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Problems Staining Dresser

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Forum topic by XquietflyX posted 11-16-2015 06:18 PM 579 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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XquietflyX

289 posts in 422 days


11-16-2015 06:18 PM

I recently got the woodworking bug. Each little project i finished gave me the confidence to take on the next, slightly bigger, “ little project” and bit by bit I’ve put some new skills under my cap.
Spurred on by my small string of success, when my wife asked if it was possible, I recklessly volunteered to refinish a water damaged dresser that has been sitting in my garage for over 10 years. This dresser has been in my garage in one incarnation or another for the past 2 houses. It’s served as a platform for my pancake air compressor, garage AC storage unit and most recently as “temporary” Storage module.
As every road to damnation starts, I trotted down this path with the best of “good intentions”.
At first the project started out as I expected. I sanded down the top to the wood and prepped it for staining.


After using pre-stain,

I proceeded to stain the dresser top.

Looking like things were well in hand I proceeded to the next stage of the project, the sides and face.
After reading and careful consideration, I decided to use a chemical finish remover (kleen) to remove the previous varnish, stain and coatings from the sides and faces of the dresser. Although this was tedious, and required 3 brass tooth brushes, I was able to complete this phase rather uneventfully. ( except if you count getting WICKED cramps in my hands and forearms)

Once stripped I began the task of sanding down each surface with 120 and then 220 sand paper. The larger flat areas were done with my ROS, the smaller curvy areas were done by hand.

Next Prestain was applied.
Here is where the bottom starts to fall out fast.
I noticed when I pre-stained the sides and faces, the wood looked like three distinct different shades .

Edit* So i notices the type in the picture is not really readable so i’ll put it here:
in order from top to bottom
1)Looks almost like Veneer, thin grain similar to the top of the dresser
2)Completely different grain and markings than top, Looks like different type/cut of wood
3)This might just be end Grain pieces of the same wood the posts are made of.
4)These face panels are also different than side posts and top.

Not sure what to do at this point, I decided to push forward and apply stain.
The stain did not penetrate, after several mins, (anywhere between 5 and 45) when I tried wiping down , the stain just pushed off the wood leaving various levels of only slightly stained wood.


The results have been all across the spectrum.
So I turned to where I have turned most of my adult life when I have issues, Google.
A Google search, and I think I have the Root cause of my problem. I might have over sanded the piece(took everything to 220) and inadvertently sealed it by doing so.
Another Google search turns up several possible solutions to the problem.
1) Sand down to wood again using 100 and 120.
a. Then re-stain.
2) Use a mix of “finishing oil” and stain to coat the wood and layer on the color.

Faced with the combination of frustration, low blood sugar and impatience, I selected choice number two. Figuring instant gratification was in and of itself it’s own reward. I mixed up a 2:1 ratio of Watco to Stain. Padded it on, and let it sit 30 mins, re-applied let it sit 15 mins more, then wiped dry.
This is the result:

one with the white balance set to florescent so you can see the stark difference in the tone of the wood.

So my question is, is there any way to save this, or is sanding to bare wood and finishing only to 120 the only way to get consistent results across this nightmare, uh I mean lovely dresser.
I’m open to any and all suggestions!
Thanks!
-Chris

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...


18 replies so far

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

688 posts in 1260 days


#1 posted 11-16-2015 06:33 PM

I’m not sure what the problem is exactly,Are you not happy with the color differance between the panel and legs/face frames? If so then that’s pretty much normal,Plywood panels take stain differant the solid wood even the same species.
Or are you not getting good color on your solid wood?
My opinoin is refinishing is not easy as you know now,I think your doing great so far.Since you spend so much time looking closely at the piece your gonna more picky than most.So keep that in mind.Esp working in direct sun..
The other thing I have learned about refinishing is that some wood absorb stain only once very well.Then the cell of the wood is closed out.So your will not get new stain to absorb so Ya will have to sand or scrap past that point.
That why you see so many Diy stuff that just sits on top like gel stains they don’t penentrate.Keep up the good work I like the dresser looks nice.

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3551 posts in 1229 days


#2 posted 11-16-2015 06:39 PM

Hi Chris. Maybe try a dark mahogany stain on the legs. It is sort of red. If it is not red, try to match the color with a different stain. #2 can work well if your oil is not fast drying type.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

1744 posts in 600 days


#3 posted 11-16-2015 06:49 PM

Did you neutralize and remove the stripping agent fully after you were done stripping the old finish? Depending on what you used, you should have gave it a good wash-down with either water or mineral spirits before applying the new finish. I’ve always stripped, washed with mineral spirits, sanded, washed with mineral spirits, then applied new finish. The uneven absorption of stain looks to me like a good indicator that there might be some stripper in the grain repelling it.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View XquietflyX's profile

XquietflyX

289 posts in 422 days


#4 posted 11-16-2015 06:56 PM

I forgot to mention, but yeah i did wipe down the piece with mineral spirits before the prestain.


Did you neutralize and remove the stripping agent fully after you were done stripping the old finish? Depending on what you used, you should have gave it a good wash-down with either water or mineral spirits before applying the new finish. I ve always stripped, washed with mineral spirits, sanded, washed with mineral spirits, then applied new finish. The uneven absorption of stain looks to me like a good indicator that there might be some stripper in the grain repelling it.

- HokieKen


-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

View XquietflyX's profile

XquietflyX

289 posts in 422 days


#5 posted 11-16-2015 07:01 PM



I m not sure what the problem is exactly,Are you not happy with the color differance between the panel and legs/face frames? If so then that s pretty much normal,Plywood panels take stain differant the solid wood even the same species.

The side panel , looks just like the top, its the legs and faces that don’t match.


