View Full Version : Red Oak Finishing Problems

Jules Dominguez
05-10-2005, 11:29 PM
I had some bad experiences finishing red oak some years ago and my solution at that time was to stop using the stuff.
The first problem was using a water-based aniline dye, and the dye seeped through the wood pores from the top surface of the board to the underside without my being aware of it until it was too late. The area where it seeped through got a double dose of the aniline and I wasn't able to blend it out. I hadn't previously been aware that red oak pores are like hollow straws, and I learned it the hard way.
The second problem also involved the pores. I used a Watco Danish Oil finish and tiny drops of the oil kept seeping back up out of the pores, no matter how many times I wiped it off. I finally gave up and went to bed and the next morning more drops had surfaced and hardened and couldn't be wiped away.
I assume that if I had filled the pores before using the dye or the oil I wouldn't have had the problems. Does anyone know of other ways to avoid these problems with red oak?

Bruce Shiverdecker
05-11-2005, 12:31 AM
I have dyed a lot of Red Oak. I always have used Minwax stains and they have stained the wood as evenly as you can get any open pored wood. If you don't want the varience, you need to use a sanding sealer first. It will even out the color.

The Other Bruce

Jeff Sudmeier
05-11-2005, 8:09 AM
Jules, I have stained a few red-oak projects, I have never dyed one. I have always used some type of minwax stain and a sanding sealer. The results have been great. I used to use straight poly as my finish coats, but now I use witches brew for almost all my furniture.

Jules Dominguez
05-11-2005, 10:10 PM
The problems I described occurred only in limited areas of the red oak. I don't know why they occurred in some areas and not in others. I theorized that sanding dust sealed most of the pores, but that my shop vac sucked it all out in the trouble areas.
The pores of red oak are like a straw, in that they're hollow. In white oak, the pores have periodic blocks, like bamboo tubes. One way to tell the difference between red and white oak is to look at freshly cut end grain. The pores in the red oak are obvious.
I've read that if you cut a small stick of red oak along a straight grain line, you can blow through it like a straw. I've never tried that, but I believe it after having the dye seep through a solid 3/4 in thick board.
Thanks for the comments, don't vacuum those sanded red oak boards too hard, and I hope you never encounter the problems I had.

Larry Copas
05-12-2005, 9:55 AM
Never have used dye with red oak so can't comment on that problem.

Bleed out with red oak and oil is normal. After the initial wipe down I come back about once an hour for 3 or 4 times to wipe the bleed out.

Jeff Jewitt wrote an article about using pumice or plaster of paris for a grain filler on porous woods. Plan on trying that just to see the results. Might make a difference.