DIY Stickley Mission Finish on Kitchen Cabinets

I knew from day one I wanted quarter-sawn white oak cabinets for my craftsman style kitchen remodel that mimicked the old Stickley mission finishes. I did extensive research on staining white oak and the best techniques to get the unique grain to "pop" that did require expensive equipment or strange chemicals and was actually easy to follow. Check out my DIY Stickley finish.
Lay doors out and coated with distiller water applied with a foam brush to front and back. Let dry at least 4 hrs. Dewhisker doors (sand off fibers that stick up) with 180 grit sanding sponges. Removed all dust with vacuum and a very light wiping with a tack cloth.
Mix up a batch of dye. I used TransTint in Brown Mahognany, mixed to the equivalent of 1oz of dye to 2qts of distilled water. I only mixed about 3/4 of a qts worth in an old Tupperware container. Flood wood with the dye mixture using a foam brush. Worked quickly and applied more dye to areas that soak in fast. Blot excess with clean cloths. Allow to dry at least 8 hrs.
Lightly sand the entire surface with 320 grit sanding sponge. Remove all dusts with a vacuum and a light swipe with a tack cloth (note I said light). Apply an even coat of General Finishes Seal-a-Cell and let it soak in for a few minutes. Wipe up excess with a clean cloth. I used a foam brush to apply. Let dry for 24 hrs.
Scuff sand with 320grit sand paper or sponge as I used. Remove dust. Apply General Finishes Gel Stain (I used Antique Walnut) liberally to the wood making sure to work it into the grain. Let it sit for a few minutes then wipe off excess with clean cloths. Let dry for 24 hrs.
Scuff sand with fiber pad and remove dust. Apply General Finishes Arm-R-Seal in satin working with the grain. Allow to dry 24 hrs. Scuff sand with fiber pad and repeat.
Apply at least 4 coats for heavy used items. If you are wiping the Arm-r-Seal on you may need to do as many as 10 coats since they will be much thinner coats than brushing.
After everything was thoroughly dry (several days) the doors were installed.
Aren't they beautiful guys!? Worth all the hard work and inhalation of toxic fumes (maybe).

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Chris J
    on Dec 19, 2018

    Your kitchen is beautiful!! Did you start off from scratch with untouched cabinet doors? Were they raw wood, or were they the old doors from your old cabinets? If they are old doors, how did you prep them?

    Our house is a Craftsman bungalow style house and I would LOVE to have those kind of cupboards in my kitchen. You did a wonderful job.

    • Ida9464
      on Aug 25, 2019

      first of all, this job is outstanding👍🏼But I am wondering if it can be done on wood that was pickled by the builders in the 90’s.

  • Debi
    on Aug 27, 2019

    Do I understand correctly. You put on dye then stain? Why both?

    • Debi
      on Aug 27, 2019

      Thanks for your response. Your cabinets are exactly the finish I have envisioned for my new cabinets. Yours are beautiful.

  • Elliott Miller
    on Apr 6, 2020

    Hello, your cabinets look terrific. I see you are working with white oak. I have some white oak projects in mind, but I more often use red oak. Would you do anything differently to finish red oak?

Join the conversation

2 of 29 comments
  • Lilly
    on Apr 28, 2020

    Love these cabinets, I have an old Sears Bungalow. We went with white cabinets as that was originally in this home. But yours are just fantastic, I’m so pleased with all your hard work. Restoring an old house is very rewarding. You are a true craftsman using the dye in your formula👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

  • Sherry C
    on May 1, 2020

    This is gorgeous!

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