DIY Stickley Finish


July 23, 2014 by Sarah

Painting and staining the doors was a massive undertaking. If you recall I was a little apprehensive about starting this part of the project. With more than 30 pieces, it was difficult and slow work.  While the upper cabinet doors only required a coat of primer and two of paint (on each sides of course), the lower cabinet doors required much more energy. While this is a step-by-step of what I did, I didn’t go into a ton of detail about the techniques of applying the DIY Stickley Finish so you will have to read else where about that.

DIY Stickley Finish

DIY Stickley Finish

I knew from day one I wanted quarter-sawn white oak cabinets for this kitchen and I wanted them in a medium stain color.  I did extensive research on staining white oak and the best techniques to get the unique grain to “pop”.  I came across an article from Jeff Jewitt that had a finish schedule I felt comfortable doing.

Jeff Jewitt Stickley Finish Schedule Timeline:

  • doors were orders, doors arrived, doors sat in boxes for several months, doors were removed from boxes, doors sat in the guest bedroom for an addition couple months, doors were ready for staining. Standard beginning of timeline.

scherrs custom white oak doors

  • Lay doors out and coated with distiller water applied with a foam brush to front and back. Let dry at least 4 hrs.

Distilled water on cabinets

  • 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.

Square sawn white oak doors unfinished

  • 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.

Dye stain cabinets

  • 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.  Flip and apply dye using the same process to the other side. Again allow 8 hours to dry.

Dye cabinet doors

  • 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).

Sanding sponges

  • Apply an even coat of 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. Flip and apply to other side and let dry.

General Finishes Seal-a-cell

Sealing cabinet doors

I always wear dresses when finishing furniture. I’m classy like that.

  • Scuff sand with 320grit sand paper or sponge as I used. Remove dust.

Cabinet doors dyed and sealed

  • Apply 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.

General finishes antique walnut gel stain

Apply gel stain on cabinets

  • Flip and apply gel stain to the other side, let dry 24 hrs.
  • Scuff sand with fiber pad and remove dust.
  • Apply Arm-R-Seal working with the grain. Allow to dry 24 hrs.

General finishes arm-r-seal

  • Scuff sand with fiber pad and repeat.  In researching, I found that most people suggest at least 4 coats for heavy used items since it is a very thin poly. Cabinets can take a beating, I went with the full 4 coats. I chose a satin finish, but you could also do a semi-gloss. 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.
Final coat of arm-r-seal

last coat drying…i could barely believe it.

  • flip doors and apply 4 coats to the other side waiting 24 hrs between each coat and scuff sanding between as well.
  • After everything was thoroughly dry (several days) the doors were installed.  🙂

DIY stickler finish

Aren’t they beautiful guys!?  Worth all the hard work and inhalation of toxic fumes (maybe).  I think I will stick to small finishing projects from now on though!

Cabinet cover panels

The doors and drawer fronts went on really easily since they came with the holes bored for the hinges. Adrian drilled the holes for the pulls and knobs. I installed he hardware and hung them.

Oil rubbed bronze cup pulls

The oil-rubbed bronze cup pulls were a steal at Menards for $1 each. Sorry, they are no longer on sale.

Oil rubbed bronze egg knobs

The egg knobs were also $1 on sale at Menards.

We even got the door on the panel-ready dishwasher that I insisted on. The doors and the dishwasher itself was sort of a pain to install but it turned out fantastic. I love it so so much.  S/O to my husband for spending 45 painstaking minutes to get the dishwasher attached to the cabinets on either side.

ikea panel-ready dishwasher

If anyone knows me they know I really hate doing dishes by hand…so much so that we probably only did the dishes 4 or 5 times in the past 6 months. No joke.  Adrian’s mom came twice to do dishes for us and most of the rest of the time they sat dirty while we used paper plates and plastic forks.  Now there is an end to the madness. 🙂


DIY Stickley Finish

As for the rest of the kitchen we still need to:

  • Finish painting fridge surround
  • Install vent hood and cooktop
  • Strip, finish, and install old trim (baseboard, chairrail, windows).
  • Paint windows sashes
  • Find, cut, and install glass in ceiling height cabinets
  • A lot of tile. A lot. Like scary a lot.
  • Build, finish, and install radiator shelf (and paint radiator?)
  • Build, finish, and install toe kicks and filler strips for the base cabinets
  • Finishing touches (window treatments, drawer organizers, decor, etc.)

and for Mud area/entry that is kind of part of the kitchen:

  • install cabinets, crown molding, and trim
  • paint walls
  • build, finish, and install bench and cubbies
  • install coat rod and hooks
  • rewire electrical outlet
  • replace old flooring with tile

i would have loved to start some of these mudroom things but Adrian won’t let me until the real part of the kitchen is farther along. 😛 Party pooper.

craftsman style kitchen remodel

So what do you think!?  Awesome right?  At this rate we may finish this thing before the holidays roll around. Just maybe.  Anyone else out there try your own DIY Stickley finish? Or am I the only nutso person to try this on a project this big?

