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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am tackling my first major/semi-large piece and I am finding it difficult to get a flat/non-streaking finish.

Its another butcherblock desktop where I sanded it coming from 120 to 220 and then to 320 using an orbital sander. I did the bottom side first only bringing the sanding to 220. I used Minwax pre-stain, Minwax Golden Oak, and then finishing with Minwax Polycrylic clear satin (water base) with a 2" Purdy Syntox brush, inside a well ventilated and pretty decently dust free room. I stained and finished the bottom without major issue - this was my test run and was pleasantly surprised and thought the otherside would be easy (if it weren't for how dark the bottom side is, I'd simply use it instead of the side Im having the issues with). After applying the first coat on the top, I immediately started to see the streaking while it was drying along with some dust nibs. After reading countless other forums on how to rectify it, the major consensus was that I wasn't finished yet and that after sanding (220 was recommended. I started with 220 and moved to 400 ) and continuing to apply coats, these issues will rectify themselves. Each time I tried my best to keep the application thin, spreadout, never moving too fast, one direction, always stirred the stain as well as poly... took all the precautions... and yet here I am, 6(?), 7(?) coats later, with a finish thats shown below here :
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After my 4th or 5th coat, I saw that changing to a fresh can of Poly could help. Tried that, same result. I even wetsanded it after others said the same worked for them (despite my desire for a satin finish) - didn't help much, but did however make it extremely smooth, theres not much texture to the finish but you can definitely feel the 'uneven'ness'.

What do you guys think should be my next course of action? Taking the poly down with an orbital sander (120) a couple passes and try building back up? A different brush?! I've heard good things about 'General Finishes', would that be a solution? I even tried taking a hairdryer to it with a dry rag to rub the finish out... also unsuccessful.

I'm at a real loss here and its frustrating to say the least spending so much time on something and still not getting the desired result.

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Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. The only thing I can think of is trying my best to take it down as smuch as I can with a sander and starting over.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Bumping this... because I'm super frustrated and have no idea what to do... sorry if this is an annoyance.
 

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Be patient. As of this writing, 108 people have viewed your thread. I am posting because you bumped the thread and I thought I could suggest a few ideas that might point you in the right direction.

Since you used all Minwax products and they know them best, have you tried contacting Minwax?
https://www.minwax.com/contact/

I am not a finishing expert, but what popped out at me was your statement, "I used Minwax pre-stain, Minwax Golden Oak, and then finishing with Minwax Polycrylic clear satin (water base) ..."

Please pardon the stupid questions, but may I assume that you applied them separately and didn't mix the stain with the Polycrylic? How much time did you allow between applying the stain and applying the water-based Polycrylic?

I believe that the Golden Oak stain is an oil-based stain. Am I right? If so, it would require time to thoroughly cure (days, not hours) before you apply the water-based Polycrylic finish. Is is possible that you applied the finish before the oil in the stain had fully cured in the wood?

I have friend who does museum-level finishing work, and I have heard him recommend that people apply a thin shellac sealer (say, SealCoat) between oil-based stains and water-based polyurethane finishes. That's after allowing the oil-based stain several days to cure (say, 3-7 days).

Because I am not an expert, I would rather not recommend a fix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Be patient. As of this writing, 108 people have viewed your thread. I am posting because you bumped the thread and I thought I could suggest a few ideas that might point you in the right direction.

Since you used all Minwax products and they know them best, have you tried contacting Minwax?
https://www.minwax.com/contact/

I am not a finishing expert, but what popped out at me was your statement, "I used Minwax pre-stain, Minwax Golden Oak, and then finishing with Minwax Polycrylic clear satin (water base) ..."

Please pardon the stupid questions, but may I assume that you applied them separately and didn't mix the stain with the Polycrylic? How much time did you allow between applying the stain and applying the water-based Polycrylic?

I believe that the Golden Oak stain is an oil-based stain. Am I right? If so, it would require time to thoroughly cure (days, not hours) before you apply the water-based Polycrylic finish. Is is possible that you applied the finish before the oil in the stain had fully cured in the wood?

I have friend who does museum-level finishing work, and I have heard him recommend that people apply a thin shellac sealer (say, SealCoat) between oil-based stains and water-based polyurethane finishes. That's after allowing the oil-based stain several days to cure (say, 3-7 days).

