View Full Version : MINWAX STAIN SUCKS!! - There's - it's been said!

Todd Burch
06-14-2005, 11:15 AM
Fellow woodworkers,

Minwax brand pigment stains are NOT THAT GOOD!! I've used them, you've used them, we've all had the same problems - poor coverage, inconsistent coverage, not dark enough, slow drying, etc., etc., etc.

Here's what to do.

The next time you want to stain something, go search out a professional finisher's supply house near your home. Search out the senior person there and have a talk with him/her. Find out what products they offer and why they would recommend them over other products. Tell them any problems you might have had with stains before, and tell them you don't want the same problems any more.

Yes, I have several cans of Minwax in the shop. And, every now and again, I pull a few out and use them, especially for smaller projects where I need to mix just a small quantity that need to match an existing color. I've learned to sand projects accordingly when using Minwax (sand rough, with the grain), and I can get OK results with it. (But I still hate it)

There are other products out there that will give your hard-made project a look of professionalism that Minwax just can't produce. It will be amazing to you the first time you use a professional grade stain or dye and see your project come to life instead of being dull and muddy looking.

So, I feel better now.


Jeff Sudmeier
06-14-2005, 11:33 AM
You mean I might actually stain a project? I can't remember the last time I made something stained! :)

Mike Cutler
06-14-2005, 12:05 PM
I agree Todd, they aren't very good. I've used them with success, and some real outside the box creativity, but you had to want to use them to get good results.
I can't stand any of the Poly products they have and won't use them anymore. Too much work! for an average looking result.
Lately I've been using the General Finishes and Bartley products, and so far so good. I'd like to start learning to lacquer (properly) and mix my own shellac.
I think the attraction with MinWax is the widespread availability of their product, and some good marketing. I've never found a true "One Step" finish. They all take multiple steps, even paint.

Scott Parks
06-14-2005, 12:15 PM
My local unfinished wood furniture store uses General Finishes and stains exclusively. I went in their and watched how they do it.


From now on, I use a wood naturally colored the way I want it... No stains...

Greg Heppeard
06-14-2005, 3:21 PM
I use General Finishes almost exclusively

Joseph N. Myers
06-14-2005, 4:21 PM
I've used Watco and really like it. (I really liked the "new/improved" one they came out with 10 years ago but had to take off the market 5 years ago because of spontaneous combustion).

If wax is in order, I use Briwax, another product I really like.

Actually, I was at a woodworking show some years ago and meet a couple of the big names in woodworking and that is what they used. They both said to apply both with 00 or 000 steel wool.

And if I have to fill nail holes, I use Famowood. Use it because I like it.

I know that are much better ways of finishing wood but the above is fast, flexible and works for me especially for the type of work I do. And besides, all three (stain, wax and filler) come in multiple colors and I've had good luck mixing them, i.e., one stain color with another stain color.

Regards, Joe

Jim Becker
06-14-2005, 6:39 PM
The last time I used a Miniwax "stain" is about 1996. I do use their so-called Antique Oil Finish on some turnings, but otherwise, I pretty much don't buy that brand, even though it's available just about anywhere on the planet these days. I guess it's the concept of "polyoneverthing" that turned me off to them...

John Keane
06-14-2005, 7:15 PM
Jim Becker what do you use?

jack duren
06-14-2005, 7:51 PM
this is funny... ive used the stain for years without a hitch. i will say one thing though, the chemicals have recently changed and maybe that was your problem...rebel

Jim Becker
06-14-2005, 7:59 PM
Jim Becker what do you use?

When I want to alter the color of something, I use water soluable dyes from Homestead Finishing. (Jeff Jewitt)

Bob Johnson2
06-14-2005, 8:34 PM
Darn... Now I'll have to look into something else, Minwax is/was the only stain I've used that I haven't had problems with. Shows how much I know...

brent lenthall
06-14-2005, 9:15 PM

I'm sure you know that Minwax is owned by SW. You can get any of the Minwax stain colors in ML Campbell stain base (also owned by SW) and get a much better product, fast drying time, etc.

