Re: Quality / Durability of different wood stains
I am not a fan of polystains because they are not really a stain. The colorant is suspended within the poly finish so it has no penetrative power, resulting in a finish that is not unlike paint - on the surface only. When finishes of this type get chipped, they reveal bare wood underneath that has no coloration at all, which is particularly noticeable with darker finishes.
The type of stain you use will make a difference in the ease of use, penetrative power, and overall satisfaction with the project. The best, IMHO, are oil based stains. These have great penetrative power. Water based stains are ok, they do tend to raise wood grain a little more than oil based stains do. Then there are gel-stains which are about as worthless as a bicycle without tires. Gel-stains are messier to use, harder to clean out of cracks and crevices and overall have poor penetration abilities. Finally, there are aniline dyes, which I have no experience with at all.
The top coat is equally important, you not only want something that is going to be durable, you want it to be easy to use. STAY AWAY FROM MINWAX POLYs!!!! These horrendous atrocities are difficult to use and result in a poor finish. I've always had excellent results from the McKloskie's brand, others here highly recommend General brand finishes.
When choosing your stain and top coat, you need to make sure that they are compatible, otherwise you may experience any number of problems from the finish self destructing, to premature failure. The only way to truly be sure they're compatible is to do a test either in an inconspicuous spot on the cabinet, or better, on a scrap of wood.
Cabinet prep will also be crucial. Any remnants of the original finish will prevent stain from penetrating, resulting in a splotchy finish. The cabinets need to be clean and free of dust, dirt, grease, and grim. They also need to be completely dry.
As you get closer to starting the project, we can discuss more details.
I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!