Because I am not an expert, I would rather not recommend a fix.
Thank very much for the reply. Yes, each part of Minwax that was applied was done so according to instructions or following them and giving more time than minimum :) The Minwax Pre-Stain was applied followed by applying the Golden Oak (correct - oil based) stain roughly an hour or so later. Instructions on the pre-stain dictate to stain within 30 minutes to 2 hours of the pre-stain being applied. The Golden Oak stain only sat atop it for a few minutes before being wiped away to gain a lighter stain color. I waited roughly 2 days before I started applying the Polycrylic. After each coat of poly, I waited at minimum 4-5 hours before sanding. After sanding, I would wait an additional 2 or 3 to let dust settle, vacuum and wipe off the surface, and apply another coat.

Thats an interesting take on applying a thin shellac sealer between the oil based stain and water based poly. I'll be sure to try that on my next project.

I appreciate your insight and also appreciate not recommending a fix :) I am no expert either (obviously)... however, I'm considering just taking a sander to the whole darn thing. Ive sent Minwax an e-mail and hoping to hear back.

Thank you again for the reply and your time. Its greatly appreciated.
 

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Nobody else has said a thing, so i feel 100% stupid.....i do not understand the problem you are having. :unsure:
When you say "Streaking" what do you mean exactly.?

I see what looks like rather Heavy/Rough grain and wood that took the stain very uneven, but i do not really see any "streaking" in your photos.
I am obviously not seeing what you are, but i do not know what it is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Nobody else has said a thing, so i feel 100% stupid.....i do not understand the problem you are having. :unsure:
When you say "Streaking" what do you mean exactly.?

I see what looks like rather Heavy/Rough grain and wood that took the stain very uneven, but i do not really see any "streaking" in your photos.
I am obviously not seeing what you are, but i do not know what it is.
Maybe streaking is not the appropriate term then (?). You'll have to excuse my ignorance here - as mentioned, I am as new as you can be to this. I do believe that what you describe as a heavy/rough grain is more appropriate/accurate and is something that after adding additional coats of polycrylic, only made it more difficult to rectify. I just don't know how I got to that point in the first place while paying extra attention to the prep, sanding, and application of the Minwax products.

After trying to research this further, I have found other images that somewhat resemble what it is I am seeing in mine.

I think I am about to go and get some heavy grit sanding pads for my orbital and attempt to take it down to the wood again... probably a bad idea? 😅🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️

Not sure if it matters but I never mentioned that the type of wood is Beech wood.
 

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As an inexperienced non-expert, I would be doing the same as you. Before you tackle it again, why not try your next plan on some scrap wood to see if it works better?

Regarding the problem above, I wonder whether you allowed sufficient time for the oil stain to fully cure. Next time, give it a week just to be sure. If the climate is cool or humid, it takes longer - keep that in mind, too.

The purpose of the pre-stain conditioner is to help avoid a "blotchy" look to the stain in woods that absorb stain unevenly. It works by evening out absorption and retarding it somewhat. Examples of "blotchy" woods that come to mind are pine and maple. I do not know whether beech also fits that description.

When you applied the oil stain, it was absorbed into the wood along with the colorant in it. The pre-stain conditioner limited absorption somewhat, but it still happened. When you sand off your finish, you won't get all of that absorbed stain because some of it is below the surface. The result of it will be an uneven look to the wood. I do not know whether a fresh application of stain will even it out again. Sorry, I just don't know.

After that, whatever you do, allow the stain to cure for at least a week. The oil in the stain will dry and harden (polymerize) in the wood. After that, you can try the Zinnser SealCoat, which may help.

Keep in mind that water-based products will raise the grain. I don't know if that happens after the stain, etc. but you said that you are sanding lightly between coats of the polyurethane anyway.

That's all I know, most of it from reading, not experience. I hope someone with real experience joins in soon.

@Steve Neul?
 

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Maybe streaking is not the appropriate term then (?). You'll have to excuse my ignorance here - as mentioned, I am as new as you can be to this. I do believe that what you describe as a heavy/rough grain is more appropriate/accurate and is something that after adding additional coats of polycrylic, only made it more difficult to rectify. I just don't know how I got to that point in the first place while paying extra attention to the prep, sanding, and application of the Minwax products.

After trying to research this further, I have found other images that somewhat resemble what it is I am seeing in mine.

I think I am about to go and get some heavy grit sanding pads for my orbital and attempt to take it down to the wood again... probably a bad idea? 😅🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️

Not sure if it matters but I never mentioned that the type of wood is Beech wood.
So, is that your main complaint......the Heavy/Rough grain.?
Are you wanting an "experience" more like Walnut or Maple or Cherry.
Those woods are very "Smooth" ..................when you rub your hand back and forth across a table top that is made of Walnut, your hand will not feel much, it will be very Smooth/Flat.....like a piece of P-Lam....sort of.
The pictures you posted........it looks like you would have a hard time, writing with a pen, on a piece of paper, directly on top of that wood.....like it would make a bad writing surface for a desk.
Probably not a problem if it were used for a kitchen table.
Is it as rough as the pictures make it look.?

