My first ever stain, a learning experience - Router Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-04-2014, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
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Smile My first ever stain, a learning experience

In my introductory thread I displayed a woodworking project in the Introductions Thread. I would link to it but I need ten posts minimum before I can post a URL.

I used a cherry stain today that I just finished up on. The type of wood I used for the kitchen helper piece is 3/4" birch from an 8x4 plywood, which was recommended by a friend. This is my first ever stain and I went into this entire project knowing that its my first time ever doing something like this so I was expecting mixed results. I tend to jump into things with these types of expectations so I learn.

Here are some things I learned:
  • Stain the pieces first, before assembly. Seems to be much more difficult staining something that's assembled.
  • Any glue residue needs to be completely removed. Around the pieces that mate together, there was some residue and the stain was altered.
  • ALL imperfections of the wood is amplified by the stain.
  • I used wood putty to hide a few screws that I used to assemble the platforms more securely than the small nails I used. I know that this method is not preferred, but this was my first project so I just wanted to put it together, so I could assess the good/bad in my methods. The wood putty is a huge mistake, obviously, which I'm okay with since I learned from this. Now I want to start trying to put dado's and slots to piece items together, with jigs and other fastening ideas.
  • The wood in some areas is much lighter than others, and I think it's where I sanded more vigorously. Any comments or ideas on why this is would greatly help me out!
  • Sand, sand, sand. I think the key is to literally sand every inch of the wood first. Am I right on this? It seems that my wood is inconsistent in many areas.
  • Don't use cheap brushes! Haha, I bought the cheapest ones and all the brush hairs kept falling out and sticking to the wood.

So, these are my self-evident revelations in staining a wood furniture piece. I'd love to hear some other comments: in workflows, tools, preferred or typical methods, and any overall C&C's. I bought some polyurethane sealer to put on tomorrow to finish the wood. I've heard this is best for finishing stained wood.

Thanks in advance to all who replies! -Tannar
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 01:58 AM
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Nice design. Good work.

Rugged wood. You didn't say what king of wood, but I see nice curled grain, some knots... has character. But that added a challenge to your finish.

When you get a mix of grain and knots, you get a mix of grain orientations. To even that out to take a stain more even, sand smooth. Sand to around 220, 440... Then depending on the species of wood, use sanding sealer or wood condition to seal up the wood , so it would take the stain more evenly. If an open grain, use sanding sealer. If a tight grain, use wood conditioner.

Wood putty? Or wood filler? Wood putty, wood filler and wood grain filler are 3 different animals. Easy way to remember what wood putty is- Putty is just that, it doesn't really get hard, is used for holes smaller than 1/8" on a piece than is already stained and finshed. (Color matched)

Most wood filler doesn't take stain well. If you have one of those and need to use it, mix in a little stain that you have planed and tint the filler. Some of the higher priced wood fillers will take stain better. If you use wood grain fuller, you can surface coat over the knots... and then sand when done. That will prep those areas to get a smooth finish and that will seal that open porous grain.

But if I'm using screws... Yes screws. They are acceptable for strength... And it's in a surface that is visual, then I plan for it. Meaning, I'll recess the head, sink a dowel or lug over it. Cut off a smidgen above surface, then sand it flat.Wood plugs take stain better an are easier to blend in and hide.

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Last edited by MAFoElffen; 01-05-2014 at 02:27 AM.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 02:13 AM
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Sanding closes the pores in wood so if you sand, sand everything equally. There is a higher end brand of wood filler named Famowood that comes in various shades to match various woods. It works pretty good but sometimes the patch still is very visible. At one place I worked we were trying to figure out how to hide the patches better when I realized that the problem was that the patches didn't show grain lines so I tried penciling them in and they became hard to find in a finished piece. I've tried brushing stain and spraying stain and didn't like the look. I always go back to rubbing it on with an old tee shirt. This method has never failed me. I don't think that you can rub a patch job with the pencil lines in it though. Where I worked they sprayed the stain on.

