stain review and papa’s humidor



Next to a huge leather wing-back chair covered in a wool horse blanket sits a small humidor with a can of pipe tobacco and pipes. We have memories of Papa Mutt sitting in his favorite chair watching many of old western movies and telling tales of old Hollywood and rodeos. My husbands grandfather was a mountain of a man, his head wreathed in pipe smoke looking like a western Santa Clause. In his youth he was stuntman in early westerns and spent his spare time competing on the rodeo circuit. A little humidor always sat next to Papa Mutt’s favorite chair. The humidor was in storage for many years after Papa Mutt’s passing. I wanted to restore Papa’s humidor for hubby to use. I thought it should sit next to hubby’s chair as now he is call “Papa” by our grandkids. He’ll use it for a cup of water and a cell phone (times do change).

Papa Mutt with my Hubby as a baby


The humidor was in real bad shape. A few burns and a finish completely failing with a ton of dirt and dust were the problems from the start. Sometime you have family pieces that need some love and attention that outweigh their monetary value but the special significance warrants the effort.  This little piece it needed a lot of effort.

the work

As usual I under estimated the time for this project, mostly because it was such a small piece, I thought it would go quickly. I started stripping and sanding it, then stripping and sanding a few more times. The little turn elements, took hours, days, weeks, years (ok, days). I think I would have been faster if it was a large dresser instead of 24″x 14″ x 10″ (that’s pretty tiny).

front of humidor needs sanding


The door was patterned veneer that needed a gentle touch. There is also a turned cross piece missing at the top, it would have looked like a handle. I left it “as is” and did not attempt to replace the missing piece.  I spun the pieces with the holes downward so you can’t see the empty holes any more. The finishing sanding was very irritating. It was hard getting in behind the little turned parts.

burn on humidor


Finally after many days of working on it, in-between lots of other projects, it was ready to stain (Hurray! about time), but what to stain it with?

back after some stripping
back after some stripping



stain review

I have always used Minwax stains. So, as far as I knew they were like all other stains. Minwax is found everywhere to buy so it’s handy to purchase. However, I was reading Salvage Inspirations; she was talking about Varathane Gel Stains. Menard’s in town carries this brand, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I think for beginners this is a great product. It doesn’t drip easy and the dark walnut color is a rich chocolate brown. It’s the consistency of pudding. You need to wipe off excess. If you don’t it, dries opaque  with crisp edges, looking terrible. If you miss some excess and it dries, use mineral spirits to remove it, but it’s going to take some elbow grease.

You can apply several layers to get even coloring.  The humidor had a lot of discoloration on top from sunlight. Applying several layers helped reduce the discoloration. I used a chip brush to paint it on than wiped it off with blue shop paper towels. It was supper fast and easy. This post talks about some of my tools here.


  1. Easy to use
  2. Thick consistency
  3. Great color
  4. Wipe off excess

I did add some poly wipe because this piece will sit next to the hubby’s chair. This will help it protect from liquids. Hubby won’t use it as a humidor but as a little end table.

stain layering tips

I could have used Minwax it would have been just as good. To get the same rich brown I would have layered dark walnut regular stain (green undertones) and hickory gel stain (red undertones). The undertones are on the opposite sides of a color wheel. When you mix opposite colors, in a prefect proportions, you’ll get black. Since most of us can’t mix perfect proportions we get a dark brown. With this stain combo I can get a deep dark brown.


Ta Da!


the details


Hopefully the little piece can go on for a few more year and maybe even sit a next to some more papa’s chairs.

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6 thoughts on “stain review and papa’s humidor

  1. Lorin I’ve never used this brand but have used the Americana brand and Love Love Love the rich look it gave my laminate table. Your little guy is very pretty and looks great all spruced up!


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