RunnerRN

uneven stain on pine wood

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I have spent the last few months trying do redo a tv stand that someone had made for me.  I was very unhappy with the job because it was not sanded well, the paint and stain job was poor and there was too much wood filler showing between boards.  I finally got it close to the staining done, except for one board on the top that is not staining well at all.  I tried to get rid of the black splotchy areas by sanding them down, but I think it made it worse.  I don't know if it's possible to sand the whole piece of woo down  to get rid of the black and even out the wood or if there is another way to avoid getting the black splotches.  I used a prestain conditioner and minwax oil based stain in special walnut.  I don't want to redo the whole table and use a different product if at all possible.  Just want a way to salvage this one piece of wood and make it look closer to the other boards when stained. Here are some pics.  You can see where the stain takes differently.  I sanded some of  it down but when originally done those areas were almost black.  Any help would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks.  2 pics are without stain so you can see the areas on the one board that are problematic.

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I'm sorry to say this, but pine is horrible to get even stain.  A dye is a better way for pine to be evenly colored.  You might have to go back to bare wood and find a dye that will match the color you're trying for.

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That looks more like Spruce/Hemlock/Fir framing lumber, than Pine to me, but the problems are the same for softwood taking stain anyway.  The soft grain, and more open pored parts will always absorb more.

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The 'problematic' board is exhibiting something we call 'figure'. It is caused by the wood grain changing directions as it flows around the knots in the tree. When used appropriately, grain figure can enhance the appearance of the piece, but in this case, it creates a discordant contrast with the other two boards. In such a situation, the best (IMO) method to obtain an even color, short of paint, is to completely seal the well-sanded surface with a clear coat, most often shellac. Follow that with a tinted clear coat to keep the grain visible, or a gel stain if hiding the unruly grain seems more desirable. Unfortunately, that method requires bare wood to start.

If stripping the piece bare is too much, I suggest a gel stain to go darker and more opaque, or a well-thinned paint if a whitewashed look will work. Scuff the existing finish with 220 sandpaper before either, and apply a durable clear coat, like polyurathane, after either. In the case of whitewash, a water-bourn poly will avoid adding amber tones.

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Thanks for the advice.  I don't have shellac, but I was wondering if I used hemp oil which also acts and a wood sealer and combined this with stain?  I have hemp oil now, so wondering it that might work instead of buying shellac.  I also have mineral spirits.  I am going to sand down this board completely either way.

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I just spent a long time trying to sand all the boards on top down to bare wood and level out the one board, but it doesn't seem to help.  I haven't put anything on it yet other than cleaned with mineral spirits.  I am so afraid to try staining again because each time it's gotten worse on that board.  I do have medium colored danish oil, but I was afraid this would take more orange tones after testing on scrap, but at this point, maybe it would work better?

5 hours ago, RichardA said:

I'm sorry to say this, but pine is horrible to get even stain.  A dye is a better way for pine to be evenly colored.  You might have to go back to bare wood and find a dye that will match the color you're trying for.

What type of dye are you referring to?  I have never worked with dyes.

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Do  you have a Rockler, or Woodcraft store near you. If not a lumber yard that looks professional, or a Lowes, or Home Depot. Those are the places where you can get dyes and instructions on their use.  I've never had the occasion to need to dye wood, and I've been playing with wood for more than 60 years, but I do know woodworkers that use dye and get great results.  In fact there are several on this forum that have used dye.  It's Super Bowl Sunday, so they might not be to involved with the forum today.  But give it a couple of days and you should get better info than I've been able to provide.

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I wish I had those stores because I bet I could learn a lot and find better products there.  I do have lowes and home depot, but find that not many salespeople seem to knowledgeable about staining/sanding wood.  They seem more geared toward paint at least the one's I've been too.  It's hit or miss.

 

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I don't have any catalogs, but you can find them on the web and get their number.   Rockler,  Woodcraft.  There are others, but that will get you started.  Talk with their tech folks.  They're quite helpful.

