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Discussion Starter #1
I am a newbie woodworker, but have been doing a lot of reading/research on this great hobby and this is my first post here.


I am working on a shelving unit, using Poplar. I have made all my cuts/dados/etc and I am in the final stage of putting a finish on my project. The project is 6ftx4ft and will have 8 shelves, to include a ¼” backing. The shelf will be used to hold my Blu-ray/DVD collection.



I am in the final stage of putting a finish on this project. The project has NOT been assembled yet, because I think it would be easier to apply the finish, then assemble it.


I have read/watched a lot about the mystery and confusing topic of finishing. I have purchased the e-book “Wood Finishing 101” by Bob Flexner. It has some good info, and step by steps, but does not really help me solve the issue I am having. I am thinking about purchasing Charles Neil book “Finishing, Simply Put…No Chemistry Degree Required”. Anybody own and recommend this book for newbies like me???


On to my problem. I have a 1x6x6 piece of scrap poplar that I am using to test my finish. I have routed some dados in the piece to separate my tests areas. The problem I am having is that some parts of the piece are showing little speckles of blotching. I know that poplar is a wood that tends to blotch, that is why I added Zinssers Bulls Eye Seal Coat (dewaxed Shellac).


The first section I added 2 coats of undiluted shellac. I waited for 2 hrs. before I sanded very light with 220gt paper before I added the 2nd coat. I did use an orbit sander, but barley put pressure on it. Should I have hand sanded it????


After the coat was dried for about a day I applied (wiped on) a coat of Minwax Gel Stain Mahogany 605. I notice in some parts of the piece there were speckles of some blotching.

The 2nd section of my test piece was diluted shellac (using 1 part denatured alcohol/1 part shellac, properly measure), using the application process like the first section. Again there was that speckled blotching.


What am I doing wrong, and what can I do to prevent this? Is this just the nature of the wood, and I am going to have to deal with it? I really want a nice looking finish for my project, and do not want a half-butt crack looking one.



I did not skip sanding grits and did progress with the size, starting with:
1. 80 Grit
2. Clean surface
3. 120 Grit
4. Clean surface
5. 1 coat of shellac then waited to dry
6. Sanded with 220 grit
7. Clean surface
8. Applied 2nd coat of shellac then waited to dry
9. Sanded lightly with 220 grit again
1 Cleaned surface then applied Gel Stain

Please help!! I want an even application of the stain across my surfaces. I plan on using Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Clear Semi-Gloss for the last coat. I am in the military and move quite often, and would like to protect the project from different environments (i.e. humid areas, dry environments) I may be stationed at.


Sorry for the long post and any help is appreciated.

Shoe
 

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Poplar is sometimes not a good wood for a project. If being coloured, it does not take the colour evenly. If natural finish, it has a variation of natural colour cream, to green to purple.

I have only used poplar for one project I wanted to stain. I got lucky. The wood was even cream colour and did not blotch. I sealed the surface as you are doing.

I do not think the sanding is the problem, just the wood.

I have not used gel stain much.

You may get an improved colouring using e.g., transtint dye, a few drops in some Seal Coat.

Dyes are not available at the big box stores, you need a dedicated wood working store, or perhaps paint store.

http://www.woodcraft.com/search2/search.aspx?query=transtint dyes
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Poplar is sometimes not a good wood for a project. If being coloured, it does not take the colour evenly. If natural finish, it has a variation of natural colour cream, to green to purple.

I have only used poplar for one project I wanted to stain. I got lucky. The wood was even cream colour and did not blotch. I sealed the surface as you are doing.

I do not think the sanding is the problem, just the wood.

I have not used gel stain much.

You may get an improved colouring using e.g., transtint dye, a few drops in some Seal Coat.

Dyes are not available at the big box stores, you need a dedicated wood working store, or perhaps paint store.

http://www.woodcraft.com/search2/search.aspx?query=transtint dyes
Thank you for the response Dave.

I was thinking about using a dye, but went with the suggestions I have read about using a gel stain on woods that tend to blotch. From my research, I was thinking the shellac would "even" the color. Would more coats of shellac, other than the two I have on it now, improve the "evenness" of the stain or am I just wasting shellac???
 

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Would more coats of shellac, other than the two I have on it now, improve the "evenness" of the stain or am I just wasting shellac???
I think more coats of the Seal Coat would eventually help with the blotching. Poplar can absorb a lot of finish. You will not be wasting Seal Coat, but you may find you it easier to get a decent film with the later top coat.

You have the Seal Coat, it dries fast, not much to loose by trying at this point.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I think more coats of the Seal Coat would eventually help with the blotching. Poplar can absorb a lot of finish. You will not be wasting Seal Coat, but you may find you it easier to get a decent film with the later top coat.

You have the Seal Coat, it dries fast, not much to loose by trying at this point.

Sound advice Dave. I will experiment with a couple coats and report my findings in a few days. I am in the part of the country were that super nasty cold front is causing me delays to work in the ship. Even with my heater on, its freezing in the shop. Thanks again.
 

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Since you have stock for testing, you may want to try a different schedule. Depending on your sample, you may not need more than one application of a sealer.

You might try sanding with 100x and up, stopping at 180x. 80x is a bit rough to start with and it takes quite a bit of sanding to get the roughness smoothed out. Finishing aty 180x allows for better penetratin of stain.

