Outdated To Outstanding Golden Oak Cabinets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 165 questions
  • Sandy Nathan
    on Jan 3, 2020

    Great article, but I want to go lighter with my dark oak cabinets. Any tips for this? Help!

    • Pattiann
      on Apr 23, 2020

      I am going to try cerusing. Cerusing is raising the grain (physically or with a chemical and then rubbing light stain or lime into the grain of the wood. Looks great!

  • Dly48843907
    on Mar 23, 2020

    Doing a kitchen reno. Therefore, we have old and some new oak to work with as we had to buy additional oak during the reno. The stain does not look the same on the old and new pieces. Can you advise why this might be or what to do?


    Thanks!

  • Rita
    on Apr 3, 2020

    Can you get the same results with honey maple cabinets?

Join the conversation

2 of 140 comments
  • Deb
    on Dec 12, 2019

    I love love love everything about the general finishes. From milk paint to all their stains. I use these all the time

  • Sophie’s mom
    on Jun 18, 2020

    My husband does woodworking. He will only use General Finish stains and their water based poly.

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