36 thoughts on “DIY Stickley Finish

  1. omg the dishwasher looks awesome. So does the rest of it.

  2. Apryl says:

    Perfect height for sticky fingers and cracker crumbs. Four coats were def needed. Or ten.

    • Sarah says:

      I know. My cats always have sticky fingers and cracker crumbs. I did a ton of research on different top coats and the Arm-R-Seal is supposed to be pretty good. It is a harder finish than others. I hope it holds up.

  3. Kelly says:

    simply gorgeous! And you can’t go wrong with any of the general finishes products. I have refinished tables, chairs, dressers, cabinets and doors with the stuff and there is nothing that beats the finish and protection.

  4. Stacey at says:

    That is glorious! Awesome job!

  5. Donna Ellswick says:

    These are the most beautiful cabinets I have seen. And believe me I have looked at a lot. You should be really proud of yourself. It was really worth the effort.

  6. R says:

    Very nice, where did you order the doors?

  7. Jan says:

    You’ve done a beautiful job! We downsized to a tiny new ‘old’ home almost a year ago and I bought new dining room furniture. Yes, it’s quarter-sawn old, finished in the same color as yours, same style of doors and hardware too. Your kitchen cabinets are gorgeous! A beautiful timeless look. My kitchen needs to be redone and you can probably guess what I’ll be doing!!

    Thank-you for sharing.

  8. Kaatje says:

    Quick question: the kitchen and the Ikea oven looks great, but your blog noted you were going to use an induction cook top. Induction is great but I was told by Ikea that an induction cook top cannot be placed on the Datid or Nutid oven below. Can you please let me know? I am about to install the Ikea cabinets, have the Datid oven and would really like an induction. Thank you!

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Kaatje. Yes, this is true. If you want the cooktop directly over the oven then you cannot use the induction cooktop, there is not enough clearance. We placed out cooktop over cabinets, not over the oven. If your layout is restrained to having the cooktop over the oven then you will have to look into a different option such as a range. I do not have any experience with a regular electric cooktop or gas over the Datid or Nutid oven–you would have to call IKEA and ask. I found it is most helpful to call your local IKEA location and ask for the kitchen department rather than calling the general “customer service” line–or stop in the IKEA in person. Good Luck on your project!

  9. James says:

    They look great. A couple of questions:

    1. How did you get the correct measurements for the side panel? Or, did you just tell Scherr’s you needed a side panel for such-and-such ikea cabinet?
    2. For the face for the dishwasher, does it have to be a compatible dishwasher that will take a customized face? And, how did you get correct measurements for the dishwasher face? And, how does the latch work when you put a face on it?


    • Sarah says:

      I just asked for 2 side panels for the base cabinets, I didn’t need to do any measuring for those as they already had to measurements. I ordered a specific “panel-ready” dishwasher. Most manufacturers have at least one panel-ready model. It allows the door to sit flush with the surrounding cabinets. They are more expensive than regular models. I also didn’t do any measuring for that either–Scheer’s already had the dimensions (IKEA dishwasher). The dishwasher came with a template that made it easy to attach to the door. The handle to attached to the door prior to attaching it to the dishwasher. I did have to countersink the bolts to get the door to lay flush. The door latches/unlatches just by pulling/pushing the handle. I hope that helps.

  10. J Brown says:

    Amazing looking finish on the cabinetry! I stumbled on your website after looking for finishes for quartersawn white oak. I’m to the point of building cabinetry and built-ins for an entire house remodel project. Having a heck of a time deciding on what to utilize for finish, and I think this is it. The easy stain and seal process that I usually use really covers up the quarter sawn medullary rays. Doing this dye, seal, gel stain and final sealer brings out the rays, and gives the wood a unique appearance. My test board looks amazing.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Would you mind telling what the custom door fronts cost was compared to if you had gone with the Ikea fronts?

