Beware of purists
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: beyond the pale
Since the piece can't be painted, if I was in your shoes here's the Hail Mary I would try before asking the client what do I owe them for messing up the job.
Get an old-fashioned, strong stripper. Apply liberally, probably several times, until it's clean. Then, use a equal mix of vinegar and water and wash it down. Then wash it again.
It is going to raise the grain, but that's the least of your worries. After it's dry, use 0000 steel wool and LIGHTLY go over the piece. At this point, you shouldn't be worried about getting a super smooth surface, rather just knock down the "hairs" from the piece.
Don't use the "Wood Conditioner."
Get fresh shellac. Out of the can dilute with twice as much denatured alcohol as shellac. Apply liberally and don't worry about the direction of your strokes. You're looking to get that shellac down into the wood. Apply 2-3 coats of the diluted shellac. It should almost be dry when you finish, but to be sure give it several hours in a warm room.
Now use your stain (though I'm not a fan of MinWax stains as they're too heavy for me. Dilute them with mineral spirits if you use them.) Put it on one surface at a time like the front (not the drawers yet) and wipe it off. Now you have a baseline to judge the other surfaces. Then do the sides, one at a time, then each drawer one at a time, then the top.
If you determine you need a second coat of stain go ahead, but if so you must be careful. See if one coat isn't good enough before you starting adding additional coats of stain, you can get uneveness very quickly and another mess.
Not sure of the top coat (go for satin-- no gloss, no shine) you're planning, but whether it's oil or poly (water-based) again dilute in half with either mineral spirits or water. Apply with a foam brush being a bit more careful with the directions of your strokes. Try not to go over the same area twice.
Then let it dry at least overnight. Don't rush this drying. It may look like the topcoat took in some areas and not in others but don't attempt to fix it now. Let it dry.
Then do the same process again. Dilute by half, foam brush, same direction. Let dry. You should see that the topcoat appears more even.
Should you feel the need to sand, don't. You stand a good chance of screwing up the surface.
After overnight drying, apply the third and final diluted coat. Let dry.
Now apply paste wax. Johnson's paste wax. Use a brown paper bag (grocery bag) to apply. The brown paper bag will even out the top coat and the wax will give it a nice-to-the-touch finish.
That's what I would do. Good luck to you.
"Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity." Hanlon's Razor
Last edited by sgcz75b; 03-26-2019 at 02:04 PM.