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2 hours ago, RunnerRN said:

I wish I had those stores because I bet I could learn a lot and find better products there.  I do have lowes and home depot, but find that not many salespeople seem to knowledgeable about staining/sanding wood.  They seem more geared toward paint at least the one's I've been too.  It's hit or miss.

 

Yeah, unfortunately the head of these departments ( Lowe’s and HD) were selling auto parts a couple of months ago at Auto Zone. 

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Sherwin Williams stores also sell alcohol-soluble wood dyes in assorted colors.

You were on the right track, using the pre-stain conditioner. It works like the shellac I mentioned, sealing the pores of the grain to limit uneven absorbtion of stain. That one board is going to stand out to some degree, unless you color the top using a method that totally obscures the grain. I feel that fully sealing the surface and using a tinted top coat could be your best bet to keep the grain visible. Check your local hardware supply store or home center for Zinnser Seal Coat. Marketed as 'sanding sealer', it is actually dewaxed, super blonde shellac. Barring that, maybe use more coats of pre-stain conditioner before staining.

FWIW, iron acetate, made by soaking steel wool in white vinegar, is pretty good at imparting an even color to pine, as it works by chemical reaction, rather than depositing pigments. The darkness is cotrolled by how long you leave the surface exposed to air after application. The result is a slight greenish cast, which is somewhat compensated for by the amber tones of an oil-based polyurathane. Darker shades of shellac also work to shift the greenish tone toward a more natural brown. Matching the chocolate shades of dark walnut would be tricky, if not impossible. Its a decent method for coloring an entire piece, though.

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When you say a tinted top coat, do you mean adding some of the stain I used, to the top coat?  What type of top coat would work the best?

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Typically a lacquer or shellac is tinted with dye and sprayed on. If you aren't set up to spray, sealing thoroughly, applying a gel stain, then top coating, is what I would do. The regular liquid stain can work over the sealer, but will require many more coats, with complete drying between.

A tip for gel stain: if it looks a bit too dark or streaky, rub it back with a rag dampened in mineral spirits.

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On 2/2/2020 at 10:45 PM, wtnhighlander said:

Sherwin Williams stores also sell alcohol-soluble wood dyes in assorted colors.

You were on the right track, using the pre-stain conditioner. It works like the shellac I mentioned, sealing the pores of the grain to limit uneven absorbtion of stain. That one board is going to stand out to some degree, unless you color the top using a method that totally obscures the grain. I feel that fully sealing the surface and using a tinted top coat could be your best bet to keep the grain visible. Check your local hardware supply store or home center for Zinnser Seal Coat. Marketed as 'sanding sealer', it is actually dewaxed, super blonde shellac. Barring that, maybe use more coats of pre-stain conditioner before staining.

FWIW, iron acetate, made by soaking steel wool in white vinegar, is pretty good at imparting an even color to pine, as it works by chemical reaction, rather than depositing pigments. The darkness is cotrolled by how long you leave the surface exposed to air after application. The result is a slight greenish cast, which is somewhat compensated for by the amber tones of an oil-based polyurathane. Darker shades of shellac also work to shift the greenish tone toward a more natural brown. Matching the chocolate shades of dark walnut would be tricky, if not impossible. Its a decent method for coloring an entire piece, though.

If I just try to use the same stain but using more coats of prestain conditioner first, how many do you suggest and how long should I wait in between coats?  How long should I wait to apply the stain after the conditioner.  I have heard some say they wait several hours and others just the 15 minutes they recommend on the can?

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I would wait until the conditioner is dry to the touch, not tacky. Then lightly, but evenly, sand with 400 to 600 grit paper. Number of coats is a good question. I've rarely used that product, so direct experience is limited. Assuming it works similar to shellac, only a couple of coats should be necessary.

