Uneven Stain Absorption

This week’s question comes from Robert. He writes:

When staining soft maple Kitchen doors and drawers from a millworks shop the painter applied a special walnut stain directly to the raw wood. The stain did not take well on wood milled with the grain, and on cross cuts the stain soaked into the wood giving a dark black color. How do we prevent the cross cut problem and promote a uniform acceptance of the stain.

And here was my reply:

“Hey Robert. Uneven staining can be a real pain. There are a few things you can do to even things out in the future. First, you should sand the end-grain to one or two grits higher than the rest of the piece. So if the piece is sanded to 180, you should sand the endgrain to 220 or 320. The finer sanding will help prohibit stain absorption. Another technique is to apply a glue size to the endgrain. Make a 10:1 mixture of water and yellow or white glue. Brush this solution onto the endgrain and give it several hours to dry. Once dry, sand lightly and proceed with staining. The embedded glue will prevent excessive stain absorption. You can also use a light coat of shellac or any sealer to the same end. And remember to always test on scrap or inconspicuous areas to ensure you get the look you are after. Hope these ideas help.”

Category: Finishing


  1. Rick Corbitt April 18, 2007

    For another option, I’ve found a light coat of Watco’s natural Danish Oil will help with this blotching problem common with open grain woods. I believe your answer to the endgrain may be the only way to fix that, however.

  2. Jerry April 18, 2007

    Marc, your answer concentrated on end-grain. I have had similar uneven absorption problems when staining face-grain of maple. I would be interested in your comments on face-grain problems.



    Good point. Uneven absorption in face grain can be prevented by using a light sealer coat of de-waxed shellac (1/2-1 lb cut). There are also commercial conditioners that do a decent job although I never really use them. Now if you plan on adding color (which is usually where the absorption issues show up), you should try spraying dye if you can. Thats the ultimate solution. If you cant spray, then try using a gel stain. Gel stains don’t absorb quite as much as a regular stain and will help prevent major blotchiness.

    For the average person, a shellac sealer and gel stain are a g solid method. Just experiment on scrap to get the right balance of shellac. Too much will not let the stain absorb at all.

    • Mike August 5, 2014

      Hi Marc,

      I just finished sanding the beams of my vaulted pine ceiling in my living room. It’s 50 year old pine. It’s been through the ringer. We stripped it using a bleach-like solution to remove nicotine residue from previous owners. It was a disaster when I applied a dark walnut Minwax oil stain. It forced us to sand down the beams and start fresh.

      We had a similar problem with the field. The stain did not stick consistently, creating a blotchiness effect. We finished it with a latex based matte finish to reduce the shine, making the blotchiness much less noticeable. We were happy with the finished product.

      My question is, do I follow a similar process with the beams? However, I have to keep in mind the center beam is a much more rough, unfinished grade of pine, as are some of the beams. I don’t want to start the staining process and realize I have to start over halfway through.

      Thanks for your time.


        Since you already finished other parts with a particular process, it’s probably best if you follow the same process on the remaining woodwork. Even if it isn’t the “best” solution, you should at least end up with similar results. If you try something different and the results are better, that’s great. But then you’ll have mis-matched woodwork.


    Posted for Wally.
    I have also found that applying boiled linseed oil to the end grain of almost any kind of wood retards the absorption of an oil-based stain. You just have to apply the stain while the oil is still wet otherwise the dried linseed oil may prevent you from getting the desired hue to match the rest of the stained piece.

    If you’re a bit skittish about how much stain will be absorbed, try wiping the stain off after a minute and check the result. If it’s too light just apply another coat of stain and keep repeating this process until you match the tone of the rest of the wood.

    I also experimented with a latex-based stain and boiled linseed oil on the end grain and was pleased with the results. This experiment was done with pine so I have no idea how it will work with other species of wood.

    • Nicole Bearman January 4, 2014

      Is there anyway to remove the linseed oil or shellac once it has been applied? I have a transition oak doorway that had some sort of inhibitor put on exactly half of the wood due to a door. The door is now gone but there is a two tone look that I cannot get rid of. It has been stripped, and sanded with multiple grits of sandpaper to no avail.


        If it’s still noticeable after stripping and sanding, the outlook isnt great. That’s an indicator that the oil stain is quite deep. Only thing you can really do is sand/plane/scrape the surface until you get below the discoloration. You also might try staining the piece with actual stain to help mask the difference, though that might be a little risky without a test board.

  5. Ethan April 30, 2007

    I was just reading Bob Flexner’s book on finishing, and he discussed the issue of endgrain staining darker in one section.

    But he said you don’t really have to sand any HIGHER grits than what you sanded the long grain, you just have to sand it BETTER. He said the whole process of end grain getting darker than long grain is because it isn’t sanded as smoothly, so it takes the stain more readily.

    He demonstrated with pictures, showing that sanding the endgrain to the same grit, but sanding it longer to smooth it better, produced a finished piece that did not stain any darker than the long grain.

    I haven’t yet had a chance to give it a try, but I wondered if you’d read that and what your thoughts were on his process.

    Anything that saves me from having to jump up one or two more grits is worth trying, in my book.


  6. IT would be very helpful if some of the wood webs had some info on refinishing guitars. I don’t mean the coating of paint and lacqer, but having to sand down a spruce or mahogony finish due to 60 years of pick abuse and heavy lacquer cracking. I just finished sanding down a Kay Kraft from the 1930’s, but the trick is to try to match up the subtle deep flaming from the original..having the center area lighter and the edges going pretty dark. Usually a dark mahogony. Uneven staining is alive and well in this situation, but deep dark staining is also needed, which may not work if the wood is pretreated for uneven staining. Right now I’m looking at some raised grain after staining, and some uneveness..wondering if I can combine some steel wool work to remove just some uneveness and more stain around the edge…also, that deep glow from lacquer coating….most guys aren’t set up at home for spraying, but tung oil layers aftere a single linseed coating have a great look, but don’t expect the magic till after the 6th or 7th coating….
    Oh, and it was great fun spilling a whole can of deep mahogony onto the kitchen floor right at the end…totally exhausted, then two more hours of cleaning, ruining mops, then half naked scrubbing and sanding walls and floor before the girls got home. No skin left to play the damn thing with.

  7. Silvana November 30, 2008

    Ran out of doors to sample my water base stain on maple cabinets.

    I like the way you describe things in depth and detail….very smart and very thorough..
    I am trying to stain my own maple kitchen cabinets thinking my experience as a textile designer for 20 years and using dyes and water colors with air brushes would serve me well……..HARDLY!!

    I am dead set on succeding with using these water base stains from EcoProcote called TimberSoy because they have no VOC at all. But i find that I can not achieve the irridescence with a custom walnut/oak color that is 50% lighter than the actual walnut color. I would say the weight of the color is like a spice but more walnuty. i want to keep it lighter so as to get the irridesesnce of the maple.