I would start with a 50/50 Sealcoat/denatured alcohol mix. Then try an oil base stain...wipe on...let sit for a few seconds...wipe off.

If you can spray a finish, try an alcohol (methanol) based dye misting it to get the color you want. It dries almost instantly and will provide an even color dispersion.

I think your specks might be just dust from sanding and cleaning. It stays in the air for quite a while, and will settle on the wood. If you can clean in a place away from where you're finishing that would be a big help.

If the surface is clean, a gel stain could be applied to bare wood, sealed wood. You may not need the sealer. Follow the directions on the label, as it can be wiped down to the look you want.






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Once you apply any sort on finish/sealer/stain whatever, never go back to that surface with a random orbit sander. (The only exception to this is final buffing out of select finishes with 2000 grit abralon.) Just use a sanding block with 320 and sand with the grain. a couple of coats of dewaxed shellac should be plenty, don't sand after the second coat before you stain.

Everyone else's advice is also good. I start sanding with 120 minimum, usually 150. If your stock requires more sanding than you can do with those grits there's a problem elsewhere in your process. Also be sure to hand sand with the grain using the finest grit you orbital sanded to, to get rid of any remaining swirl marks before you start finishing.

It sounds like you have a good eye and a sense of what you want your finish to look like. That's a good place to start, some will never develop a "good eye." Because of that working with poplar is going to be a trying experience for you, most consider it a paint grade material. It's certainly not the best thing to stain, but it can be done. Cabinetman's suggestion of spraying dye would undoubtedly give you the best quality coloring, but as a beginner I doubt you have a spray setup, and alcohol dye's aren't the easiest to apply. If you want to invest and go that route I'm sure he can talk you through it.

One last tip is on color. The most common mistake woodworkers make in altering a wood's color is to go to the store and buy the color they want. After all, that's what every HGTV show tells you to do right? Instead, think of the color you want, now think of the color your wood is. You need to think of the color you need to add to your wood to equal the final color. Flexner has a section on this I believe. If you add the maroon-red to some green on the poplar, it's not going to give you maroon-red. And where it can start hurting your brain is that it's also not going to give you a yellowish color, like it would if you mixed two paints. You aren't mixing the colors, you are layering them. I won't go too much deeper into color theory here because realistically it's beyond the scope of your current problem. But pay attention to it while you are finishing and you will learn a lot.

I obviously don't know your budget but I would urge you to pick a quality hardwood for your next project and learn to apply a fine clear finish. Many beginners opt for cheaper woods and then stain them to get the color they want (I did it too) but once you factor in the cost of the sealer and stain, not to mention your time; the total end cost is often closer than most would imagine and yet the two projects side by side aren't close at all in quality.

Hope this helps.
 

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Yes the reason I choose to use poplar was that it is an inexpensive wood to use and learn skills on. I knew going into my project, that I may run into some blotching with the wood, but at the same time, help me understand how the finishing process works, while working with woods that tend to blotch.

Very sound advise from all of you. I would love to have a spray setup, but that does not fit my current budget.

On cleaning, I did make the mistake of blowing the scrap clean then wiping. I did think that the dust particles in the air may not have settled, and that may have caused the issue as well. I have STOPPED this practice, and now vacuum, then wipe with a tack cloth. I will try to clean the pieces in a different location.

Tyler,

I do have a small oak untreated/unstained shelf I made. I will try your suggestions. I do plan to use quality hardwood, in the future, but I am building up my skills and learning my mistakes on the cheaper woods. I do know that rough-cut wood is cheaper, but I do not have the room or expense to purchase a Planer or Joiner, so I am stuck with Big-Box store wood for the meantime.

I am still searching for a good lumber yard in the Boise area, but have not yet found one besides the local woodcraft. I will keep you informed of how my progress is doing. Again thanks for all the help.
 

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There are a couple of things you could have done different that would have worked better in preventing blotching. Shellac isn't as good used for a wood conditioner than a regular wood conditioner would be. It will tend to either over seal the wood or have it not sealed enough. The best thing you could do to prevent blotching is to use a dye to stain the wood with. Dyes are something that are better sprayed though but can be done by hand. Sanding a wood prone to blotching to 220 grit was a good idea. How are you applying the sealcoat? The solvents in shellac will melt into the previous coat so if you are putting it on by hand you may be taking some of the first coat off with the second coat making the amount you have uneven. Shellac is better sprayed.
 

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I am a big fan of sealcoat as most of my projects are on a super tight deadline, however I use after stain and before finish to build and flatten before my coats of finish not so much as a conditioner because the shellac is kind of unpredictable (think that was mentioned already). I was taught to thin down regular sanding sealer 4 or 5 to 1 (1 being the sanding sealer) as use that as a "conditioner". I usuallyhave to do a couple coats of this. I dont usually use poplar but I do use a lot of maple and this works pretty well. I also use a wiping stain rather than a penetrating stain (gel stain would also work). Other options would be tints, which are also tricky to master if you dont have the right equipment or you can keep going with your shellac until the wood is sealed real well and try to suspend a little color in your finish (mix a litlle stain into your poly)
 

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One thing to note for the budget conscious is that "wood conditioner" is just regular varnish thinned considerably. It's about two parts thinner, one part varnish. Using either this or "wood conditioner" apply, then allow to cure overnight before staining. Often the can say to apply within two hours, this is unfortunately just terrible advice.
 
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