Of course, my ML Campbell distributor doesn't keep HD or Lowe's hours and I have a couple of minwax cans in my shop as well.


John Keane
06-14-2005, 9:28 PM
S&W; for the uninformed is that Smith and Wesson the gun maker?

brent lenthall
06-14-2005, 11:37 PM

Sherwin Williams.

Todd Burch
06-15-2005, 12:10 AM
ML Campbell is my finish system of choice.

Corey Hallagan
06-15-2005, 12:28 AM
IS Ml Cambell available at Sherman Williams?


Jules Dominguez
06-15-2005, 1:11 AM
The water soluble aniline dyes that Jim mentions are a whole different ballgame, and a vastly superior and more predictable and controllable way to add color to wood. They add color without surface pigment, and the water doesn't seal the wood to prevent adding more color if you want it.

Oil finishes can be used over the dye, because although water and oil don't mix, the water evaporates.

Its easy to keep the end grain from getting too dark by applying a little water to it before the dye.

The dye can be strengthened or diluted by adding more powder or more water after you've made up a batch, which makes it easy to do trials on wood samples.

The only downside I know of is that the water will raise the grain slightly, and so the work needs an extra very light sanding. This can be done by wetting the surface before dyeing, then sanding, or sanding after dyeing, which has to be done more carefully to avoid sanding through the dyed layer of wood.

Something to watch out for is that if another coat is applied after the dye dries, the color is additive, so you need to be sure not to have isolated runs anywhere on the workpiece or you may not be able to blend them out. It's been a long time since I used it, but after learning my lesson the hard way I made sure I covered all surfaces, top and bottom, at the same time.

Kirk (KC) Constable
06-15-2005, 2:59 AM
Fellow woodworkers,

.....The next time you want to stain something, go search out a professional finisher's supply house near your home. Search out the senior person there and have a talk with him/her. Find out what products they offer and why they would recommend them over other products. Tell them any problems you might have had with stains before, and tell them you don't want the same problems any more....

This assumes, of course, that your 'professional finisher's supply house' isn't a Sherwin Williams store. If it is, save yourself a stop and go on to the next place. :(

John Hart
06-15-2005, 6:41 AM
Well...I'm glad to hear that Minwax sucks. All this time, I thought I sucked! :D

Guess I'll start looking into something else. Thanks for the post Todd.

Todd Burch
06-15-2005, 7:07 AM
Corey, no, you can't get ML Campbell products at a Sherwin William's Store. Go figure. Wish you could, 'cuz I have two SW stores within 5 miles of a my house, and my nearest ML Campbell supplier is a 1/2 day trip into Houston and back if there is any kind of traffic. Of course, they deliver for free if I order enough at once.


Steve Clardy
06-18-2005, 5:29 PM
Minwax is about all I use. Never had a problem. Hmmm:confused::confused:

I used to use, and still on occasion, Valspar stain. But gave up on it, as after it was once opened up, a month later it was dried up in the can.
I do not understand.:confused::confused:


Joseph N. Myers
06-18-2005, 10:24 PM
Been reading this thread and do have an issue with SW, basically that I find a product from them and then they cancel it. And they are doing it again with their DeckScapes, oil base which I use for my cedar outdoor projects.

In any event, just got the FWW Aug, 2005 issue and they, guess what, rated the 2 minwax tested (Minwax Wipe-On Poly and Fast-Drying Polyurethane Varnish) the best out of 16 brands/types tested. I did stop by my local SW today and the guy I talk to said that minwax was really not too good and their "Wood Classics" is a much better product (50% more expensive?).

I was not impressed by some of the criteria that the guy used to determine good/bad but a couple of them were "water resistance" and "Sheen" and the products tested consisted products that contained poly and no poly and a combination of other things --- sort of a stupid test. I know that I use Watco (natural danish oil) followed up by briwax. There is a big difference in the water resistance and scheen between the wax and no wax.