    Is there some certified natural oil and natural based stains….really natural, that will allow me this end result that i can do while i move into the house? My family and 2 kids (one 17 year old son) have to move out of my 800 sq ft house and everyone is waiting on me to stain the cabinets… The insurance in spector is coming in 4 days and we are suppose to be there as our primary residence.

    THe problem is that i have to wait 7 days for the finish to cure in order to know if i am applying the stain and techniques correctly. I am trying varyations of either dampening the wood with water to raise the grain, -presealing with base, -presealing with finish 3;1, adding stain to a finish, -poping the grain which seems to make the pores darker, sanding 3000 steal wooll, etc etc, etc,,,,

    It is the 5 th day and i can scratch the finish and it is worrying me. The manufacturer says to keep waiting. I am not that pleased with that particular sample i am waiting on beacuse it was sprayed on and looks kind of flat and blah. One door has lots of dark pores on frame and maple ply panel, the the other test that was sprayed looks like the stain sits on the surface and i see no grain or dark pores. One section on the sample, i dampned with water and pulled some stain off and i can see some glow, but the color of the stain got weak.

    Does anyone have experience with similar products?
    HVLP leaves the cleanest look, but too faint a grain, and if i push the stain in after spraying, i think i am opening up the pores more???

    I have not done a spray test on hghly sanded doors with 3000 steel wool without any pretreatment so my grain does not get clogged with sealer.
    i hope that works,

    I ran out of door backs and now i am unscrewing the drawer fronts…

    help…I will send a donation for certain to your website beacuse it is a great set up.


    Hello Silvana. You are pretty deep into the process so its going to be tricky for me to give advice at this stage of the game, over the internet……

    But from the sounds of it, you might be over-complicating the process just a smidge. Check out the following post and video to get a little more insight into how I handle maple. It might give you a few pointers.


    Finishing can be as complicated or as simple as we want it to be. I tend to lean on the simple side. Email me after you check out those links and we’ll talk about a strategy for your cabinets.

  9. Silvana December 1, 2008

    Dear Marc,

    Who me? over complicate? You are on the nose about that. But only because i was thinking that shellac with alchohol was not an eco friendly product to use. So i was stubborn by trying to use the eco products i had originally purchased also as a pretreatment to the staining. But being they are like a gel base, there is no where for the stain to go once i use the base as a pretreatment so i am having a waxy residue that has no where to go so i end up having to buff and buff and buff, and the maple looks washed out.

    All these fancy products out there and shellac is the simplest solution.?

    Good ole shellac that my Father has been using to set his diamond rings and jewlery since i can remember? And i even use to help him melt it and shape it around the wooden dowels that hold the jewlery pieces!

    Once i use the thinned out shellac and the pores get sealed, is my water base stain (which is like the consistancy of melted icecream) is it going to have any where to go?

    When i pretreat the maple with other methods, it seems the beard stubble look still remains after i stain with sealer. When i make the sealer ratio to water more concentrated, then the beard stubble dissapears but so does the swirls and irridescnece of the maple and the grain waves.

    When i use the shellac method, i am assuming the pretreatment has a diferent affect on the wood than a water based pretreatment which might swell up the wood and open the pores more which will allow more stain to get into the pores also which is good for coloring the maple surface but not to get into those little pores that look like beard stubble…

    Am i correct?.

    Will the shellac/alcohol method allow the stain to stay out of those pores and only stain the surface and the swirls and waves in the wood?

    When i use the base of my water base stain by itself, as a pretreatment, i find that the next stain coat has no where to go because the maple allready took in all it could with the base pretreatment . Is that correct?

    SO then, …alcohol and shellac are compatible with water base stains and finishes on top?

    After the use of the shellac/alcohol pretreatment, will i still see dark beard stubble on many places?

    Your video demo did not show the effect in a close up. DId the lightened walnut settle into the pores and have a black beard stubble showing more on the 2 lb or 1 pound shellac sample?

    Which of the 2 showed more illuninsesnce and maple swirls and grain? the 2 lb or 1 lb sample?


    Well I certainly can’t argue with wanting to be eco-friendly. Unfortunately, eco-friendly doesn’t always go hand in hand with user-friendly. And you wind up either wasting a lot of material, or possibly even re-doing a project to get the right result.

    Regardless of the type of sealer you use (shellac, sanding sealer, etc…), there are degrees of sealing. Its not necessarily an all or none type of thing. So a light coat may sill allow stain penetration. And yes, a light coat of shellac with still allow a water-based stain to penetrate and stain the wood, although the color will be lighter than it would be on raw wood. If your stain isn’t taking, its probably because your sealer coat was too heavy and the wood is completely sealed. So the stain sits on the surface with no where to go.

    You mention the beard stubble. This raised grain occurs whenever you get water on the surface. Whenever using water-based products, its a good idea to pre-raise the grain with water. In general, the grain only raises severely on the first exposure to water. So after that first exposure, its a good idea to lightly sand the surface to knock down the fuzzies. After the surface is smooth again, you can proceed with the stain. And you do not want to stain the fuzzy surface. This may give the illusion of accepting more stain, but in reality, your stain is just getting lodged down in between the raised grain, which leads to poor adhesion. Now if you are using shellac or waterbased sealer, you can use that as your first grain-raising coat (shellac will raise the grain slightly). Again, just be sure to sand lightly to remove the raised grain, then proceed with the staining.

    And in the demo, the 1lb cut showed a little bit more absorption than the 2lb cut, which is to be expected.

    As far as the quality of the surface, you would have a hard time telling the difference between the 2 and l lb cut. Neither obscures the grain in any way. The type of stain you use on top of that pre-sealed surface is probably what will determine how much grain shows through as well as the overall luminescence of the surface. Hope that helps.

  11. Jan July 1, 2009

    I thought I heard “Danielle” on HGTV Color Splash say that you can use a gel stain on kitchen cabinets to change the wood finish without having to remove the finish – just use it to depen and update the color and richness of the shine. My cabinets are treated such that they will not take a regular stain without completely removing the finish. Will a gel stain work on them, then? My goal would be to deepen the color and shine for an upgraded look to nice quality medium brown wood grain cabinets from the late 70’s.

      thewoodwhisperer July 1, 2009

      I suppose it depends on the formulation of the gel stain. Some of these stains actually contain a bit of varnish and could potentially be applied over a pre-existing finish. But I would still be concerned about the quality of the bond. I would imagine a good swipe with your fingernail and the finish will come off. If you are going to try this method, I would test it in an inconspicuous area first, and make sure you lightly sand the area with 220 or 320 grit paper prior to staining. That will give you the best shot of getting good adhesion.

      Now if you do get the color to stay, you still need to topcoat. The stain itself is not going to be suitable as a topcoat, especially for something like kitchen cabinets. So I would recommend a good coat of poly after the stain. That will give you the shine you are looking for.