I suppose you can sand the day-lights out of your Beech, and get it to Look and Feel a lot less rough.
You run the risk of closing the grain up real tight though..... possibly to the point where it will not absorb much stain.
You might have to spray colored-sealer at that point.....maybe.

I have limited experience with Beech.....sorry i cannot be more helpful. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
As an inexperienced non-expert, I would be doing the same as you. Before you tackle it again, why not try your next plan on some scrap wood to see if it works better?

Regarding the problem above, I wonder whether you allowed sufficient time for the oil stain to fully cure. Next time, give it a week just to be sure. If the climate is cool or humid, it takes longer - keep that in mind, too.

The purpose of the pre-stain conditioner is to help avoid a "blotchy" look to the stain in woods that absorb stain unevenly. It works by evening out absorption and retarding it somewhat. Examples of "blotchy" woods that come to mind are pine and maple. I do not know whether beech also fits that description.

When you applied the oil stain, it was absorbed into the wood along with the colorant in it. The pre-stain conditioner limited absorption somewhat, but it still happened. When you sand off your finish, you won't get all of that absorbed stain because some of it is below the surface. The result of it will be an uneven look to the wood. I do not know whether a fresh application of stain will even it out again. Sorry, I just don't know.

After that, whatever you do, allow the stain to cure for at least a week. The oil in the stain will dry and harden (polymerize) in the wood. After that, you can try the Zinnser SealCoat, which may help.

Keep in mind that water-based products will raise the grain. I don't know if that happens after the stain, etc. but you said that you are sanding lightly between coats of the polyurethane anyway.

That's all I know, most of it from reading, not experience. I hope someone with real experience joins in soon.

@Steve Neul?
Great take on it. Ive actually started the process of removing it all in order to start from zero (also with the understanding the remaining oils from the stain may affect the outcome). Im using an 80 grit pad, a lot of time, and even more patience. I was making some headway outside out of direct sunlight (I live in a condo), until I started to feel some light drizzling, so I quickly packed it up and brought it inside and Ill finish the removal tomorrow. I probably have 1/4 of the finish left to remove after spending nearly 4 hours meticulously sanding. You can really smell the oils again after removing the polycrylic. The plan is to bring it to a 220 this time so the grain stays somewhat "open (?)" to absorb the stain, before I start applying the stain and finishing products. Im unsure whether or not using the pre-stain conditioner again will complicate things further?

The Zinnser Sealcoat, from my quick google search, this is to be applied after I apply the stain? Would I still do all the steps before this? ie sand to 220 > minwax pre-conditioner > minwax oil based stain > zinnser seal coat > then water based polycrylic finishing?

Ive lost count how many forums Ive scoured or websites, but they all say the same when using oil based stains and water based finishing regarding the light sanding between. Albeit, some use a sanding block with 320 or 400 grit paper and others I've seen use 220 with an orbital sander... Im guessing there's no true right or wrong way but whatever works.

If its not obvious already I have a hard time letting something get by as just 'good enough' or when something isn't the way its supposed to be, I feel compelled to do what needs to be done in order to correct it, I can probably blame the NAVY for that... Im not even all that mad at the blotchy'ness more than I am that every time I was looking at it, all I'd see is what I now know to be the raised grain, then sealed under the additional coats of polycrylic.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts on this. Its greatly appreciated as I know it takes some time to write all this out.

So, is that your main complaint......the Heavy/Rough grain.?
Are you wanting an "experience" more like Walnut or Maple or Cherry.
Those woods are very "Smooth" ..................when you rub your hand back and forth across a table top that is made of Walnut, your hand will not feel much, it will be very Smooth/Flat.....like a piece of P-Lam....sort of.
The pictures you posted........it looks like you would have a hard time, writing with a pen, on a piece of paper, directly on top of that wood.....like it would make a bad writing surface for a desk.
Probably not a problem if it were used for a kitchen table.
Is it as rough as the pictures make it look.?

I suppose you can sand the day-lights out of your Beech, and get it to Look and Feel a lot less rough.
You run the risk of closing the grain up real tight though..... possibly to the point where it will not absorb much stain.
You might have to spray colored-sealer at that point.....maybe.

