evenly coated across the cabinets.

Check out this awesome Before and After! What a difference a little bit of stain can make!

Here's one of the larger cabinet doors post-face lift. I love it so much!


Bonus idea! Toning isn't limited to only cabinets! You can use toning on stairs, oak furniture, mantels, just about anything oak!


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Have a question about this project?

3 of 170 questions
  • Jenny
    Jenny
    on Aug 28, 2020

    Doesn't it make the kitchen darker?

    • Mimi
      Mimi
      Just now

      Darker cabinets give your kitchen look richer look.

  • Susan
    Susan
    on Sep 28, 2020

    I think my cabinets are laminate? They have a surface that is like Formica. Can this type of cabinet doors be painted?

  • Amy
    Amy
    on Mar 7, 2021

    Is it possible to sand down cabinet to change the whole design to make them flat

    • Rhonda
      Rhonda
      on Mar 21, 2021

      You cannot sand the grain out of oak. You can fill it with wood filler but it is a bit of a task to do

Join the conversation

3 of 148 comments
  • Robjon
    Robjon
    on Mar 20, 2021

    Looks like you took the Golden stain off the wood. I thought you said you did not have to sand the stain down.

    • Rhonda
      Rhonda
      on Mar 21, 2021

      I did not sand the stain off. I just lightly sanded to open up the wood to absorb the new stain

  • Mcb51018135
    Mcb51018135
    Yesterday

    Love this idea. Think brighter colors would be fun!

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