Mystery stain botch - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-22-2019, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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Mystery stain botch

I have a custom dresser piece that I am in trouble with. The job was to strip and stain it. It has been a huge pain in the butt having two coats of paint and a layer of stain to get through. I used Citristrip since I was stuck working inside during the winter and have sanded to 150 grit. Cleaned it up and used Varathane wood conditioner, followed by the stain of my customer's choice. It looked alright wet but it dried horribly. It has spots that almost look greyish and the whole thing is a hot mess. I have followed this same procedure with dozens of pieces of furniture and have never seen this happen and am baffled and unsure what to do next. If I am really really lucky, my customer will say she loves it and I can just proceed with poly but I really doubt that will happen. Can anyone tell me what has gone wrong here? I'll post pictures of it wet and how it looks now for perspective. Thanks so much!
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post #2 of 10 Old 03-22-2019, 09:50 PM
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How long did you leave the stain on before wiping it off? Sometimes you can undo what the wood conditioner does by leaving the stain on too long. The excess stain should be wiped off almost immediately.

Because the conditioner and stain would gum up sandpaper almost immediately it would be best to use stripper and strip it again and then sand it again.
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-23-2019, 09:57 AM Thread Starter
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Hi Steve, thanks for answering me! I applied the stain to the whole piece, waited a couple of minutes hoping for good color saturation, then began to wipe off. So maybe 10 minutes max? The back of the can says you wait quite a while, I didn't know I could take the conditioner back up. You think that's why it looks so crazy?
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-23-2019, 11:47 AM
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I can't be sure but it looks like the previous coating and/or stripper is the culprit. The horizontal marks along the front on the side appear as where the stripper lingered too long, or on the rest of the piece it didn't linger long enough.


This will require a complete re-stripping and I suggest a stronger, old-fashioned type to get deep into the surface to remove everything.


Avoid sanding anything until it's completely clear as you may do lasting damage.


Good luck.

"Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity." Hanlon's Razor
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-23-2019, 01:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allison Evarts View Post
Hi Steve, thanks for answering me! I applied the stain to the whole piece, waited a couple of minutes hoping for good color saturation, then began to wipe off. So maybe 10 minutes max? The back of the can says you wait quite a while, I didn't know I could take the conditioner back up. You think that's why it looks so crazy?
The way a conditioner works is the wood has hard and soft places. The wood conditioner is a sealer. It's like you thinned some varnish and put that on for the first coat. The softer portions of the wood will soak up more of the sealer than the hard places so it makes the surface more uniform. It's sealed enough to make the surface uniform but not sealed enough to completely block the stain. By allowing the stain to sit and soak it allows more stain to get into the soft wood so it still turns dark even with the conditioner on it. Regardless what the directions say for most wood you need to wipe off a stain almost immediately especially if it is a wood prone to blotching.
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-23-2019, 01:09 PM Thread Starter
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The sides are veneer and I already went through in two spots so yah, sanding further would be delicate work. Damn, I really didn't want to do this again. :( Thanks for the help with it!
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-23-2019, 01:41 PM
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It's interesting that there was paint over stain. I would have expected a layer of clear between the paint and the stain. Maybe the original stain was problematic too, so it ended up being painted. However, given the variety of grain patterns, it looks like it was built to be painted, so the pre-existing stain is odd well. Paint vs tung oil vs stain+clear is one of my first considerations, but I rarely go with the later so hope to learn some things in this thread.
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post #8 of 10 Old 03-24-2019, 09:52 AM
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Hard to tell from photos but here is my 2 cents worth. The piece was not sufficiently stripped even though it may have appeared to be. That would certainly explain why some parts are accepting stain and other parts are not.
If you dont know what you are doing and don't have the proper equipment you can inadvertently be pushing the old finish further into the grain. This would prevent the new stain from soaking in at certain places.

When I had my shop, I wouldnt even consider stripping this piece for under $900 for lots of reasons which now you are finding out. I agree with the previous post that this piece was made to be painted not stained. At least not by the ordinary means. During the great depression in the 1930's, most furniture looked similar to this as it was built. It was made from whatever scrap wood the manufacturer had handy - kinda a mix and match process. It was never intended to be stained. Back then, most of these cheap pieces were glazed and top coated with a dye colored
lacquer.

My suggestion is to sand the heck out of the dark spots and find a wood colored finish. If you have spray capabilities, it could be remedied quite a bit easier.

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Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Denison, Tx
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post #9 of 10 Old 03-25-2019, 10:56 AM Thread Starter
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Well heck. None of this is good news. I can't sand those sides more without going through the veneer. I asked my customer about painting but she's firm on stain. I don't usually use that Citristrip but it being winter, I was stuck inside my garage and needed something more breathable. I doubt I'll use it again! Thanks again for all the input, I sure appreciate the advice!
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post #10 of 10 Old 03-26-2019, 01:29 PM
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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.
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