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Wood staining too light and uneven

I am staining an unfinished parawood table with ebony minwax stain and am having problems getting the results I want. I sanded the table with 120 and then 150 grit sandpaper and applied two coats of stain 24 hr apart. The table did not stain as darkly and evenly as I would like. The second coat did not increase the darkness of the stain much so I don't think another coat will help. Is there anything I can do to improve the stain before applying the polyurethane finish?

Re: Wood staining too light and uneven

I've never tried it but pretty sure I've seen where you can use a gel stain to get the results you are looking for. You apply it with a brush but don't wipe it off. I'm pretty sure Norm used it as a technique on The New Yankee Workshop on a few projects. You could maybe also try a dye that may give you the desired results. You'll have to make up some samples and do some testing. Hope this helps you out.


Re: Wood staining too light and uneven


Minwax is an oil based penetrating stain. With penetrating stains, it is often difficult to get wood to go dark. Their pigments are too large to deeply penetrate. Water based stains will often work better because the water opens up the grain of the wood and allows better penetration. One technique to get woods to stain darker is too first wet down the wood, let dry, and then lightly sand to smooth out the puckered grain.

You might have tried a water or alcohol based dye stain. Dye stains have much finer pigments which will penetrate deeper into the wood and thus look darker. These type stains are not found at the "big box" stores, but usually at woodworkers stores.

Splotchiness is usually caused by wood which is unevenly porous. Those areas which are softer and more porous will suck in more stain and go darker. This will become very apparent when the stain is wiped, as the wiping leaves behind the deeply stained areas and removes most of the stain which is meerly sitting on the surface of the more dense areas. Splotchiness is normally countered by first treating the wood with a pre-stain conditioner. These are water or oil based products which act to seal the porous areas so that they do not suck in so much stain.
Shellac which has been thinned downed is also often used as a pre-conditioner. Unfortunately, if you are trying for a very deep stain color, pre-conditioning does not work to your advantage.

What should you do now? Short of stripping/sanding the table and starting over, I would try giving multiple coats of the MinWax stain, but WITHOUT WIPING. Use a fine, soft brush and lay out the stain as evenly as possible. Let the stain dry thoroughly between coats, less the new coat merely lift the previous coat. When the desired darkness is obtained and the dark spots less noticeable, seal the dried stain with a coat of de-waxed shellac. Zinser's "Seal Cost" is one such shellac. De-waxed shellac is compatible with almost any finish, especially poly-urethanes. It will also prevent the urethane from possibly lifting the now significant layer of stain. Use at least three finish coats of urethane on the table top.

I would not favor the use of a gell stain or brushing stain if you intend to use Poly-urethane as the finish coat. Brushing stains leave a lot of pigment on the surface of the wood. Urethanes do not bond well to heavily pigmented surfaces. I have learned the hard way to never put tape on heavily pigmented stained surfaces. You risk pulling off the entire finish, leaving light colored wood showing!

Commercial finishes which are very dark, with an almost painted look, are usually sprayed on and not wiped. Often these finishes are combination stains/lacquers. Manufacturers like them because they go on very quickly and dry very fast.

Re: Wood staining too light and uneven

Thank you very much for this input. It was incredibly helpful!

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