Since I've already said that I'm buying a saw, it won't ruin the surprise to say that I'm staining wood on part of the surprise project. I want to stain it gray, but discovered when I went to the hardware store that I can't buy gray stain in a can smaller than a gallon. That's too expensive for something I definitely won't use all of eventually, so I spent a little time on the internet and discovered two common methods for staining wood gray.
Soak a small piece of steel wool in white vinegar overnight, then dilute the vinegar solution one to one with water...vary the color by varying the dilution of the solution. The color also varies depending on the type of wood it's used on.
This first method is recommended to give an aged, weathered barnwood effect. It's also recommended not for use on high quality pieces, because it's very acidic, and the finished piece needs to be either buffered or sealed.
The second method I found is to mix oil based paint one to one with turpentine to make stain.
Since the second method sounds easier and doesn't come with warnings it's what I decided to try.
I took some Winton's oil paint (Payne's Gray), diluted it one to one with turpentine, then painted it on a scrap piece of balsa...looked good! Then I painted it on a scrap piece of birch...it didn't soak in very well, so I figured it was going to need a second coat. The color on the balsa looked even better after it quickly dried, so I went ahead and stained one of the pieces of oak, I'm using in the build...it didn't go onto the oak very well...was all blotchy and the color was black. While I let the oak dry I brushed a second coat on the birch, but that only seemed to be brushing the first coat off, not another coat on....so I applied it liberally to get another coat to sit on top, then let it soak in while I gave the balsa and oak a second coat. The awesome gray color I had on the balsa after the first coat turned into ugly black after the second coat dried. I had three black, blotchy, stained pieces of wood. Then, after they all dried completely, I wiped them down with a rag to make sure I got any excess color off and to buff them....and most of the color wiped right off. I had to wipe them down a few times in order to be able to handle them without discoloring my hands. They looked a lot better when I was done...the color evened out and they feel silky smooth...but too much of the wood tone shows through the finish.
After I cleaned my brush and was straightening my worktable my line of sight drifted over the bottles of Testors paint sitting on a shelf. Since Testors is an oil based paint, and I have a bottle of flat gray, I decided to give it a try. I dipped my brush into turpentine, swirled it around in the top of the paint bottle lid to thin the paint sitting there, then brushed it on another scrap piece of balsa. The finish was even, the color was what I wanted, and it didn't wipe off after it dried. It looked like a much better solution.
But this morning, looking at the results with a fresh perspective, I like the pieces stained with the Winton solution better than the the Testors solution. The Testors doesn't seem to have soaked in, the color seems to be sitting on the surface instead, making the wood look painted instead of stained. The wood coated with the Winton solution looked stained instead of painted, and when held up against the black surface of my printer instead of the white surface of my table, the color of the wood is obviously gray, not black, even though it's a darker gray than what I intended.
I'm going to have to experiment some more this evening, I'd like to give the Testors another try...measured dilutions this time.