Use pre-stain conditioner on areas I won't stain? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 9 Old 10-17-2014, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Use pre-stain conditioner on areas I won't stain?

Hi all,

I am building a new computer desk out of 2x4's and nice oak ply for the top (hey I had to splurge somewhere!). It's not exactly fine woodworking, but I wanted something affordable, custom-sized and strong. I wound up building an 84" x 27" desk with a 30-inch return for under $200 and that makes me a happy man.

I will be staining it with the usual Minwax oil-based stain, then sealing with quick-dry poly (maybe spray). As I learned a long time ago (the hard way), I will be applying the Minwax Pre-stain conditioner first, before staining.

I do not intend on staining certain areas that will never be seen, such as the tops of the stretchers that the top will sit on, and the underside of the top...that's a lot of area to stain/spend money on staining and nobody will see it.

In theory I know this is sort of a bad idea b/c you're supposed to seal all sides of the wood the same way to keep moisture/expansion even, etc. But the top is plywood, not solid wood. (don't know if that matters?)

I'm unsure if I should apply at least the pre-stain conditioner on the tops of the stretchers and underside of the top, even though I won't be staining it. Don't know if just the conditioner would help/hurt anything. I guess I'm looking for advice here.

Any good thread has some pics, so here they are. Tops' not on it yet, obviously.

Top and the return. Note the holes drilled for a 3rd leg on the return. I decided I didn't want to use it, as it's not needed. This edge will be against a wall so nobody will see the hole anyway.



Another angle. Two metal drawers will hang from the underside on the right side of the desk. That is one reason why the desk is so wide. The other reason is "because I can." :D


L-leg construction with 2x4's and 1/2" bolts. Never coming apart.


Countersunk bolts are extra work but look nice.


Pocket holes to attach top. I will not use all of them; I wanted lots of options for where to put screws, should I need to pull the top down more or less, here or there. If you're thinking "Man, I bet it was a pain in the butt to drill all those pocket holes!" you would be 100% correct.


Last edited by mikeintexas; 10-17-2014 at 11:00 PM.
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post #2 of 9 Old 10-17-2014, 11:25 PM
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Being plywood unless you have it in a really humid location the conditioner or finishing the underside of the top really isn't necessary. It's primarily solid wood you need to seal the underside.

The prestain conditioner is only necessary on places you are going to stain. Pine has soft and hard places and the soft places soak up more stain than the harder places. The conditioner evens up the wood so the stain goes on more even so you have a more uniform color instead of dark blotches here and there.

On the side that shows you might cut some large dowels to fill the bolt holes. Also the kreg screw holes in the skirts you have far more than is necessary. One or two in each section is plenty.
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post #3 of 9 Old 10-18-2014, 10:31 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply, Steve. I knew that the pre-stain conditioner helped ensure even staining, but I didn't know whether it provided any "sealant type" benefits. I'm glad I don't have to stain the underside...the top is 84"x27"...that's a lot of brush strokes.

As for the bolt holes, I have no intention of covering them. I like that fasteners-showing-industrial type look. No point in making a desk made of 2x4s look super-pretty. Then it would just look like some cheap guy who made a desk from 2x4s is trying to disguise his cheapness. I revel in my cheapness.
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post #4 of 9 Old 10-18-2014, 10:45 AM
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You really dont need to use a preconditioner on oak. Oak is a hard wood and takes stain very well. Preconditioner is mainly used on soft woods such as pine, fir, maple and birch.

I would stain a piece of scrap oak first and see what it looks like without the preconditioner. I think you will be pleased. Just sand down the oak to 220 grit first.

No need to stain anything that cant be seen.....unless you have that friend who thinks they are a QC person and points out everything you should have done.
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post #5 of 9 Old 10-18-2014, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you, Randy. The "oak top" is 3/4" oak ply from Lowes, not solid oak. Does that make a difference with the pre-conditioning? And I will definitely sand it down to 220 before staining. It looks smooth in the store, until you run your hand or a rag over it and the rag snags on something every few inches.
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post #6 of 9 Old 10-18-2014, 03:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeintexas View Post
Thank you, Randy. The "oak top" is 3/4" oak ply from Lowes, not solid oak. Does that make a difference with the pre-conditioning? And I will definitely sand it down to 220 before staining. It looks smooth in the store, until you run your hand or a rag over it and the rag snags on something every few inches.
It really shouldnt make a difference as long as you sand it properly, but dont sand through it!

As far as sanding, your first grit is to remove all the the blemishes like mill marks and scratches. After that, the following grits are to remove the scratches of the previous grit. Depending on the type of finish and the quality of your sander, you don't really need to go beyond 180 grit on most things.

Higher grits like 220 and higher will burnish the wood if you don't change the paper enough. The best advice I ever got about sanding was to let the machine do the work and to keep the paper sharp. Finer grits wear out very quickly and need to be changed more often than courser grits. You also don't need to sand as long with them because you only need to remove the scratches of the prior grit.

I would definately do a test on scrap with using "stain to wood" and then do a "preconditioner to wood then stain" side by side and see which one you prefer.

Last edited by RandyReed; 10-18-2014 at 03:23 PM.
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post #7 of 9 Old 10-18-2014, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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I have been using a 6" random orbital (variable speed) air sander that I got from Harbor Freight. It really works well and the availability of Velcro-backed papers from 60 to 240-grit really make it versatile.

I also have a small Craftsman electric orbital sander that I never liked very much. You have to clip the spring clips over the ends of the paper and it doesn't do a very good job at all.

I think I have a scrap of that same Oak ply somewhere; I will do the conditioner/no conditioner test and see what I like better. I've never used the conditioner on anything but solid Pine/Pine ply before. The results are absolutely night and day, with/without the conditioner.
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post #8 of 9 Old 10-18-2014, 09:16 PM
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The preconditioner will definitely make the oak stain slightly lighter. Its always safe to do a test piece, but Im sure if sanded properly there should not be any problems.
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post #9 of 9 Old 10-18-2014, 09:26 PM
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Oak just isn't one of the woods that blotch. Whether it is plywood or solid wood sanding to 180 grit or higher the wood will stain uniform. Using a conditioner would have the same effect as thinning the stain. It will just be lighter.
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