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Thread: why won't my stain take?

  1. #1

    Question why won't my stain take?

    I made a desk out of red oak, stained it with minwax ebony (3 coats, each about 30 mins long). applied 5+ coats of poly. that was months ago.
    i recently decided i didn't like the open grain and bumpiness of the red oak, so i thought i would sand off the poly and apply some grain filler.

    I sanded off the poly with 220 and a sanding block by hand. I burnt through the finish and stain in some places as you can see from the first picture.
    Photo Jul 07, 4 11 03 PM.jpg

    I thought I could just re-stain the parts where I sanded through, but after about 4 applications of stain, each sitting for 30ish minutes, the areas just don't seem to be absorbing the stain, and I don't understand why.

    this picture is after the 4 coats of stain.
    Photo Jul 07, 7 23 38 PM.jpg

  2. #2
    The previous stain is acting as a sealer "in" the wood even though you have sanded down to the woods surface. This creates an essentially different surface preparation protocol between your original finish and your second finishing effort. Therefor, different visible results.

    Since the surface prep is now different you will have to use a different method of coloration to achieve a match. I would experiment with dyes on a similarly prepared piece of scrap until you can match. Be sure to include your top coat when working toward your final match as dyes look very different pre and post top coat.
    She said “How many woodworking tools do you need?”
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  3. #3
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    I suggest you do one of two things. Either strip off all the old finish with chemical stripper, then sand and start over, or sand what you have smooth and paint it. Nothing in between is going to look uniform.

    John

  4. #4
    Glenn: ahh. the previous stain acting as sealer makes sense.

    John: can you recommend a chemical stripper? Also why do you suggest painting? If I sand everything down to the bare wood, presumably well past the stain that is acting as a sealer, shouldn't I be able to stain it again?

  5. #5
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    To your second question addressed to John, oak has very deep pores and even with a chemical stripper, it may be difficult to fully evacuate all the binder that was in the stain, although presumably, the stain in the pores may be undamaged. There's no harm in stripping and sanding and then doing a test with the stain to see how it works out. The painting suggestion is, of course, last resort, outside of completing rebuilding the project with fresh material, of course.
    --

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  6. #6
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    I've always had great results with KleanStrip Premium stripper, but with the recent gov't action to ban methylene chloride in such products, I can't recommend you use it. Another contributor here recommends this stuff:
    https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...t.do?pid=98140

    John

  7. #7
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    John is on the money. Strip it, sand it flat and start again. Part of the problem with texture in your original finish was that it needed more sanding before staining and coating. You need to finish it with sharp paper. Go far enough to get rid of the residual evidence of tear out.

    The best way to finish oak is to sand it as flat as possible between coats, avoiding sanding through of course, so that at the end of the job you can still see the pores but they are shallow and sharply defined. Oak has a definite character that is best not buried under a totally full finish. Cheers

  8. #8
    Oak needs a proper pore filler if you want any chance of filling in the bumpy porous grain... Red Oak especially so because it's "Through porous" - the pores actually go through the wood and aren't internally sealed. Most clear coat varnishes and standard stains don't pore fill to any appreciable amount until you have well over 10 coats of varnish.. Usually more like 20 coats of varnish and then level sand back and most of the pores will be gone.

    Anyway - my main suspicion is furniture polish. It contains waxes and other chemicals to repel water and dust, and to bring out the shine.....

    As others have mentioned. Most likely you need a quality chemical stripper to deal with this.

    And as John mentions - you kinda have 2 choices.... Sand/plane back to bare wood, pore fill, and go from there... Or paint it. If you choose to paint it - paint a primer coat 1st. Then pore fill. Then level, another coat of primer, and paint.

  9. #9
    How about trying a dye?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Engel View Post
    How about trying a dye?
    Yes, if you want, but then you definitely have to get back to virgin wood.

    John

  11. #11
    Thanks everyone for the advice.
    I decided to try and get it back to raw wood before staining it again.

    I used a combination of stripper (JASCO varnish and stain remover) and then sanding with some aggressive grit. That gave me this:
    Photo Jul 09, 6 02 08 PM.jpg

    Which i could tell woulnd't be enough. I tried using my no 4 smoother to get at some bare wood but lack of skill and the ability to hold the work down made that a non-starter.

    I ended up using my car scrapper, doing a couple passes (some cross grain, some with the grain), and then sanding with 60, and then 120 grit with the ROS.

    This was basically as "bare" as I could get it, which I'm hoping will be enough for the stain to take.

    Photo Jul 10, 12 23 01 PM.jpg

    I put on some pre-stain conditioner and just applied my first coat of stain and am waiting for it to set in. I'll post my results.

    The plan after ~3 stain applications is to apply Aqua coat wood grain filler.

    And then a bunch of semi-gloss minwax polyurethane coats.


    p.s. John: had never used furniture wax on it

  12. #12
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    If you are trying to get a very dark (Ebony) color, Minwax Ebony (at least the oil based stuff) is likely not going to do it if you use it according to the directions and you didn't the first time around. You only leave stain on the wood for a few minutes, then wipe it off, completely. Leaving it on until it starts to set in hopes of getting a darker color risks a muddy finish, at best, and debonding of the topcoat at worst. Sorry, I should have brought this up earlier.

    Next time, if you want a really black, black try Speedball India Ink.

    Good luck and I hope it comes out well.

    John

  13. #13
    If you use a dye you can darken by applying multiple coats.

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