      Ultimately though, I would probably never do something like this for a customer. I wouldn’t want that dreaded phone call two years later if/when the finish starts to peel.

  12. Audrey January 27, 2010

    I stained an unfinished pine bench with a walnut stain and it is a mess. The spindles are not taking the stain and there are heavy brush marks which didnt show up until it dried. Help! What can I do now?

      thewoodwhisperer January 27, 2010

      Hi Audrey. Pine is notorious for being difficult to stain. I would just strip or sand the old stain off and try again using the methods and materials mentioned above. Try to get all the color off the wood. Then start over using the precautions mentioned above. I usually recommend a sealer coat of dewaxed shellac, followed by a few coats of a gel stain.

  13. Rob August 15, 2010

    Great thread here. I have the same problem as Audrey, but a bit more complicated. I am adding a headboard to an existing bed that I finished years ago with oil based stain and poly. The headboard is made of whitewood and I wanted the stain (Watco Oil based Walnut) to look more even then on the rest of the bed. So I tried some Zinsser Seal Coat on a sample board, stained it with the Walnut, and although it looked a little lighter than the original without the sealer, it was much more even.

    I started on the back of the headboard with 2 parts Seal Coat and 3 parts DNA per instructions on the can. Waited 15 minutes, rubbed the finish with a white 3M pad, and applied the oil stain. Waited 30 minutes, applied another coat of stain, wiped it all off 15 minutes later. Looked good. Some of the boards (the panel is a glue up) looked very even, some not as much, but all together much better than the bed without the sealer.

    On to the front of the headboard. Same procedure as back, but I mixed up a little more seal coat since I ran a little short on the back. I must have used too much of the seal coat because right before I went to apply the stain on the front, I noticed some blotches (looked like water stain rings) in the seal coat! I tried rubbing them out with the white pad, no help. So I put some DNA on a rag, wet the surface again, then immediately rubbed out the blotches. Problem solved. Went right to the stain and everything seemed to be going well. However, once I wiped the oil stain off, the front didn’t soak in as much of the color as the back.

    I let this dry for 2 days and then tried spraying on thinned oil stain for 3 very light coats to see if I could enhance the color. The stain never dried and so yesterday I wiped it all off with mineral spirits.

    After some new research I have found a couple of possible solutions: 1) sand down to 120, then 150, and start over – this will be difficult since sanding some of the details could scratch grain running 90 degrees (this was all sanded before the glue up). 2) apply another coat of stain and wet sand with 320 and possibly a repeat the next day with 400.

    My questions: if I sand down everything and start over, how far do I have to go? Should I use the seal coat again? If I just try wet sanding with the oil stain for a few more coats, how much color will the wood be able to absorb? The difference in color is still very apparent!

    Thanks for any help you can provide!

      thewoodwhisperer August 15, 2010

      Hey Rob. Although you mentioned the headboard was stained, you didn’t say whether it had a protective top coat or not. I assume it had at least some finish on it. You also didn’t mention if you sanded this prior to adding the seal coat. If not, all bets are off. The concept of pre-sealing prior to staining is something that is really intended for raw wood or wood that has had all the finish sanded off. Generally speaking, oil-based stains will not cure if they can’t absorb into the wood. This is why your stain is not drying on the front. So if you are really looking for a good long-term fix, my recommendation would indeed be to sand it down to bare wood and start with the seal coat of shellac. Then proceed with the staining. And consider picking up some gel stain instead of regular oil-based stain. I find the color transfer is better and less prone to blotching.

      Now speaking of gel stain, there is one other thing you can try that will be a little less work. If you sand the surface down just to smooth everything out and give the surface a little texture, you can wipe on a gel stain. The gel stain formula (Gerneral Finishes), actually has a little varnish in it and a thin layer will dry on a finished surface. Now you won’t get a lot of color absorption but you can actually tone the finish in such a way that it could help to even out the appearance. Once that color dries, be sure to put a clear topcoat over it for extra protection. Now a little disclaimer here, that’s a quick fix and not the ideal scenario. There could always be adhesion issues between the stain and the existing finish. But I have seen it done before so I figured I’d mention it. Good luck!

      • Rob August 15, 2010

        Thanks so much for the quick reply. The headboard was raw wood when I started. I sanded it through to 220. I know now to use a gel stain on pine, but I hesitate to do this on this project since Watco doesn’t make a gel stain to match the oil stain I used on the rest of the project. I don’t want the colors to be off. That is why I am trying to make the oil stain look as even as I can.

        Right now the headboard has 1 layer of thinned Seal Coat, and as much stain as the wood will absorb. If I sand down and start over, what difference will I make unless I change the procedure? The only thing I can think of is to let the Seal Coat dry completely and sand it down before applying the stain. Will this help the wood to absorb more stain?

        Thanks again for all of your help!

          thewoodwhisperer August 16, 2010

          Well you are right, if you sand it back down and start over the only thing you can do is use a thinner sealer coat. Problem is, the thinner you go, the more likely you are to see blotching. This is the sort of give and take game you have to play when trying to stain blotchy woods. And if you sand the seal coat down a bit it can certainly allow more stain in. By sanding you are essentially removing some of the sealer. So its not all that different from applying a thinner coat of sealer in the first place. But again, sand too much away and you are inviting blotch.

          Sorry this stuff is so complicated. Its the nature of the beast.

  14. Bryan September 2, 2010

    I’m staining a flight of stairs (using an oil based stain) that will eventually have a runner down the middle, leaving only 6 inches of exposed wood on either side. So far, I have two coats of stain applied, but am getting some blotchiness.

    I only have about a week until the carpet is coming, and don’t think I’d have time to sand back down to bare wood, apply a sealer, and reapply the stain in time. Do you have any suggestion for how to minimize/conceal that blotchiness at this point?

      thewoodwhisperer September 2, 2010

      I might just try switching to a gel stain. The coverage should be a little more even and you can push the color around a bit to the lighter spots. Can’t guarantee it will give you the results you want, but if you are in a pinch, it should help. Another option would be a toner if you have access to HVLP.

      • Bryan September 3, 2010

        Thanks for the quick reply, I’ll give the gel a try.

  15. Andy February 26, 2011

    Marc –

    I built an island for my dauthter’s kitchen using red oak and have nearly matched the color of her existing cabinets using an oil based stain. However, when I tested the stain mixture on various pieces of scrap wood, it appears that the plywood used for the ends of the cabinets is not absorbing the stain nearly as well as the other pieces. Do you have any thoughts on how I can get the plywood to take the stain better?


  16. Andy February 26, 2011

    Thanks for the quick reply. By the suggestion to use a pre-stain conditioner, I suppose you meant on the whole cabinet. This might make the rest of the cabinet take the stain the same as the plywood sides, but then I would have to find a different formula to match the existing cabinets in the kitchen. To be honest with you, for some reason the plywood doesn’t seem to take the stain very well at all, and I am not sure that I can get them as dark as the existing kitchen cabinets with the stain I am using. I was hoping for some way to get the plywood to absorb the stain better rather than limiting how the rest of the wood absorbs it. Any ideas on how to do that?

