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Photo by Mark Lund

Applying wood stain can be tricky, but don't reach for the paint can just yet. Here, three ways to remedy a stain job gone wrong.

Goof 1: The color isn't right.

Going darker is easy enough—just add more stain. Too red? Minwax's PolyShades is a tinted polyurethane that lets you change the tone by adding, say, brown, to balance it out. It's always best to build your color gradually—the one thing you can't do is go lighter.

Goof 2: It's streaky.

First, strip as much of the color as possible: If you're using an oil-based stain, scrub the surface, while it's

still wet, with a Scotch-Brite pad and mineral spirits or naptha. For water-based stains, use a lacquer thinner. Scrub out the streaks, then reapply the stain liberally. Wipe off the excess with a rag immediately.

Goof 3: It's splotchy.

Some tree species contain pockets of sap, which cause the wood to absorb stain unevenly. Start by stripping off what you can (as described above), then seal the wood with a water-thin mix of de-waxed shellac and alcohol. Saturate the wood with the solution and wipe it off. Let it dry for 2 hours. Then switch to a 100 percent pigmented stain, such as Varathane (most stains are a mix of dye and pigment). Wipe away as needed to even out the differences in color.