I have limited experience with Beech.....sorry i cannot be more helpful. :(
The Heavy/Rough grain has sort of, I guess, been encapsulated by the additional coats of polycrylic. I'm now betting that was the case after finding other pictures of what a raised grain would look like. So now, since there are additional coats, the top is smooth but under any glare of light, its painful to look at because all I see is what's shown in that picture which reflects the light... its even worse than what the picture can convey because the entire surface is that. The surface itself though, is glass smooth, especially after wet sanding it in hopes that would somehow make those 'waves' go away. So in short, the additional coats of polycrylic, leveled it out... at least that's what I'm guessing.

But yeah, the plan like I mentioned above, is to take my time sanding, with the 80 grit to rough it up, and then step it up to 120, and then to 220... still debating if there is any benefit to going to 320 again or if that would hinder the stain application more than help.

The top itself is 34" x 82"... would you recommend a specific way of covering that amount of space quickly enough to get a more 'golden' finish than the darker in those pictures? Last time I used a 5" lambs wool applicator which allowed me to move the product around fairly quickly but seeing how blotchy it came out, Im not sure if I should do the same again (?).

Thank you again. I can't express how grateful I am for eveyones insight.
 

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I stopped using most Minwax products years ago other than some oil stain on occasion. I spray 99% of the time but I'll throw some thoughts out there.

Sanding to 320 may be too far. The additional pre-stain closes the grain even more. Stain needs pores so I would try stopping at 220 or maybe 180.
Most water based top coats don't play well with oil based stains. A mix of 50/50 water and denatured alcohol will remove the oil residue from the stain.
The Zinnser sealcoat (AKA pre-stain, AKA dewaxed shellac) seals the oil coat from the water but I would thin it 20 or 30%. The stuff dries real quick so if I'm not spraying it, I'll wipe it on with a cloth, one quick pass. Lightly sand with 220 before the first top coat, just enough to remove dust.
If I remember correctly, polycrylic is a bit thick so the first coat may need some thinning.
I also recall polycrylic dries pretty quick and doesn't layout well and shows brush marks. You may want to try a 1/4" nap roller and back brush it.
I spray a waterborne lacquer, kind of similar to the polycrylic and I've found these kind of finishes like to be spayed to a heavier wet-mil. They don't like "dust coats"

Good luck and let us know how the project ends up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I stopped using most Minwax products years ago other than some oil stain on occasion. I spray 99% of the time but I'll throw some thoughts out there.

Sanding to 320 may be too far. The additional pre-stain closes the grain even more. Stain needs pores so I would try stopping at 220 or maybe 180.
Most water based top coats don't play well with oil based stains. A mix of 50/50 water and denatured alcohol will remove the oil residue from the stain.
The Zinnser sealcoat (AKA pre-stain, AKA dewaxed shellac) seals the oil coat from the water but I would thin it 20 or 30%. The stuff dries real quick so if I'm not spraying it, I'll wipe it on with a cloth, one quick pass. Lightly sand with 220 before the first top coat, just enough to remove dust.
If I remember correctly, polycrylic is a bit thick so the first coat may need some thinning.
I also recall polycrylic dries pretty quick and doesn't layout well and shows brush marks. You may want to try a 1/4" nap roller and back brush it.
I spray a waterborne lacquer, kind of similar to the polycrylic and I've found these kind of finishes like to be spayed to a heavier wet-mil. They don't like "dust coats"

Good luck and let us know how the project ends up.
Thanks for the advice! I just finished sanding it yesterday to 220 using an oribtal sander. I followed that up with using a 220 sanding block going with the grain a few times over. I'm holding off starting the finishing process until tomorrow due to weather and humidity today. It took quite a while of sanding to get through all the coats of polycrylic but managed. I'm ok with the result - not great but its ok for where it came from. Some area's left a grey'ish color in the wood that no matter how much sanding, wouldn't go away.

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My apologies for these basic questions but, regarding the Zinnser Sealcoat, reading about it on their website, it refers to it as a sanding sealer, but as I interpret your message, I would apply this after applying the stain, then I would lightly sand it with 220 (Im thinking/guessing one pass?), remove the dust (vacuum) then apply my first thin coat of diluted polycrylic?

So the steps I'm looking at would be - Wood conditioner > stain (let stain totally cure - I plan for one week since Ill be on leave) > Wipe with a 50/50 water/DNA solution to help remove the oil residue > Zinnser sealcoat thinned by 20-30% (mineral spirits?) > lightly sand with 220 (or an abrasion pad?) > remove sanding dust > first application of thinned polycrylic > lighty sand > wipe away or vacuum dust > re-apply etc ?