    I had thought of trying gel stain, but from what I have read it sounds like it might be a little tricky to get an even coat in the corners of the panels in the doors and the back of the case. How hard is that?


      This is an unfortunate side-effect of using plywood. Typically stains differently than solid wood. So the only options are to use a pre-conditioner, or use a stain that is more likely to get the color change you’re looking for. A gel stain will like give you your best shot. As for application, I wouldn’t really say its hard. Simply wipe it on generously, then wipe off the excess.

      One thing you may consider is doing layers of color. This takes a little practice and you’ll want to test on scrap. But before applying the final gel stain, consider applying a dye (one that is close to the color you want). This dye works like a pre-stain to help bring the solid wood and plywood closer to the same color family. Then once you hit it with your gel stain, your results should be even better. Experimentation on scrap is the key here.

  17. Alison June 18, 2011

    I am trying to renovate some sapele wood kitchen doors. Two of the doors were ok and looked good with some clear varnish applied. The other two were faded so I applied some teak coloured varnish to try to match the other two. Unfortunately, could see overlapping brush strokes and looked a mess. So sanded off all the varnish and applied a coat of clear. Now have a complete mess and the clear varnish has highlighted dark and light patches. Please help!


      HI Alison. Sounds like you’re in need of a “do-over”. I would probably just sand/strip the doors down completely to bare wood, then sand them thoroughly. You not only want to remove all traces of old finish, but also expose fresh wood. The fading is only surface deep so a thorough sanding should bring the doors back to their natural state. From that point, you can simply add your clear protective finish. And with sapele doors, you should probably avoid adding any color if possible since the natural wood is so beautiful.

  18. Carolyn July 21, 2011

    I am having new maple cabinets installed in my kitchen. The painter sprayed a pre-stain conditioner on them and then sprayed them with Provencial stain, both by min-wax. My cabinets came out horrible. They are splotched and uneven. What can I do? I originally wanted to have them stained and then do a coffee colored glaze over them. Are they ruined? What to do? The painter is at a loss. Help, quick.


      Hi Carolyn. Standard pre-conditioners can certainly work if used properly, so I can’t necessarily say your painter is at fault. Seems like he did the best he could and the fact that he used a pre-conditioner at all is a very good sign. But one some wood and with some stains, the pre-conditioner doesn’t fix everything. Unfortunately that’s the nature of the beast.

      Now how to fix what you have is a little tricky without being there to see it and knowing exactly what was done. Its dangerous to make a solid recommendation without all the info. But there is always a chance that the glaze could help even out the color. You could also try to use a gel stain on the surface to help even out the color. But keep in mind you can only go darker from here. So if they are already too dark, you will have to go through more work to get them to look right. Specifically, you’ll probably want to strip and sand the cabinets back to bare wood. Then of course, you’ll need to start over using other known blotch control methods. I usually recommend Charles Neil’s blotch control followed by a water-based stain. A great combo! But I can’t stress enough how important it is that you confirm your finishing regimen on scrap before using it on the cabinets. Otherwise, you’re kind of flying blind. Good luck Carolyn.

  19. Chris August 29, 2011

    I am presently staining a hand scribed log cabin I buit and I avoided staining the log ends until the end as they soak up so much stain. I am using a water based Sansin product. Then it hit me , I tried it and it works like a charm. I simply took a pump spray bottle that has the ability to atomize to a very fine spray. I put water in it and gave the end grain the very finest one pass wisp of a spray. The stain then covers so far . . . astonishingly so ! It takes so little to do it now. As the h2o amount is so small and fine and I brush stain it immediatly after spraying that it doesnt affect the stain as the water just slows down the “drinking straw ” effect and moves into the end grain in front of the stain. No adverse effects seen so far. I dont think there will be as the h2o amount is so minescule.

  20. Deborah Gallmeyer August 29, 2011

    We built a timberframe house out of hand planed white pine. The frame was exposed to the elements for approximately 6 month before we got it enclosed and had some water stains. We did a light sanding on all of the beams with heavier sanding to remove the water stains. When we stained the beams they came out uniform in color which was great. But we then installed a hand planed stair case that had been freshly made. Although we used the same stain and finishing process the stair case was much lighter in color. Can you tell me why?


      Well there are a number of variables at play. Different stock of boards, different exposure conditions, different processing of materials……all this could certainly contribute to differential staining. For the most consistent results in a project, we try to use boards from the same source and hopefully from the same tree. That gives us our best chance of getting the color to be even. Obviously in your situation that wasn’t possible, but this is just what we deal with when we use a natural product like wood.

  21. Sandy September 12, 2011

    I am attemping to redo an old coffee table. First i standed it with sand paper 60, then 220 to polish it off, I then wipe it with a damp cloth. Next used wood filler where i sanded too much, there seem to be a different layer (darker) wood where i penetrated (sanded too much). However, i used a wood filler to cover it up, hoping when i stain over it will look good? Then i applied an oil base stain which looks blotchy even where i didn’t used wood filler, I should say the hold top of the table looks blotchy. I need a quick an easy fix, what should i do?


      Umm, buy a nice table cloth? Seriously though, it sounds like you have done some significant damage to your veneered table top. And to be honest, the only real “repair” here would be re-veneering the top. There are things we can do to prevent blotch, but they don’t necessarily work after the piece is stained. Normally I would recommend sanding and starting over. But sanding is only going to create more problems for you at this point.

      Now you could always cover up the top using tinted lacquer (toner), which lets some of the wood grain show through but covers most of it up. Careful application of toner could possibly hide bad spots. But the top is going to have to end up pretty dark for this to work.

      I wish I had better advice for you. But once you burn through veneer layers, its very difficult to recover.

      • Sandy September 12, 2011

        Thanks for the quick reply. I have to go table shopping

  22. We have red oak steps (about 40 years old) which we just removed the carpeting. They had finished part of the steps that were exposed for trim purposes with the handrail. However, not the entire width of the step had been finished 40 years ago — the part that was under the carpet. We want to finish the entire step, but there is a very distinct difference between the part of the step that was finished and the part of the step that was never finished. We’ve tried sanding with 50 grit sandpaper, we’ve tried a wood bleaching product to even this out — no success. Any thoughts on how we can make the entire width of the step look the same?? Thanks


      Bleaching and sanding would have been my suggestions. Since that didn’t completely work, you might try staining. A light stain could help bring the two tones into the same family, or at least make it more difficult to detect.

  23. Jonathan September 26, 2011


    I’ve built a bar out of furniture grade oak ply. The stain looks good, but in many places when you look at it on an angle (with the grain), it appears uneven – dark areas and light. Is there anything I can do before I apply the poly?