Another tip for pine (ond other soft species), sand the bare wood to much higher grits than you need for hardwood. Red oak takes finish reasonably well sanded as low as 180 grit, but for pine, I always go to at least 320. Finer sanding sort of 'burnishes' the wood fibers, and prevents them from soaking up so much stain.

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Thanks.  So, I should sand after the final coat of conditioner and then apply the stain after sanding and wiping off and dust?  I had already sanded to 400 before I applied the conditioner, but I will do it again after if that will help it go on evenly.

 

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If you have some scrap pieces of pine from the project, testing the recipe first is ALWAYS a good move...

When scraps or leftovers aren't available, use the underside of the top, the back, or some other part that isn't mormally seen.

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Well done! You'll notice the grain in the 'problem' board is straight and fine, contrasting with the other boards. It was cut in a fashion known as 'quarter-sawn', as opposed to the 'flat-sawn' boards next to it. Simply cutting flat boards from a round tree produces dramatically different appearances from different areas of the log. As a progressing woodworker, one key point is learning to match grain for visual appeal. The quarter-sawn board is far less likely to cup or twist with changes in humidity, but looks out of place next to its flat-sawn neighbors. 

I'm glad you had a positive experience here, don't be a stranger!

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Nice work that far right board is particularly nasty. In the future look at the ends of the boards. If the grain arcs are from big circles the board is going to behave better. The smaller the radius the grain arcs make the more unruly the board may be. This is a generalization and not a hard rule.

1 hour ago, wtnhighlander said:

You'll notice the grain in the 'problem' board is straight and fine, contrasting with the other boards.

I think that problem board is nearly 1/2 of a tree. The end grain almost makes it look like the pith is included. If it were flipped over it'd have matched the other boards better. I'm assuming there is some sort of defect on the other side that is presenting that.

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2 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

Well done! You'll notice the grain in the 'problem' board is straight and fine, contrasting with the other boards. It was cut in a fashion known as 'quarter-sawn', as opposed to the 'flat-sawn' boards next to it. Simply cutting flat boards from a round tree produces dramatically different appearances from different areas of the log. As a progressing woodworker, one key point is learning to match grain for visual appeal. The quarter-sawn board is far less likely to cup or twist with changes in humidity, but looks out of place next to its flat-sawn neighbors. 

I'm glad you had a positive experience here, don't be a stranger!

Thanks!  Now for my next steps.....I plan to add another coat and then a finish.  I have polycrylic that I haven't opened, but not sure this is the best option.  I don't want the color of the wood to turn orange or to gold.  What would you recommend and will it be a challenge to apply the finish?  

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54 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

Nice work that far right board is particularly nasty. In the future look at the ends of the boards. If the grain arcs are from big circles the board is going to behave better. The smaller the radius the grain arcs make the more unruly the board may be. This is a generalization and not a hard rule.

I think that problem board is nearly 1/2 of a tree. The end grain almost makes it look like the pith is included. If it were flipped over it'd have matched the other boards better. I'm assuming there is some sort of defect on the other side that is presenting that.

It definitely was a challenge with that one board, but since I didn't make the piece, not much I could do but work with it.  Not sure why he used this board other than maybe it was an extra piece that he was trying to get rid of.  Not the best way to do business.  I am going to have my tv on top of it so in the grand scheme of things I guess it won't be such a big deal.

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16 minutes ago, RunnerRN said:

What would you recommend and will it be a challenge to apply the finish?  

Brush on polyacrilic on the thicker side, and don't over work the finish. Lay it down quick and leave it. Waterborne finishes don't take well to continuous brushing and you will do more harm than good. If left alone it will level out. Sand between coats of finish with some 400 grit.

15 minutes ago, RunnerRN said:

Not sure why he used this board other than maybe it was an extra piece that he was trying to get rid of.

I doubt the person thought much one way or another. Odds are they just grabbed the next board. The mishmash of grain textures and grain styles is part of what defines the rustic or farmhouse style. I don't think they did anything necessarily wrong or harmful.

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