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Stain vs. Glaze

By Alchemy Fine Living on Nov 28, 2012

I used to think that stain and glaze gave painted furniture such a different look, but until recently I had never directly compared the two. I have used both techniques to age painted furniture and always thought that the two techniques were so different. Not to long ago a reader asked me what the difference was between the two and it  inspired me to do a comparison. I was surprised by the results.

I painted two similar chairs the exact same shade of white, distressed both of them, and then used a glaze on one and a stain on the other. I used ebony stain and I mixed a small amount of black paint into a clear mixing glaze. To my suprise the two look almost identical. There are a few subtle differences in the appearance. The glaze leaves a faint streaked look, almost like brush strokes, while the stain leaves a very smooth finish. The reason for this is because the glaze actually sits on top of the paint, while the stain penetrates it. In the photograph below the glaze was used on the piece on the left.

The other slight difference can be seen in the recessed areas. The glaze seams to have stuck in the crevices better, making a sharper contrast that really draws your attention to the details. The chair that was glazed is on the left.

The finishes created aren’t much different, but there are some differences in the available options. The great thing about a translucent glaze is that you can mix it with any color you want, so the possibilities are endless. Stain is typically pretty limited as far as color choices go.

Another noticable difference is how easy glaze is to work with. Glaze is a great product for beginners because it is workable for so much longer than the stain is. Stain will tend to dry and get sticky a lot quicker than the glaze will. With glaze you have plenty of time to play with it until you’ve achieved the look you like.

The thing I really like about stain is that it drys hard and adds a protective finish. I don’t feel like you get that with a glaze. The other thing great about stain is the price. A quart of stain only costs about $8 while a quart of clear mixing glaze is about double that price.

Here are the two chairs side by side. Can you tell the difference?

 

 

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