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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Starting on my first furniture project. I decided to use popular wood and have done some reading and talking and would love to get you all's input.

I want to stain the popular a dark stain and put a poly gloss to make a nice shine. The guy at the specialty hardwood store I went to recommended I use a Gel stain to avoid the splotchies but from my reading Gel stain is almost like paint and it won't let the grain of the wood come out.

If I go down the oil based stain route I read that I should use a pre stain conditioner....but heard that these conditioners are really just mineral spirits being sold for more. true?

Any suggestions, comments or advice?
 

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If by popular you mean poplar - then just remember:
pre-stain
pre-stain
PRE-stain
PRE-STAIN

And no, not all conditioners are a alike, some are cheap some are not. Behlens used to be good, haven't had to use it in a while so I don't know if they've gone cheapo.

Gel-stains aren't so much like paint as they are semi-congealed jello. They remind me of something else, but I can't put my finger on it right now this early in the morning. Maybe that green snot toy that used to come in a small can as a kid? Anyhow - properly stirred up it isn't as liquid as regular stain, so it doesn't rush in to fill all the pores the minute you slap it down (which is what causes the blotching - stain rushes in to fill open grain in one spot, no open grain in another.) Instead it kinda takes it time meandering down. So you put some on, wipe it off and if it's not enough you do it again and creep up on what you want. It gives you a little safety net time-wise.

An elitist would just say poplar is for painting. I disagree with that. I think it also burns nicely. :laughing:
 

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dzobrist, what joe means by "if by poplar you mean poplar" is that most lumber yards sell a wood they call poplar, but it is NOT actually poplar, it is "yellow poplar" which is American tulipwood. It is fairly forgiving of finishes. REAL poplar (aka cottonwood) is NOT very forgiving and will blotch up quite readily.

EDIT: if you're not sure which you've got just check the differences on my site.
 

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I made a CD cabinet from Norm's New Yankee Workshop plans. I used poplar, stained with Old Masters Gel Stain (Cherry). No blotchiness at all. Wiped it on with a rag, waited a few minutes then wiped off the excess. I'm very pleased with the result. Note that I did not get what I considered acceptable results using Minwax Gel Stain.
 

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I made a CD cabinet from Norm's New Yankee Workshop plans. I used poplar, stained with Old Masters Gel Stain (Cherry). No blotchiness at all. Wiped it on with a rag, waited a few minutes then wiped off the excess. I'm very pleased with the result. Note that I did not get what I considered acceptable results using Minwax Gel Stain.
yes, but which "poplar" are you talking about?
 

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whatever 'poplar' is sold by Lowes. I bought a sufficient quantity to build the cabinet plus a bit extra. It had grain color that was everything from cream colored to green and even purple. I don't know if that helps you determine which species it actually is, I can only go by what it's being sold as. You are obviously far more informed than I am, (I've reviewed the encyclopedia of information on your website).

I did find that, whatever the actual species, the wood I purchased is difficult to stain with stains other than the gel stain; I tried both oil and water based stains, with and without pre-stain conditioners, and only got acceptable results with the Old Masters Gel stain. Even the Minwax Gel Stain had the green grain streaks show through. The Old Masters let the character of the grain show, without having the color bleed through.
 

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whatever 'poplar' is sold by Lowes. I bought a sufficient quantity to build the cabinet plus a bit extra. It had grain color that was everything from cream colored to green and even purple. I don't know if that helps you determine which species it actually is, I can only go by what it's being sold as. You are obviously far more informed than I am, (I've reviewed the encyclopedia of information on your website).

I did find that, whatever the actual species, the wood I purchased is difficult to stain with stains other than the gel stain; I tried both oil and water based stains, with and without pre-stain conditioners, and only got acceptable results with the Old Masters Gel stain. Even the Minwax Gel Stain had the green grain streaks show through. The Old Masters let the character of the grain show, without having the color bleed through.
This is "yellow poplar" aka "tulip poplar" and is actually NOT a poplar but is American tulip. It's not as easy to stain as some woods, but it's not nearly as nasty as actual poplar (cottonwood).
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
dzobrist, what joe means by "if by poplar you mean poplar" is that most lumber yards sell a wood they call poplar, but it is NOT actually poplar, it is "yellow poplar" which is American tulipwood. It is fairly forgiving of finishes. REAL poplar (aka cottonwood) is NOT very forgiving and will blotch up quite readily.

EDIT: if you're not sure which you've got just check the differences on my site.

Looks like its cottonwood....I'll go with a Gel Stain to be safe.
 
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