Stain on stair newel post

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I had my stair ballusters finished by a contractor and I'm staining the remaining newel posts by myself. The contractor provided me the instructions and materials: 1) antique white base x3-4 layers, 2) sanding sealer x3-4 layers, 3) stain colour x1 layer, 4) lacquer x1 layer. I've tried following these steps and allowing a full day for drying in between steps. However, I can't seem to replicate the smoothness and evenness of the finishing the contractor was able to do on the ballusters. My stain doesn't absorb well which leaves streaks and makes it look blotchy. Also the edges and crevices look darker than the flat surfaces. How can I fix this?






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