This kind of reminds me of the Wood Magazine last year on glue and them rating Titebond real low. A couple of months later they rated the different Tilebond glues the highest (they screwed up but of course, did not omit to it).

Regards, Joe

P.S., Worst performer of the group was Tried and True Varnish Oil and the ugly award goes to Hydrocote Danish Oil.

John Keane
06-18-2005, 10:26 PM
Fine Woodworking rates Minwax wipe on poly as a best value and best overall. The article does not address the underlying stain qualities.

jack duren
06-19-2005, 12:00 AM
joseph.."I did stop by my local SW today and the guy I talk to said that minwax was really not too good and their "Wood Classics" is a much better product (50% more expensive?)."

ive used wood classics twice. hated both times but had to on the second time because its thicker and it was for whitewashing/pickling. it did give me more control and color than miniwax versions but now wood classics truely "sucks". more expensive product and a heck of a lot more work for "no gain" in appearance.

now ill take S&W clear coatings,paints and other products they sell but the can keep there "wood classics stains".....jack

John Hart
06-19-2005, 6:42 AM
I can't help but suspect that the rating system is based on the "average user" and "ease of use" criteria. I've been using minwax products for years for a variety of things and felt that they were filling the bill just fine. Not spectacular...just sufficient. Other "non-woodworking" folks actually rave about the products. Since taking the advice of many people on SMC, I've found much better finishes. The difference in the final product is the difference between a plastic shine and a fine craftsman finish.

Over the years, I think folks have lost sight of what craftsmanship is all about and minwax and SW are capitalizing on that ignorance. IMHO

Jim Becker
06-19-2005, 9:07 AM
I had to chuckle when I read the FWW article last night, but I have used the top-rated Minwax wipe on Poly and it worked as advertized. It was also interesting to see how light in color it is as compared to others. Give I rarely use Polyurethanes, I would buy this product again if I needed some poly simply because it's readily available and inexpensive. (My one complaint with the review was he only did three applications...wipe on is often done with a dozen or more coats) I also have to say I agree about the T&T Varnish Oil...I never liked it one bit, yet I love the other two formulations.

But as someone else pointed out a few posts back...the original premise of this thread was around the Minwax stain products... ;)

jack duren
06-19-2005, 10:19 AM
"Over the years, I think folks have lost sight of what craftsmanship is all about and minwax and SW are capitalizing on that ignorance."

not really, just alot of us professionals taking advantage of the newer products at hand. just a new age of woodworking....jack

Ellen Benkin
06-19-2005, 11:50 AM
I hate finishing almost as much as I hate sharpening. I'd rather pay other people to do those things and spend my time making furniture.

Bob Nieman
06-20-2005, 1:21 AM
The frustrating thing for me is that not only is Minwax everywhere, there are no alternatives in town. And some of the Minwax colors are downright impossible to find. A current project appeared to need a color called "driftwood", based on the brochure. I went to everywhere I could think of in town and only found one small can. Messing around with it, I found it wasn't the color I needed anyway (not dark enough), but one coat of driftwood and another of a minwax gelstain (can't remember the color) actually gets me in the ballpark for the color I am looking for (trying to match existing shelves). Problem is, I need more driftwood!

I used a wood conditioner with decent but not great results on birch plywood with maple edging. I might try one side without the conditioner to get a darker color. The original shelves are pretty blotchy anyway.

Chris Barton
06-20-2005, 9:52 PM
I am also clearly in the minority since I do on occasion use Minwax stains and get very good results. Mostly I use dyes by Trans Tint mixed with shellac to achieve my color objectives which I fine to be the only solution that works consistently on maple. But, sometimes Minwax is just what I need and seems to be a satisfactory product. Can't help but wonder if poeple would like it better if it was hard to get. I sometimes get the feeling that we equate quality and desireability with rareity and cost...


Ken Weaver
06-20-2005, 10:06 PM
I rarely use stain for color, but have used a lot of Minwax polys and spar poly with good results. For my shop/tool cabinets I like the spar variety. The times I have used the stain I've been pleased with it, only mistakes or problems were my fault from a sloppy use of glue.