Or are you not getting good color on your solid wood?
My opinoin is refinishing is not easy as you know now,I think your doing great so far.Since you spend so much time looking closely at the piece your gonna more picky than most.So keep that in mind.Esp working in direct sun..

So the Legs and faces seem to not really want to take much “color” the shadows in the pictures make it hard to see the difference in the pictures.

The other thing I have learned about refinishing is that some wood absorb stain only once very well.Then the cell of the wood is closed out.So your will not get new stain to absorb so Ya will have to sand or scrap past that point.
That why you see so many Diy stuff that just sits on top like gel stains they don t penentrate.Keep up the good work I like the dresser looks nice.

- Aj2


Thanks for the kind words, i think you might be right and i’ll need to take the wood to the barewood again.
ugh…

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

View BasementShop's profile

BasementShop

69 posts in 762 days


#6 posted 11-16-2015 07:15 PM

I think your piece shows character. I’d probably go with, “If you can’t fix it, feature it!” and use the contrast as conversation starter…

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

4853 posts in 2275 days


#7 posted 11-16-2015 07:30 PM

I think your process looks good. It’s just that you have different wood types.
The way stain absorbs after 120 and after 220 is actually pretty similar.

The original finish was probably a heavy gel stain to even things out.
The other option is a tinted finish with dye or universal colorants added to the topcoat (usually only done as a sprayed topcoat).
I don’t like gel stains much, and find them difficult to achieve a uniform color. However they are useful when trying to darken light colored woods.

As far as the tinted finish, it is very difficult to get right. I have done it, but I really don’t like the process. If you get a run or drip, the colorant is concentrated and makes imperfections highly visible.

Refinishing is always a bear.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View XquietflyX's profile

XquietflyX

289 posts in 422 days


#8 posted 11-16-2015 08:05 PM

So as i said before i have a a solution of watco and stain that i’ve applied once. usually i do 2 applications of Watco. i was planning to do between 4 and 5.
Besides the time it takes, does any one see a Downside to this?

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

View Porchfish's profile

Porchfish

751 posts in 1994 days


#9 posted 11-17-2015 02:34 PM

I think “pinto-deluxe” is probably spot on with his thoughts that you have 2 different types of wood. (this is not unusual with veneered furniture.most often it is the case ! I have seen veneered furniture from the 20’s & 30’s with three types of wood with veneers ….art deco….Post-art-nuveau) As far as the blotchy look and refusal of parts of the solid wood pieces refusing to take a stain evenly, the manufacturer may have used several types of stain as well as wood on the various portions of the drawer face plates. Some may have been soaked in a dye solution until desirable results were had, a filler then applied prior to the final finishing. Needless to say some early fillers used to mask more porous woods and give the furniture piece an overall consistent look is impossible to remove completely. I love Watco, but being a penetrating sealer/finish combination also carries with it the possibility of loosening old hide-glues used on the veneers giving you a surprise bubble or two weeks after finishing. Using Watco on veneered antique furniture can be risky as hell. If used, maybe you should limit it’s use to 2 med. coats and get out the power buffer and stop when you are happy with the mellow look you want. I used to refinish furniture as a young man and used to absolutely dread working on art Deco pieces because of the veneers and various kinds of woods mixed into the fray . a light application of gel-stain might work if once you get the color you want, you let it set before wiping down the excess. Trial and error is the rule. I admire your courage ! Have you ever used a combination of denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner mixed 50-50 as a cleaner/finisher ? The process can only be used on older furniture that where the piece was not poly-urethaned to “death”. The process is messy and sometimes referred to as re-amalgamation. I I think old George Formby made the technique famous in his book, “The Furniture Doctor”. You have to set legs in old pie pans and be prepared to wear out untold numbers of heavy duty nitrile gloves and beaucoup 4-0 steel wool and old t-shirt rags. Using this method is amazingly successful and eliminates the problem of underlying stains etc. because you never go that low into the finish. You are actually just cleaning years and years of dirt out of the original finish. It is a process you have to attempt to believe …just go slowly till you see how much dirt you are removing & stop when you are happy with the look. Then a considerable amount of elbow grease must go into buffing to the look you desire. Watco will not work anywhere in this process and care must be given that you do not “flood” veneer surfaces to the extreme…...Your dresser looks very good to my eyes ! Good luck to you in all the refinishing projects you attempt ! don s.

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

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XquietflyX

289 posts in 422 days


#10 posted 11-17-2015 02:50 PM

Thanks for all the kind words of encouragement. I supposes at some point i have to “accept” the reality of i have what i have. it’s just frustrating as it feels like the amount of work i put into it doesn’t show, at least not how i was expecting it to.
Like i said I try to learn something with every project. Now the fun part comes in figuring out the lesson.

-Chris

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

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XquietflyX

289 posts in 422 days


#11 posted 11-23-2015 03:38 AM

So here’s what the dresser looks like at the moment. I haven’t re-finished the drawers yet.

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

View XquietflyX's profile

XquietflyX

289 posts in 422 days


#12 posted 11-23-2015 03:40 AM

It looks alot better in the room light than it did on the work table!!!!!

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

View Pezking7p's profile

Pezking7p

3097 posts in 1113 days


#13 posted 11-23-2015 03:46 AM

I’d say it looks pretty stinking good. Your hard work has paid off. Sometimes we all have panic moments…lumberjocks is a great place to sort it all out.

Keep up the good work!

-- -Dan

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tomsteve

393 posts in 681 days


#14 posted 11-23-2015 04:52 PM

looks great!

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

3663 posts in 1727 days


#15 posted 11-23-2015 05:13 PM

I agree that dresser looks real good. All your painstaking work really paid off.

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