staining hemlock(fir) doors - not getting good results

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Forum topic by HHR posted 06-16-2010 08:03 PM 17429 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 2901 days

06-16-2010 08:03 PM

Topic tags/keywords: staining fir sanding

I have a huge project ahead of me(20 interior flat 2 panel doors and jambs) and i’m only just getting started but am not having good success in regards to the overall quality of look of the stain(walnut). A quality pre stain conditioner is being used(general finishes) and i’m noticing that the wood is still blotchy but just lighter. Is there any advice on applying the pre stain conditioner in a manner not listed on the can for better results? I’ve also presanded with 150, 180 and or 220 grit on a random orbit and/or palm sander to smooth the finish. Is it just that hemlock(or any fir) will almost never give you a consistent result from door to door or on each door for that matter? Some areas look great… consistent and even take of the stain without blotches while other areas are just considerably darker and or blotchy. Testing is being done on the backs of the jamb material and a small closet door(using the door because it has more variety in the grains)

I will say that the customer wanted to use a dark stain(walnut) and the contractor knowing this still ordered fir. I have stained and finished some alder doors with the same stain and they look great with minimum effort and no pre stain conditioner so this is just frustrating.

I also noticed that these flat 2 panel doors have a very thin(basically a veneer) face layer and i’m wondering if that could also be a source of the problem… maybe the glue they used to attach it even though the fabricator claims they are stain grade doors. Because they are thin i’m having to take extra precautions when trying to sand out scratches as to avoid ruining the doors. When breaking my edges this layer is also splintering quite a bit more than a solid wood edge i’m used to working with which is frustrating so any advice on what to do is greatly appreciated.

7 replies so far

View CharlesNeil's profile


2399 posts in 3870 days

#1 posted 06-17-2010 08:58 PM

if you have some water base finish ( not poly)mix it at about 50/50 with water and test ,be sure to wipe it on wet and wipe it in well , you may have to increase the ratio or decrease it, but you are on the right track, the key will be to get a uniform base that will take the stain well enough to give you the color you want… just dont use the oil base stuff,

be sure also to let the prestain dry well, especially if you are using a water base stain or the stain can try to dissolve the prestain, so wipe it easy and if it isnt dark enough let it dry before applying the second coat… you may also try a 1/2 lb cut of shellac, but fir and hemlock is as tough as it gets to get an even coloring on…

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3577 days

#2 posted 06-17-2010 11:33 PM

Welcome to LJs
In case your not aware of it Charles Neil the above poster is a finishing expert and has his own DVDs on anything and everything about finishing and woodworking in general. Charles also makes a great blotch control
That is great . Id invest in some, that and what Charles said show take care of your problem.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2986 days

#3 posted 06-18-2010 12:13 AM

I second the idea of water based finish, doing it lightly and layering it on as necessary. Especially with water base, once you get a rhythm it is easy to layer and even layer selectively.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View CampD's profile


1667 posts in 3486 days

#4 posted 06-18-2010 12:55 AM

Thats some good info.

-- Doug...

View Jim Hart's profile

Jim Hart

5 posts in 2899 days

#5 posted 06-18-2010 05:11 PM

Hi Everyone!

My name is Jim and I have eight fir doors from Home Depot, they are beautiful.
They need to be stained so I’m looking around for information and the above sounds good to me.


View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3577 days

#6 posted 06-18-2010 06:47 PM

Hi Jim Welcome to Ljs
Much of what you see in the above post can be helpful .If you start with using a 1lb cut of shellac as a base coat then almost any finish will stick to that. If these are to used outside I would suggest a good spar varnish or marine finish used on boats. To get more input you might start your own topic asking the same question,

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Wchip's profile


1 post in 2482 days

#7 posted 08-09-2011 06:37 PM

All good comments, but I’m using a special colored alkyd stain for this hemlock exterior (attached garage) door – the color and door panels match the other interior oak doors in the room. Why mix hemlock & oak? Home Depot could only get hemlock fire-rated doors with this pattern. Anyway, I would like at least the color to match the other doors, even if the grain pattern will be different. Should I use a pre-stain conditioner (and let it dry overnight) or just ensure it’s sanded well & apply directly to the bare wood? Now, I’m concerned about blotching, as well as color-matching! So far, I’ve found this wood hard to work with & it seems to splinter easily. Thanks for any input.

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