sanding, SANDING, sanding...ugh...staining...WHAT WENT WRONG???

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Forum topic by dakremer posted 03-26-2010 04:41 AM 18454 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2730 posts in 3235 days

03-26-2010 04:41 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sanding staining help question

I’m a beginner woodworker/wood finisher… I made this prayer kneeler for someone, and everything was awesome, until staining, and then it got ruined. I have all of these sanding spots all over. Its only out of pine, because I didnt want to spend big bucks on it and ruin it – Being new to woodworking, this is my first BIG project…. I sanded it with an orbital sander with 80, then 120, then 220. Then I finished sanding it with 400 by hand with a sanding block. It literally felt like a baby’s butt, it was so smooth! :) Unfortunately after staining it, all of these sanding spots showed up. I did put a wood conditioner on it, to stop the blotchiness. so here are my questions, feel free to answer 1, or all…thanks a lot!! I NEED A LOT OF HELP! The actually kneeler part is not shown in the pics…..

1.) are my orbital sanding techniques bad? I had the machine running before touching it to the wood..should I have it on the wood and then turn it on? How do I not get sanding marks to show up when staining?

2.) you can see the top has some sort of stripes on it….I can only assume this is from sanding…is that right? did I do something wrong there? or is it just the wood?

3.) Should i sand and stain each piece and THEN put it together? I had it all put together, then sanded it (which was tough) and then stained it (which was tougher)

4.) Is sanding pine to 400grit too much? Should I have stopped at 220?

5.) Should I just give up on woodworking???? :)



-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

26 replies so far

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3274 days

#1 posted 03-26-2010 04:57 AM

Pine is difficult to stain as it is. If you’re staining a piece, you really don’t need to sand with higher than 150 grit on a random orbit sander. The finer you sand, the harder it’ll be to get an even stain. I almost never sand finer than 220. And I don’t own any 80 grit disks. You could actually get away with only 120 or 150 discs.

The stripes you see are probably from not sanding enough. Those ripples were probably in the wood when you bought it, you just didn’t see them.

Yes, sand as much as possible before assembly. If possible, staining and finishing prior to assembly can be much easier. Really depends on the project, though.

-- Gerry,

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3148 days

#2 posted 03-26-2010 05:02 AM

Looking at the end view it seems you left a few major swirls there, still 80 grit or so maybe.

The top looks like it still has planer knife marks on it. Pine is soft has a tendency to compress when planed so those marks are sometimes from the feed rollers comprssing the wood, then its planed, then it springs back slowly after leaving the planer so yo get those colloped faces. Wetting it a bit and letting it dry before your sanding may even some of that out.

Pine is tough stuff to stain and finish and end up with an even finish, especially darker stains. Look at it wrong and it dents or scratches. If you want to use pine you need a good Random Orbital sander and lots of patience. Get some good lights and make sure everything is sanded evenly, no scratches left from the previous grit.

I would not go past 150 on pine. Sand the non show faces the same amount as the show faces and test them with stain first.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View dakremer's profile


2730 posts in 3235 days

#3 posted 03-26-2010 05:12 AM

The whole thing is made out of ONE 1×12x12 pine. I only got the ripples or stripes on the top, and not on the sides. That makes me think its something I did…not the planers fault.

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Luke's profile


545 posts in 3437 days

#4 posted 03-26-2010 05:12 AM

It’s so hard to tell from the picture but it doesn’t look that bad!? Don’t quit man that would be terrible. Pine is going to look a certain way but it kind of looks like ripples from a large planer? If so you would need to sand it with 100 or something until it gets flat. Hand planing would be nice but difficult to not get tear out in pine. It looks like you sat a little too long with the coarser grit in a couple spots on the side, where it is darker, and then didn’t spend enough time to work those out with the finer grits. If you’re comparing to hardwood then you’re in for it. Pine will never look the same as even a crappy piece of hardwood. Personally I don’t think it’s ever necessary to sand to 400. It may even block some stain cause it’s too slick. 220 gives a nice smooth finish and unless your using an oil finish or something that won’t solidify, you usually do your real smoothing after a couple coats of whatever finish your using. Put the sander on the work while it’s off. Turn the sander on while moving slowly and sand the whole area. Turn the sander off while still moving on the piece and let it slow down. It looks like your hitting the wood with it running full speed and creating those darker worn circular spots. This isn’t such a huge problem in hardwoods.

I believe I see the ripples on the middle of the side too, but it’s not the greatest photo so hard to tell.

-- LAS,

View dakremer's profile


2730 posts in 3235 days

#5 posted 03-26-2010 05:22 AM

sorry about the photos…my camera is broken, so can only use my Iphone. Thanks for all the responses so far!!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View dakremer's profile


2730 posts in 3235 days

#6 posted 03-26-2010 05:24 AM

correction: Looking at the kneeler more closely – there ARE ripples all over it – so maybe it is the planers fault!! Woohoo!! – its not ALL my fault :) :)

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View dakremer's profile


2730 posts in 3235 days

#7 posted 03-26-2010 05:26 AM

shopguryl….I actually have one of those as well…but always thought I’d should use the orbital sander because I heard they work better… I wrong?