      Two things come to mind Jonathan. First, you can use a toner. Typically this is a dilute lacquer solution with color that can be applied heavy in the light areas and light in the dark areas. It also suspends the color in a film on the surface so while it can even out the color, it can also obscure the grain. But used lightly, it can be quite effective. The second option is to maybe try a gel stain on the surface. Gel stains don’t require as much absorption to work and you can leave it a little heavy in the light areas.

      Both methods are perfectly viable but it just depends on what you’re more comfortable doing.

  24. josh October 3, 2011

    I have some maple kitchen doors, solid frame and plywood panel. Rift cut plywood was beautiful until I applied a minwax maple stain and it absorbed at different rates- one strip splotchy and dark with the bookmatched piece being lighter. Unfortunatly I sprayed it with Hood resisithane and it looks like junk. Any fix? Spraying toners?


      Aside from stripping and starting over, yeah, I think toners are going to be the way to go. Try to bring the light parts up to the color of the dark parts. But you will wind up masking the grain a bit by the time things are even.

  25. Haley October 29, 2011

    Help please! I’m frustrated with the chairs I’m finishing ( i unfortunately dont know what kind of wood they are – perhaps maple?) For the most part they are taking the minwax stain well, but in certain spots, mostly on the spindles, certain spots will not take stain. I had sanded these with 240 but then read this post and resanded those spots with 100 to open up the grain- to no avail. Will sanding down those spots and applying wood conditioner help? If not, what will? Thanks!

  26. Years ago I had a pro. painter stain some wainscoat pine beadboard and it seems like i remember him telling me he mixed stain with a sanding sealer or linseed oil and it turned out beautiful. Have you ever heard of something like this?


      Well there are lots of different concoctions that people can cook up and get good results. But no, I have never heard of that particular mixture specifically. Doesn’t mean it won’t look beautiful. But much like chef’s have special recipies, all finishers tend to have their little bag of tricks.

  27. Tom June 2, 2012

    Hi, great thread. I’m about to stain a 220 year old interior wood post in our post and beam house… it’s hand hewn. I’m going for a fairly dark brown color to help hide the hundreds of nail holes. It’s very dry and porous, and we’re not sure if it’s pine, but that’s my best guess. So I’m very concerned about blotchiness. Unfortunately there’s not really an area i can test, either. What’s the best way to do this? Based on your other posts I’m thinking of a seal coat using zinnser no wax shellac based sealer, then gel stain.

    BTW another post asked about gel stain; I have used the gel stain over a cheap painted piece of furniture to achieve a grained effect, and i was quite surprised and how well it came out. it will scratch off if you really go at it, but normal wear and tear only requires a little touch up on occasion.

    Great site, thanks!

  28. Gary September 16, 2012

    New to staining.
    I just built a crib of white oak and plywood.
    Several people told me not to use a pre-stain conditioner for oak.
    So I didn’t use one.

    After I sanded the entire project with 220, I applied the first coat of stain.
    When I wiped it off, there were spots on the wood (mostly the plywood, and especially at the glued seams) that did not take any stain at all, or barely took any.

    Should I sand these spots locally before applying a second coat, and if so, what grit?
    Should I try to spot stain these trouble spots before applying a second coat to the whole project?


      Hard to say for sure without seeing the project, but spots like that can be from impurities on the surface, glue smudges, or even sweat. Prevention would be nothing more than more thorough sanding. But now that the stain is applied, I recommend carefully sanding the entire surface to remove the stain and start over. Matching small sanded areas is going to be a big pain in the butt. I would sand with 180 grit, but be careful not to sand through your veneer. Use 220 if you want to be even more cautious.

  29. Sharon October 14, 2012

    We just installed pine wainscot tongue and groove in our kitchen. We have tried samples of several oil based stains try to come up with a medium oak color. But nothing seems to absorb. All of the samples we made up seem like the stain is sitting on the top of the wood Even after several minutes, when you wipe it, the remaining color is much lighter than it should be .What are we doing wrong?

  30. Quintin January 28, 2013

    I’m staining some kitchen chairs and I stained one side. and let it dry for 24 hours the did the other side. Now the first side is shiny in spots. Were I did some touch up.why?

  31. Paul February 13, 2013

    So, I just put in a set of pine prehung french doors. I have been working on the walls, floors and just about anything else I can do before staining because I was concerned that the doors would stain the way i wanted them to. I was right, they look really uneven some parts don’t even show grain. I sanded the entire door with 220 grit sand paper and the looked even when i started. What can I do to fix this mess!?!

  32. EM March 2, 2013

    Hello Sand Whisperer – I just sanded and stained a coffee table and after staining with natural stain, when I look at the table in a certain light, I see lots of little spots all over, as if the stain wasn’t rubbed in. I then rub it in more with a cloth and they re-appear. I sanded a table that was stained and polyied with 100, then 150, 180, and 220. It looked like all the prior stain and finish was sanded off. The table is now 5 hours after staining and still has those spots. What happened? Should I re-sand and re-stain? I saw in one of the blogs that you had warned against sanding through the veneer. What is the veneer? Did I sand too deeply? If you can help, that would be much appreciated.

  33. Matt April 17, 2013

    Hi i am currently refinishing all my woodwork in a spare bedroom on the first floor. Every thing was going fine until today when i started staining the the large mop boards. They are three piece total for the floor boards. On two of four of the boards i’m getting a real uneven stain. leopard looking , very blotchy and very uneven. I know all the rest of the wood in the room is oak and original. The house being built in the late 40’s.. I can’t understand why only these two boards are giving me hell. the other two stained just like the window and door trim. Do you maybe think by chance that those two boards are a different kind of wood? I’m confused and a bit fustrated. I’m having the room carpeted on friday and i need these boards tacked up by then. Any advise would be much much appreciated. I am willing to sand and start over. Thanks for you time. I can get pictures if you would like to see.



      It is certainly possible but I can’t say with any certainly unless I see the boards myself. If they really are different woods, they will never look the same. Even if you prevent blotching, the woods will look somewhat different. So if you want to sand down and start over, using some blotch control like Charles Neil’s formula, that would probably yield better and more consistent results. But again, if that one board is a different species, it will always look different unless you obscure it completely with a thick stain.

      • Matt April 17, 2013

        Hi thanks for your response. Well the strange thing is the color of the stain on the boards is matching with the others. Just the two are very uneven. For the final sand all four boards i had it down to a 220. I’m going to re sand down and try these two boards only with a 150, i’m hoping that this will maybe let the board accept the stain a little more even. I have a minwax conditioner is this stuff decent for helping with a more even stain? Ill check here soon for a response. Im going to get sanding! thanks for your help

      • Matt April 17, 2013

        Hi again, also i forgot to mention that i used tack cloth for the first time on these boards. Is there a chance that applying to much preasure with the cloth could have left a sticky residue that maybe sealed some of the pours? I’m just curious if you have had anybody encounter this using the tack cloth. Thanks once again



          I guess in theory it is possible, but from what you describe it doesn’t like that’s what happened.

        • Matt April 17, 2013

          Thanks for all your replies man,

          Yeah i’m almost thinking a very uneven sand job might be the problem here. I now just resanded one board with a 60 grit . seems much more smoother, well more even now. Can a uneven sand job cause uneven staining?

  34. Bill May 14, 2013

    We just built a bar for our new Yacht Club and whoever stained the stainable grade plywood fronts left many noticeable swipe marks. How can we remove them? wil polyurehtene over them cause them to be more obvious? Thanks


      Putting a clear coat over the finish probably will result in making the streaking more obvious. I don’t know what product the person used so it’s hard to give advice on how to fix it. Ultimately, you might wind up having to remove the stain with a light sanding and stain again. Another option might be to spray a toner to help even things out, if you have access to HVLP.

  35. Marissa May 18, 2013

    Hello Marc,

    I am in need of some help.

    I decided to try my hand at staining the cabinets (no idea what kind of wood they are) in my kitchen and after prepping and laying down two layers of General Finished Java Gel Stain I am getting milkly looking streaks. (I posted pictures on another forum desperate for help before I found this awesome thread ).

    I thought the streaks were maybe a form of blushing so I tried fixing them with some denatured alcohol and light sanding but to no avail the streaks are still there. After much thought I am now thinking the streaks are either a factor of my sanding the cabinets in my prep process or a result of the VERY hot and dry climate I live in. As soon as I lay the stain down and wipe the streak appears.

    For reference: To prep the cabinets I cleaned them off with disinfecting wipes (I know bad move but I am new to the process of staining….I now know better for next time to use Dawn and some warm water), then I lightly sanded them, then I cleaned them off with a tack cloth. To apply both layers of gel stain I used a sock. I let 24+ hours go between staining sessions.

    I live in far west Texas where average high temps have been in the upper 80s to 90s with humidity levels below 20%.

    I am not sure how to get rid of the milkly look that is already there or how to prevent it from happening on the rest of the cabinets.

    Any help for this new comer to staining would be greatly appreciated.


  36. KAITLYN May 26, 2013

    I too face problems when I stain uneven surfaces. As mentioned here, the stain seeps in the uneven cuts and ends up giving a darker color there. Sometimes it looks good, but sometimes it looks really awkward. I will try the methods mentioned here for this problem.

  37. Annie May 28, 2013

    Hi Wood Whisperer,

    I am trying to revive a hardwood wooden window sill which is discolored from exposure to sun. The color was originally natural, but at places it looks much lighter than the rest of the window.
    As a newbee, I sanded (grit 220) the surface and applied Minwax semi gloss Butter Pecan stain. My intention was to make the color a little darker and giving an overall newer look. After 3 weeks the window sill is a disaster. It has (1) streaks of light yellow- (looks almost like pollen) on the base (portion most exposed to direct sunlight. (2) areas that look cherry colored, (3) the top (un-exposed to direct sunlight) looks perfect stain, but too glossy – as it oil will be dripping.
    Please advise what I should do to get it to presentable condition. I do not have any sanding machine and was using a fine bristle paint brush.
    Thanks in advance!

  38. Mark June 8, 2013

    I recently stained an (old) oak floor after sanding (going from 0 grit to 120 grit in multiple stages.) I used a water-based stain, which I now believe was a mistake because it dries so fast that it left overlap blotches.

    What are my choices to fix this:
    -Should I use and oil-based stain over the water-based stain and try to blend in the blotches?
    -Do I need to sand it out (just one grit???) and just start with an oil-based stain?

    • Mark June 8, 2013

      should be starting at “40 grit”

      4 key sticks

  39. Chelsea July 3, 2013


    I’m working on a project right now and am going crazy trying to hide glue marks on the edges. Because of the design, the edges of the piece are made to curve by sanding through layers of veneer. It looks cool but hiding those lines where each layer of veneer is sanded through is a huge headache. Its not possible to sand just the glue off. I’ve tried sealing with shellac first but the glue is still showing through the stain. I can touch each area up but I’d like to avoid doing that. Any suggestions would be hugely appreciated !!

  40. Allison July 29, 2013

    Hey marc,
    I working on refinishing a wood table. The top of the table has a thin veneer and spots of it sanded down when taking off the finish, leaving the wood a little uneven. At first I thought when I stained the table the unevenness would give it more character. I have now applied two layers of stains and there are spots that remain very light where the veneer comes through. It is a solid wood table mango on the bottom and the veneer is maple. Is there anyway to even put the light spots? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks so much!!


      The only way to even things out at this stage, that I know of, is to apply a toner. A toner will darken the piece overall but it should help you disguise the light spots. You can sometimes get away with applying a gel stain to accomplish the same thing. But all of this results in masking the wood grain due to extra pigment on the surface.

  41. John J. August 4, 2013

    I recently refinished some maple kitchen cabinets, they had and have no stain…they were all sanded evenly. For some reason the polyurethane did not soak in on some areas, leaving those areas lighter, as if newly sanded. *this is not ‘milky’ patches from moisture, so what is it? I don’t want to sand…recoat, and have the same problem. Any advice ?


      Without seeing it myself, it’s hard to say for sure. But it sounds like the surface needs to be sanded lightly with 320 grit and then another coat of finish applied. If it truly is a difference in absorption rates, more finish will give it a more even appearance.

  42. Michelle August 13, 2013


    I had a table built out of pine and I’m having trouble with uneven stain absorption. The table was planed prior to staining. I have stained the table twice and both times the stain has become quite dark on the areas where it had been planed. I’ve sanded the table completely bare twice and stained again. Will sanding fix the problem?

    Thank you

  43. Chris September 14, 2013

    I’m refinishing a solid oak table, I’ve sanded it down starting with 60 grit working my way up to 220 then stained the top and let dry for 8-10 hours then applied one coat of polyurethane, it has set about 9 hours now and I have a sticky spot in one section of the top. What is going on??


      Could be an area where the stain hasn’t completely dried. I would recommend giving the piece a few days to see if the sticky spot firms up a bit. You don’t want to keep throwing finish on as that will make the problem worse.

      Out of curiosity, did you wipe the stain off thoroughly when you applied it? Since it’s a refinishing job, there could certainly have been an area that was sealed up from a previous product that didn’t accept the stain quite as well as the rest of the top.

  44. Beth Sheehan September 19, 2013

    My contractor built our new stairs half in pine and half in oak. I have no idea why. Golden Oak stain was placed on the pine in the hope that it would closely match the oak but the colors turned out to be drastically different and it looks terrible. I am now hoping that they might be able to stain both the oak and the pine a very dark black (which I love) with the hope that they two will look more cohesive. Any suggestions? Neither the pine nor the oak has a sealer yet. Is it possible for the contractor to stain both a dark black without any sanding? if so, will they look similar? Do you have any suggestions on which stain to use on both wood types to achieve a very dark look? Thank you


      To be honest, I try not to be the person that gets between a contractor and a client. I don’t like being the monday morning quarterback. That said, any professional finisher should be able to get you to a dark black color without too much trouble. If the wood already has stain on it, it actually is sealed somewhat. The oil in the stain does that. But it will still accept color. A gel stain might be a good choice at this point as it doesn’t rely so much on absorption to work properly. General Finishes makes a color called Java that might be what you’re looking for. As far as them looking the same, in my opinion, no. They will both look a similar color, but pine will never look like oak. But with the color matched closely, the difference will be less noticeable.

  45. don October 19, 2013

    Got a couple of oak bar stool chairs at a garage sale. We want to refinish them from a light oak color to a red mahogany color. I just a stripper, steel wool and tack cloth to prepare the chairs. When I applied the stain and waited about 5 mins, the chair looked barely darker. Was told to retry and just wait longer. When I reapplied the stain on heavy and waited 30 mins the stain was like paste on the chair. What I did get off the wood was still extremely light. Call the customer service helpline for the stain mfg and they said the chairs not absorbing the stain and to resand it. What is the best way to correctly prepare these chair for the stain to absorb.


      Well it seems you were on the right track. After stripping, the chair should have been sanded thoroughly. Steel wool alone probably wasn’t enough to remove the residual finish left on the surface. I’d start sanding with 120 or 150 grit and then move up to 180 grit. At that point, it should be safe to stain. Keep in mind that not all stains are the same. So you might try something like a gel stain if you find the stain you’re using isn’t penetrating deep enough. Gel stains don’t require as much absorption for the color shift to occur.

  46. BillyBass October 21, 2013


    I was wondering how one would go about removing stain? I have wainscoting that has been stained, sealed and varnished.

    Obviously, the varnish and sealer would need to be sanded off. But how would I go about removing the stain? This is wainscoting that runs about two floors of the house, so I’m looking for a way that would be time efficient.



      A chemical stripper will remove the finish and some of the stain. The rest has to be scraped, sanded, or planed off. This can be a pain in the butt when refinishing since the stain tends to absorb deeply. That means you have to remove a good amount of wood before the stain is completely gone. I have heard of folks using a bleach solution to help tone down a stain color but there might also be side effects that you won’t be happy with. So for me, sanding is the key.

  47. Phil November 22, 2013

    I have just stripped, sanded (100, 220 & 320) and stained a dresser top…maybe in ash or oak, not sure what type of wood…but wide grain, and no knots. I used Minwax wood conditioner first and then Minwax Dark Walnut. I’ve had good success with this routine on mahogany, but this wood is giving me a fit! :) The stain is not even and looks grayish in some areas. What options do I have to even the stain out and hopefully give it a dark, saturated look? I’ve read it’s not a good idea to apply another coat of stain because the first coat of stain has basically sealed the wood and won’t allow for a second coat of stain to absorb into the wood. Minwax instructions say a second coat can be applied 4-6 hours after first coat. One of your posts mentions maybe adding a gel stain (GF Java), but I’m not sure if that would be a viable option for my situation. It’s been about 4 hours since I applied the stain in a 65 degree environment…no humidity. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


      Sorry I’m late in responding to this. The gel stain is exactly what I would recommend. I think it’s probably your best bet at this point since it should help cover some of the lighter grayer areas.

  48. Barbara December 1, 2013

    I just stained a picture window frame with 4 coats after having prepped it with sanding and treating with minwax pre-stain wood conditioner. I had filled the nail holes “stainable wood filler” and thought that I had sanded all the excess away so that it was down to wood except in the nail holes. Some of the holes had some filler residue smears that only partially took the stain and they look pretty bad. I don’t want to sand and start over again. Can I perhaps use some of the colored polyurethane just on the light that I have left over areas from a previous job and then hit the whole frame with regular polyurethane. The colors should match according to my eyes. I’m afraid any other messing around, like local sanding and restaining will really just make it worse.


      You can certainly try it, but I honestly don’t think it’s going to give you the desired impact. Those tinted polys are tricky to work with and probably won’t work all that well for spot treatments. At this point, it probably wouldn’t hurt to try it. But the real fix here is to sand back and try again.

  49. Ted Russell January 12, 2014

    I bought a prehung solid wood interior door from a major home improvement retailer. As I always do when staining, I first applied wood conditioner so the stain would be applied uniformly. One side of the door looked terrible. There were some strange looking spots in different places that had nothing to do with the wood grain. I sanded the troublesome areas (sanding the whole surface of the particular section, not just the spot), and repeated the preconditioning and staining. It’s noticeably better, but still quite non-uniform, especially compared to other doors in the house. One vertical section of the door is still particularly blotchy.

    Did I do something wrong? Is it possible something was spilled on the door in the factory, making these spots?

    Should I sand the whole door down and try again?


      It’s certainly possible that there is something was spilled on the door, but no way to really know for sure. What I would probably do at this point is give the door a nice sanding and start over. I’d then apply a thin solution of dewaxed shellac. This will partially seal the wood and hopefully block off any impurities that might be on the surface. I’d then use a gel stain. Keep in mind the shellac will prevent the gel stain from causing it’s typical dramatic color change. But if you use the right stain color (perhaps go a little darker), the end result will be close to what you’re looking for.

      • Amy March 18, 2014


        I have a problem. I have taken on the project of restaining my kitchen cabinets.

        I removed all the doors, sanded all the doors and cabinets down to pretty much bare wood. I applied 3 coats of Minwax wood stain in Kona with approx an hour in between each to dry. Then the next day I applied one coat of Polyshades, and one day later applied one coat of Minwax clear polyurethane.

        The lighting in our basement where I was staining the doors is different than our kitchen obviously, so I thought that the front of the doors looked too light so I let the Kona stain go on pretty thick, then continued the next day with the Polyshades, and Polyurathane etc.

        Well, this was too dark so I decided to sand it down again to bare wood and repeated the process. Same thing, too dark. So I am attempting to try one more time. However, as I am sanding down again I have what I have read is called blushing ALL OVER the door fronts. How/can I remove this?? What did I do wrong and can I fix this?? HELP!

  50. Pam April 15, 2014

    We put in 2″ wide tongue and groove white oak flooring throughout our upstairs – absolutely beautiful. My husband thought he should fill the knots and any areas that appeared to maybe need a little attention. Then he proceeded to sand with a hand belt sander to clean up the areas. In the process he made marks in the wood both with the grain and across the grain – I was devastated. I spent considerable time with a small hand sander using varying grit of sandpaper and went over the entire floor at least three or four times. I did not make them totally disappear but they looked so much better. My husband then stained with a water based product in a pickled white finish. He prefers oil based but we couldn’t find it in the color we wanted. He stained the floor – did not wipe as he went along. The floor looked great with the exception of overlapping marks, even the marks from the sander weren’t noticeable. He then thought another pass of hand sanding would do the trick. What it did was expose the marks he previously made and hand sanding with the small electric sander is not fixing the problem. Is our best bet to rent a sander and take the marks out or is there a technique we can try to fix the problem areas? Any advice you have would be great.