Ive heard that anyone who's tried General Finishes polycrylic who have also used Minwax poly, much prefer the General FInishes and never look back, so I'm thinking of going that route this time. Apparently it goes on a bit easier and smoother. I'll be sure to practice the same techniques of keeping the brush wet (I'll try the 1/4" nap roller this time around too), not to move too quickly but with certainty, etc... anything else I'm missing?

Last time I used a 3x5" Minwax lambs wool applicator pad for the stain because it allowed me to move somewhat quickly across the larger surface... is this a recommended way of applying stain? I wouldn't be apposed to getting a large sized applicator either. I don't intend to let the stain sit for very long because I want the lighter side of the Golden Oak stain, so getting it on quickly is my main goal - I dont think I'd let it sit for more than ~5-7 or so minutes.

If I'm missing anything, I am open to suggestions. As you can probably tell, I'm sort of detail oriented and I'm sure theres more than one way to get this done but I just want to know what I'm thinking isn't too severely off.

At any rate, thank you all again for the help here. I must sound like a broken record inquiring about recommended steps constantly, but its appreciated more than I can lament. Thank you all again.
 

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JMHO of course, but...............I have never like "Wood Conditioners"......or pre-stain sealers.
If you are worried about blotchy spots, i think you would be better off to just seal it, sand it, and spray a colored finish followed by clear finish.
Blotchy woods like Birch, Cherry, Maple.................that never bothers me. That is the way those woods take stain.
Just the "Beauty Of The Wood" in my eye.
Not everybody sees it that way of course.

Too many people want wood to look like P-Lam.
Why not just use P-Lam.?
Pictures of wood are very convincing these days...............plus, it will be water proof and have a perfect finish.:)

Good Luck, of course, with your final outcome.
 

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Thank very much for the reply. Yes, each part of Minwax that was applied was done so according to instructions or following them and giving more time than minimum :) The Minwax Pre-Stain was applied followed by applying the Golden Oak (correct - oil based) stain roughly an hour or so later. Instructions on the pre-stain dictate to stain within 30 minutes to 2 hours of the pre-stain being applied. The Golden Oak stain only sat atop it for a few minutes before being wiped away to gain a lighter stain color. I waited roughly 2 days before I started applying the Polycrylic. After each coat of poly, I waited at minimum 4-5 hours before sanding. After sanding, I would wait an additional 2 or 3 to let dust settle, vacuum and wipe off the surface, and apply another coat.

Thats an interesting take on applying a thin shellac sealer between the oil based stain and water based poly. I'll be sure to try that on my next project.

I appreciate your insight and also appreciate not recommending a fix :) I am no expert either (obviously)... however, I'm considering just taking a sander to the whole darn thing. Ive sent Minwax an e-mail and hoping to hear back.

Thank you again for the reply and your time. Its greatly appreciated.
I have always applied shellac as a sealer between stain and top coat. Shellac is commonly called a universal sealer as it is compatible with most finishes. With the golden oak stain, enough time needs to be allowed for the solvents to completely flash off. That can take a good couple of days. A general rule is to wipe the surface with a white cloth. If you are getting any color, then likely the stain is likely not done cooking.
 

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I have always applied shellac as a sealer between stain and top coat. Shellac is commonly called a universal sealer as it is compatible with most finishes. With the golden oak stain, enough time needs to be allowed for the solvents to completely flash off. That can take a good couple of days. A general rule is to wipe the surface with a white cloth. If you are getting any color, then likely the stain is likely not done cooking.
That is a helpful lesson from @B Coll.

I was taught the same trick about wiping with a clean cloth, but after the color test, was also taught to give the cloth a sniff. If you smell any of the finish on the cloth, even if you can't see it, then it is not ready.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for all the info and advice everyone. Cant express how much I appreciate everyones time here. So after applying the stain, I immediately saw the same blotchiness I had on the first go around. I couldn't say if it was more or less prominent this time around. Im starting to think its the actual wood here and not me :) While on leave, I even tackled another project making a wooden network cabinet where I used Baltic Birch, the same stain and Minwax Polycrylic and had no issues with any of the processes or the actual finish.

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I just returned from leave and the stain had over a week to cure. After the wipe test to see if theres any residual product or smells (theres not), I noticed where the dark areas are, there's a slight bit more of a texture feel, thats otherwise not existent in the lighter areas so its safe to say that the grain is raising with this stain. Im not positive as what to do here... At this point, I really don't even care all that much about the blotchiness but whether or not Ill get the same result of that 'textured' look once I start the polycrylic steps again.
 
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