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 01:41 PM
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Default Staining Experience

Love your project. "B" a Nice touch! The wood you chose is naturally inconsistant in grain and takes the stain unevenly....SO.... My own experience to correct such from ever happening to me again: use "wood conditioner" prior to staining (within 20 min.)
IF I need to make any repairs before staining, I mix a heavy dose of sawdust from the current project with 5 min. epoxy, keeping the spot as small as possible. Next day sanding is easy and wood conditioner before staining works really well for me. I agree with rubbing the stain into the wood with an old cloth; sometimes a second coat of stain the following day will help even out any problem spots. One thing I've had to learn is patience. Lots of times it takes two days to do one days worth of work when you have to deal with cure/drying times. Seems to me that finishing a project is away more difficult than building it. I always make high quality sawdust though!!!

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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 03:34 PM
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I have said this before, but here we go again. Finishing ain't easy, but the key is finding products that work. There is a stain or pre-stain that beats anything I have seen. It's called Behlen Solar-lux and it's sold by Woodcraft. I call it a pre-stain because I like to use it before using an oil stain. It stops blotching and fading or other color changes from sunlight. It will blend the whitewood in walnut without covering the grain of the wood. It will even stain the stainable wood fillers quite well. Here are a couple of good videos worth watching. The great thing is the cost is really not that high..

How To Get The Best Color in Walnut Woodworking Projects - YouTube

Behlen Dyes Presented by Woodcraft - YouTube

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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 06:13 PM
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Don't beat yourself up over the uneven finish with ply. By all means use the techniques outlined here, they are all good and will help. But....ply is tough to work with when staining so uneven results are not uncommon. Personally I avoid it as much as possible, but for some projects it's unavoidable. The best you can do is thoroughly test your finish process before going ahead on the finished piece. On some projects I have done five to eight different tests.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for the C&C's!! Very useful information. I have jotted down the Behlen products and will surely use that next go 'round.

For the record, the "B" is for my daughter's name: Brynlee. This is her Kitchen Helper and she loves it. It was far too cold today to use the polyurethane so I will wait until next weekend and see if it's warmer.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 06:53 PM
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I like it.

"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-05-2014, 07:47 PM
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Good job on the build Tannar.... finishing is always a challenge for me. I read the great responses and also see where you are waiting to apply a clear coat which is also a hassle for me of late. My best finishing advice for myself is be patient and allow plenty of time/days to get it right

For your build you may want to look at edge banding when using plywood. Also plywood when heavily sanded in one area tends to eat away at that thin veneer and gives you a different look which jumps out when stained. Evenly sanding the entire piece pays off at the finish and having test pieces to play with staining techniques can save a big mistake. As mentioned dowels are a good alternative and rubbing the stain in have worked well for me. Wood conditioners/sealers some work well "Charles Neils Blotch Control" but can be a big cost and time consumer

Poly clear coats.....follow the directions....go for as thin a coat as possible even if it means more coats than expected.

Look forward to seeing more of your work

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-06-2014, 07:58 AM Thread Starter
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I think I've already made up my mind that I'm going to redo the project so that I can right all the wrongs. Not only that, all my wife's friends want one now, haha.

The things I'm going to change:
  • The platform is too wide. Going to make this 18" wide and not 24" wide.
  • 3/4" ply is too thick and not necessary. Going with 1/2" this time.
  • Will stain BEFORE assembly, using the techniques from posters above (again, thanks!).
  • Make it collapsible for easy storage.

I'm thinking of hinging the step and platform so it can be "folded". Any suggestions or ideas before I start tinkering in CAD? Probably just start looking at the Rockler catalog's I get to see what works best. I think I may have a product line of these soon from all the positive feedback from my wife's friends.

- Tannar

Last edited by tzframpton; 01-06-2014 at 08:10 AM.
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