    • Sarah says:

      Oh I don’t know for sure off the top of my head. The pricing is dependent on several factors. Even at IKEA there is a really wide range of price between doors. I know the ones I had picked out there originally were about $112 per door. They have options that were more or less. Now on the scherr’s doors they have hundreds (thousands?) of door styles and wood species in different grades to pick from. The paint-grade poplar uppers were less expensive than the IKEA doors but the quartersawn white oak doors were more expensive. If I would have went with paint grade doors throughout I would have saved a lot of money. Plus you need to factor in the cost of the finishing products either paints or stains. I ended up spending probably more money than using IKEA doors overall but I also got a much higher quality product and the look I wanted that would have have been possible with IKEA doors. Sorry to be so vague but I don’t want to do all the math required to figure that out exactly, especially on a Monday. 🙂

  12. Amy says:

    Where did your base cabinets come from- part of your original kitchen? I’m trying to get a custom look without a custom budget. ; ) Beautiful job!

    • Sarah says:

      The cabinet boxes are from IKEA. The doors and fronts I ordered from Scherr’s. Scherr’s also does ready-to-assemble cabinets and the wood species and finishes are endless. I do know if you have Menards nearby you, but they just starting carrying a new line of unfinished already assembled cabinets in a handful of wood species. They they have plywood boxes and come with softclose hardware. Hope that helps.

      • Amy says:

        Thanks for the fast response! Did you get MDF boxes from Ikea & if so are they durable? I happen to love a kitchen that isn’t 100% same & think I’ll use white oak mixed with some color for contrast. Great blog/tips?

        • Sarah says:

          No problem! 🙂 Yes, the boxes are in fact from IKEA. I have only had them for about 1 yr so I cannot comment too much on their long-term durablity. So far they have been really great. The hardware is excellent which i think is the most important thing. The cabinets and hardware does come with a 25yr warrant from IKEA so I would like that it will hold up well if they are backing it with a warrenty like that. I did a lot of research online and looked at them in person before we committed to the IKEA boxes and most people had very good things to say about them. I would recommend you check them out in person as well to see what you think. I love the white oak! It looks even better in person. Scherr’s prices were relatively reasonable for the square-sawn white oak and I liked that I could get them unfinish and finish them myself to save some money. The upper cabinets doors I got unfinished in paint-grade maple with MDF panels. They were very reasonably price and they take paint well. Good luck on your kitchen!

  13. Thank you for the staining tutorial. You’ve inspired me to try it myself! It looks beautiful. I love the white finish too.

  14. Kelly Greco says:

    Beautiful finish! Questions: 1) What made you go with Antique Walnut gel stain vs. The Candelite that Jewitt suggests in his “Sample 4”? Did you experiment to see what you liked better or was it a product availability issue? I’m in the middle of a family room remodel and will be building/finishing some built-in bookshelves to flank a stone fireplace. I absolutely love our finish and will be making sample boards of it along with similar finishes (Jewitt’s #4, #5 Aurora, etc.) to see what works best with the stone veneer and flooring.

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you! I am very pleased with how they came out. I was going for something similar to sample 5 which is why I picked Antique Walnut. I didnt do any sample boards–I like to live on the edge. 😉

  15. Adele says:

    Sarah, now that you have lived with the cabinet doors for a while, how do you feel the finish is holding up? They turned out beautifully, Nice job.

    • Sarah says:

      The finish is holding up extremely well. They look as good as the day they were installed. I do scrub/wipe down the doors as needed and I havent noticed any changes in the finish. I still love them!

  16. Ben says:

    this looks amazing! I am very impressed…I have been doing research trying to find out how to do this and your site is very helpful…Thank you! I am going to order the kit from Jewitt and I really like the color of your project, did you do Sample 5 with his exact formula? (if not what did you change?) How many kits did it take you to do all that work? again…you nailed the color I am looking for…thanks for showing me the progress…I am a bit intimidated at all the work it takes but your cabinets just look so amazing I think I am going to have to do it 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      I used Sample 5 exactly as described by Jewitt. I didn’t use the kits. I just bought everything from Rockler and mixed myself. I only needed about half a bottle of the TransTint. It is relatively easy work, just time consuming. Good luck on your project!

Comment or I'll hate you forever.

Sarah&Adrian @ StPaulHaus

About Us

We are DIY weekend warriors. We like old houses and cats. Learn more here.

Follow STP Haus

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 48 other subscribers


Kitchen Progress

craftsman kitchen remodel

2nd Floor Progress

second floor renovation

Posts by Room

%d bloggers like this: