Finishing Stained Red Oak

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Forum topic by azor posted 11-08-2009 07:27 PM 1998 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 3469 days

11-08-2009 07:27 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip finishing sanding

I am a real neophyte when it comes to finishing a stained project. I have built some small night stands [2] for our bedroom using red oak veneered plywood for the case and red oak regular wood for its doors. I cant seem to get the scratches off the doors because I cant see them [senior vision maybe?] at the sanding stage. I’ve used the trick of applying thinner to the surface and checking for scratches, but that does not show everything. It’s only after I have added my General Finish Gel Stain and one top coat of Arm-R-Seal Semi Gloss that the scratches appear. I have refinished the same door twice and still the scratches [perhaps new ones] show up. I sand with a porter cable 5 hole orbital sander to 150 grit then 220 with a pad sander by hand. The gel stain can says to sand only to 150 grit, however. Anyone have any tips on other technique I could use?

-- It isn't as easy as the demos make it seem.

6 replies so far

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3511 days

#1 posted 11-08-2009 07:53 PM

I always like to pass a hand scraper over solid wood features like face frames, doors, etc. as a final step. They are sometime called a cabinet scraper, but the one I’m talking about is a thin piece of sheet metal about 2 to 3 inches wide and 5 inches or so long. That scrape or two will leave a beautiful stain ready finish.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3314 days

#2 posted 11-08-2009 08:16 PM

i know what your talking about i had the same problem with a project i did but i think its the sander try using a finnish sander and go through the grits up to 150 try it on a pc of scrap first cuz this is what im gonna try i have alot of white oak so i have to figure out something soon well keep me/ us posted please?

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3184 days

#3 posted 11-08-2009 08:53 PM

Presence of scratches usually means that you didn’t spend enough time on the rougher grits. I’d back it off to 80 grit and work back to 150.

-- jay,

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3847 days

#4 posted 11-08-2009 09:20 PM

Azor, one trick to determine when you have sanded enough is to lightly mark the piece (solid wood or plywood)with a # 2 pencil and then sand. When the pencil marks are gone then you can move on to the next higher grit.

If you are going to stain then you really do not need to sand any higher than 150 grit. Sanding to higher grits closes off the pores of the wood and reduces the amount of stain that the wood will absorb. This can be problematic for open pore woods like oak.

If you are not removing scratches during the sanding process they will show up when you apply the topcoat and are more prevalent with higher gloss finishes. Like David said using a scraper is an integral part of a good finishing process. Card scrapers will remove material faster than sand paper so starting with a scraper shortens the sanding process.

You should begin your sanding process with the lowest grit necessary to remove scratches and mill marks. If you have a sharp set of planer and jointer knives you may be able to start at 120 grit and progress to 150 grit for stained woods and up to 180 grit for woods with a natural finish. But if you have particularly deep scratches/mill marks as Jay said you may need to start with 80 grit, 100 grit, 120 grit and finally 150. The most important thing with regards to sanding is to not skip grits in an attempt to get the job done more quickly.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4153 days

#5 posted 11-08-2009 11:24 PM

Your final sanding, especially grainy woods like oak, should be with the grain, not orbital.

If you use a card scraper, you should also finish up with a 150 grit sand paper.
The card scraper might leave the surface too smooth for best staining.

-- 温故知新

View azor's profile


62 posts in 3469 days

#6 posted 11-09-2009 06:50 PM

A lot of good tips. Since I use the Todd Clippinger method of sharpening my card scraper I am reluctant to use a card scraper at this point. I did use mine before the sanding started. I forgot about the pencil trick and now have used it while re-sanding the doors which I did for a hour or two last night. I started with a orbital sander on the center of the door with a 150 grit disc then handed sanded the extremities at higher grits and then the center hand sanded at 150. I sanded the grain edges down to 400. So all that is cleaned off now and tonight I apply the stain and then when that dries the 1st coat of Arm-R-Seal. Then the moment of truth. Honestly, unless there are glaring marks I will probably go to 4 top coats followed by wax and rub and call it over with.

That said I am thinking of avoiding stained large projects in the future. The other part of that is getting back to a satin top coat which I could still do with the doors, but then they would not match the rest of the case. I’m a person who does things on a schedule and even though this is a personal project I don’t seem to have the patience for a lot of time in the finishing stage.

Thanks to all who responded, Dick

-- It isn't as easy as the demos make it seem.

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