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3256 posts in 3252 days

#8 posted 03-26-2010 05:30 AM

Most of what was said above I agree with. I have two comments- as stated above, 1. there are some swirl marks that would need to come out, and 2. there are still some serious mill marks (from the milling machine) in the wood. That’s just one of them things, with wood. Also, pine (unless you’re talking serious old growth) takes stain way different between the “winter” and “summer” rings. Those differences are taken out by using some sort of stain controller. McCloskey’s, for example. You cannot make pine look like walnut or rosewood by simply staining, it takes a lot of “cheating”. Sometime, if I get ambitious, I’ll snap a photo of my bedroom set, which is pine, purchased from who-knows-where, that makes pine look almost good. 30 years ago, it was acceptable. Knowing what I know now, I just have to ignore the finish- we was po’, and it was cheap.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View hazbro's profile


109 posts in 3133 days

#9 posted 03-26-2010 05:36 AM

planer knives don’t make circular patterns. it looks like you leaned into the sander a bit. and pine is super soft so if you ran 80 grit you could burn a hole real quick like.

and before staining a porous wood like pine you need to run a sanding sealer like zinsser’s seal coat.

-- measure once, keep cuttin' til it fits

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3161 days

#10 posted 03-26-2010 05:52 AM

Heavens NO don’t give up woodworking, it’s too much fun! There is a learning curve that you will eventually master. Personally, I do not like orbital sanders cause it leaves swirl marks, I like belted sanders that you can sand with the grain then finish with the vibrating palm sander. I can almost guarantee that there will be no swirl marks, but the belt sander does takes practice and a light touch. Good luck in the future.


-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View KnotWright's profile


258 posts in 3631 days

#11 posted 03-26-2010 06:03 AM

Ok here’s my 2 cents :-) The main cause for the circular patterns when using a random orbit sander is you allow it to come up to speed before it makes contact with the wood, causing it to “dig” in. I always try to start and stop my sander while in contact with the wood.

On soft woods like pine I too agree start out with 150 and move to 220, making sure to dust off the piece between grits, so that you don’t keep the 150 particles on the wood surface.

Also on soft woods, prior to staining, try either a water based, or oil based presealer, they do wonders to prevent blotchy staining.

I’ve also started using a hand scraper more and more to take care of some of the sanding work prior to breaking out the power sander, its amazing how well these thin pieces of metal smooth out the wood.

I wouldn’t call your prayer bench a waste, call it a learning experience and sand it back down and restain it, I’m sure it will turn out looking awesome.

-- James

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4221 days

#12 posted 03-26-2010 06:14 AM

Yup, the stripes are milling marks left from the planer ( not sanded enough). ( personally I very seldom use a “factory” milled surface on anything I build as far as “fine” furniture goes for that very reason)

Don’t use any coarser sandpaper than needed to take out milling marks (on pre-milled surfaces, meaning I didn’t mill the surface but used the surface it arrived with, I would normally start with 120 grit and end with 220 on pine). In the case of the planer ripple it would take a coarser grit to cut the tops off the ripple and make it flat without spending a lot of time and taking the chance of actually making divots or low areas.

As for the circular marks it looks like you either held it in one spot (possibly when you were using the coarser grit.) or on some sanders you can lock the pad and use them as a light grinder.

Keep the sander moving. I usually sand with the grain in overlapping passes – overlapping by about 1/3 the diameter of the pad, moving no faster or slower than needed to get a complete and even scratch pattern.
A raking light will help sometimes – you more than likely would have seen the ripple from the planer!
If you took Plexiglas and ran the sander on it you would easily be able to see what I mean.

Finishing before assembly is the best way sometimes depending on the project.
Do NOT give up woodworking based on this experience – you learned something that will improve your work from now on. This is a learning experience for all of us as long as we do NOT give up.

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View doyoulikegumwood's profile


384 posts in 4136 days

#13 posted 03-26-2010 09:05 AM

well I’ll give you my 2 cent first great job on the wood working end of it all, now for the finish don’t give up its the hardest part of our hobby to master but it is the part of our hobby that makes or bakes a piece.

if i where in your shoes the first tool that would come to mind if i wanted to fix the finish on this piece would be my card scraper.

now i don’t know weather or not you know how to use one and the learning curve can be pretty big but it would be the fastest way to clean up and would leave you with minimal sanding.

i think method’s for a finish have been a addressed here very well for you level of skill, i would recommend if you are interested in any reading on the subject Bob Flexner has a great book on finishing that as far as I’m concerned is the bible of finishing.

Good luck and don’t give up these little opps’s are how we learn.

-- I buy tools so i can make more money,so ican buy more tools so I can work more, to make more money, so I can buy more tool, so I can work more

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3811 days

#14 posted 03-26-2010 02:28 PM

Seems like everyform of sanding technique has been covered. I would suggest getting a cheap desklight and putting a very bright bulb in it. You can shine it down and across the wood to see any trouble spots before finishing. Also a quick wipe with mineral spirits will highlight most flaws.

Keep cutting wood. It takes 10 years or 10,000 hours to master anything, so just look at it as a learning experience.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Rasta's profile


120 posts in 3586 days

#15 posted 03-26-2010 02:57 PM

I can only offer my sanding habits and i hope they help.
I start with a pretty low grit-100 and sand until I can’t FEEL any bumps/indents. I move up through EVERY grit 100,120,150,180,220 and I count the passes I make to make the same amount of passes with all grits, usually somewhere between 20-50 passes and I go every other with the grain, across the grain until I get to 180 or 220 then it’s just with the grain, put the sander down, then start up, always keep the sander moving when I think I’m done feel it with my fingertips, then look at it from every angle possible, I sand before assembly but finish after assembly and squeeze out removal, I also give it a quick wipe down with mineral spirits before applying finish and let it dry completely. I HATE sanding, but I HATE even more looking at what I’ve done and regreting it.I hope this helps, not saying this is THE way to do it, just what I do.

-- Roscoe in Iowa

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