      Once you get to the point of working with a stained surface, it can be very difficult to spot-treat any particular area. And if the surface isn’t properly-prepared to begin with, it’s setting the stage for a difficult staining job. So I don’t know if you really need to rent a big sander to do the work, but it does sound like a thorough sanding is in order so that the surface is properly prepped for stain. I’d also suggest that you buy some scrap materials and test out your staining and finishing materials prior to working on your floor.

  51. w. Fleet May 12, 2014

    I stained Mahogany door with Minwax Red Mahogany Stain. A section about the size of
    A small apple is extremely light and will not stain. The stain has been on a couple of hours and will be dry in 5 more hours. Do I wait until stain is completely dry in good areas and then sand the bad area, to prevent dust from sticking to fresh stain applied?
    What should I do to darken this spot that’s very noticeable? Please help

  52. Melissa May 15, 2014

    I just acquired a beautiful DCM chair made by Miller for Eames. It is made up of thin layers of molded veneer. The wood seat has scratches throughout but they don’t penetrate the veneer. There is one place on the wood back where the veneer is slightly chipped on the edge. The chair has been drilled so there is not much collector value. I would like to spruce up the chair, but don’t want to remove the patina or the veneer! What are my options? I’ve read that I could hand sand with a very fine grit and not damage the veneer, and then apply a teak or danish oil to enhance the patina. I’ve also read about wet sanding. Any advice would be appreciated!


      It really depends on what finish is currently on there. Wet sanding might work if the damage is superficial and the finish is thick enough. But I’d need to examine the chair to give any better advice. You might try consulting a refinishing expert.

      • Melissa May 15, 2014

        That’s probably a good idea. Don’t want to ruin it. Thanks!

  53. Jim June 1, 2014

    I built a bar and used wood filler on the finishing holes and some gaps. Sanded the whole piece and then stained it. Now I can see spots and areas where all the wood filler was placed (it’s not as dark as the rest). How do I fix that? Do I need to sand it again and then apply a preconditioner and restrain? Thanks!


      That’s a tricky thing to fix. Hopefully the filler takes stain. If so, you might want to try some darker stain in the filled areas to help blend it in. I don’t think a do-over is in order though since the filler will never quite absorb the stain in the same way the wood does. So you have to essentially “paint” the filler to look right.

  54. Kaye June 2, 2014

    Hi, I recently got an old vintage kitchen counter gave to me. It looks like it was used in maybe a one bedroom apartment; it’s small about 4 – 5 feet long. I have plans to ultimately turn it into a Media cabinet or something. Well, I thought it was going to be a quick redo, but…. After stripping six coats of paint (brown, red, brown, white, nude flesh tone, and orange)and then a thick layer that appeared to be tar? ( unsure but assuming maybe that it how they waterproofed it??), I was finally down to bare wood and eager to put my stain on. I decided to do the inside drawers to see how the stain took…. Well, I guess since I’m posting on this thread, you can assume that it didn’t stain evenly. I was left with a blotchy mess that had uneven streaks of white running through it. At first I thought maybe I hadn’t sanded it enough with the white bleeding through… Then I remembered that orange was the last color I stripped off of it, so then I started to research it which has ultimately led me to this thread. I am unsure of what type wood this cabinet is made from, and have no scrap pieces in which to test with. What would be your advice? What type of pre stain and stain would give me the best results? It is a pale wood and I was wanting to use maybe the red or brown mahogany color stain. I have been using Minwax oil based stain. Another question is if I decide to just clear coat with polyurethane ( since I’m worried I won’t get an even finish), will any of the blotchiness or the white streaks come through? Is polyurethane the way to go or can you recommend something else? Much appreciation for your assistance in this project!


      Hi Kaye. Staining can be tricky. Staining re-finished pieces is every trickier. So there are lots of approaches you can take to get the color you want but they will require a few different products and ideally some practice. So if you are even considering going with a clear coat instead of a stain and you think you’d be happy with it, that would honestly be my recommendation. Here’s some information on what I recommend for blotch control: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.co.....-them-all/

  55. Alicia July 29, 2014

    I’ve sanded some areas on my table will it mAtch up after I add the stain or will I need to sand the whole table?

  56. Kyle August 6, 2014

    Hello, I am having issues on sanding and staining my hardwood floors. The problem is that when I sand the floors, there are little indents that are appearing; they are like little finger nail indentations. And then when we stain the floors, you can see the indents and the stain in very uneven. Any thought of what we can do to solve this situation? We used an orbital sander and followed the grit stages that recommended. If you could please give me some feedback on how to get rid of the marks and how we can get the stain to look cohesive throughout, I’d appreciate it! Thanks

  57. Charlie August 15, 2014

    Hello, my aplogies if I am posting in the wrong place.

    I am refinishing an oak dining room table. I have sanded it. And I have applied Dark water based Walnut dye. The dye orginally did not go on evenly, very light in places. I thin resanded it. Reapplied the dye. This time using a rag to apply and remove excess. Worked very, well. I then applied a sanding sealer recommended by a floor person at Woodcraft.

    The sealer again blotched up the dye. puddling up and lighting up on 1/2 the table. The other half held up pretty good.

    I really need some guidance. Don’t really know what to do from here. HELP

  58. debbie September 6, 2014

    So. . .having a bit of a challenge on a windowsill. Trying to undo dog scratches. Was able to steam out the scratches some but after sanding and staining there are black lines where the scratches were and more it seems. I am thinking the compressed wood from the scratch is soaking up the stain? Not sure if it is worth sanding again. . .does wood conditioner help for scratches? Is it more likely I did not sand enough? I have to stain or replace the whole window. Any thoughts? The wood felt smooth before I stained. Super blotches – I did not condition because I was redoing stain. . .but now I wonder if I should ‘re sand and treat?

  59. Courtney November 9, 2014

    Hello there, I’m recently redoing my veneer table top. I got it all stripped down sanded and stained. I put on my first coat of poly and sanded lightly and it went through in one small spot. I tried to put stain on it……it WON’T TAKE!? What in the world do I do??
    Thank you so much!!

  60. Janet November 10, 2014

    Hi, I’m having my stairs refinished after ripping out the carpet, and the staining is really uneven. It stains darker down the middle of each stair. The stairs are old and made of fir (house was built in early 1900’s) and it looks like sometime previous to the carpet, there was a runner that ran along the middle of the stairs, and a different color paint on the edge of the riser. The stain is darker along the middle where the runner would have been. Can you think of why that might be? Are there any possible solutions? The contractor says this is expected for stairs that are this old, I feel like there must be another reason for the difference in staining. If we redo the whole thing, what would possibly fix the problem?
    Thank you!

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