problems staining a project

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Forum topic by sedcokid posted 06-28-2011 10:15 PM 7186 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View sedcokid's profile


2733 posts in 3627 days

06-28-2011 10:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing oak

I guess this may not be the correct forum topic but don’t know where else put it. Perhaps I should say “Woodworking skill share or lack of”. Heres my problem, I normally do turning and seldom do I stain a project. I have made several book shelves/shelving units and I always sweat bullets if the customer or the wife thinks it needs to be a different wood color.

I generally use Minwax for stain, but when in Lowes they were out of the color I wanted and I bought a Cabot stain. This project turned out extremely blotchy…. I made this unit out of Red Oak with White Oak accents, I am statisfied with the woodworking but my stain looks HORRID!! I don’t know if have applied the stain correctly or burn it and start another unit???? Can someone suggest the proper technique for applying stain and what stain is best and how to prevent a blotchy finish…

Thanks for any responce!!
This is somewhat urgent…..
The sedcokid

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

11 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4247 days

#1 posted 06-28-2011 10:30 PM

A photo would be good, just to show us what “blotchy” looks like in this case.

I have stained red oak many times, and have never had it be what I would call blotchy. What does happen, though, is that the grain really soaks up a lot of stain, causing it to be much more distinct than in non-stained oak.

Maybe someone out there knows if an application of grain filler before staining would lessen this effect. I’ve never tried it, but it seems like a possibility.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View sedcokid's profile


2733 posts in 3627 days

#2 posted 06-28-2011 11:00 PM

Thanks CharlieM1958, I will try to take a photo of it and upload…. Is there anyway to remove or strip the stain or bleach it out????

Chuck aka The Sedcokid

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3851 days

#3 posted 06-28-2011 11:29 PM

Chuck, I will have to add a second to Charlie’s comment as well. I have used both Cabot’s and Minwax oil base stains on red/white oak and have not had any problems whatsoever. Oak is a forgiving wood that takes stain or dye quite easily. As far as removing the stain goes I am sure you are stuck with sanding it back to the raw wood if you do not like the existing color.

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

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4247 days

#4 posted 06-28-2011 11:49 PM

As Scott said, sanding or planing is the only option to remove it. You could use a darker color to make it more uniform, but that really depends on what you want to end up with, color-wise.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3079 days

#5 posted 06-29-2011 02:23 AM

Pictures will help. I just finished staining red oak with Minwax gunstock. Brush it on with foam brush, let sit a few, wipe off with paper towels, let dry, 3 coats of poly and it’s fine. Try to post a picture and these guys will help.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20600 posts in 3134 days

#6 posted 06-29-2011 04:44 AM

Hi Chuck. I standardized on Zar oil based stain and love it, but I have used Ace, Minwax and a few others and they usually cover very evenly on oak. It may be that you have something on the wood before staining. Did you wipe any glue with a wet cloth and not sand the area. I did that once and the stain did not “bite” in that area and wiped clear. I guess now I would wipe it down with lacquer thinner real good and let it dry. Then sand it with 100 and then 150 and try staining it again. Blow it off real good after sanding to get the dust out of the grain of the oak There is always a way to save it! Don’t even think of the firewood option!!

I always apply stain with a rag wiping it across the grain the get it to fill the open grain. Let is set a few minutes and then wipe with a clean rag.

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2668 days

#7 posted 06-29-2011 08:22 AM

The only two times I have had blotchy results with stain have both been cabot’s. Once with pecan and another with ebony. In all fairness, they were both small cans, were 2-3 years old, and kept in an unheated garage, so I am sure they had experienced some temperature extremes. But all my Minwax stains (some even older) still stain uniformly. Hmmm.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2871 days

#8 posted 06-29-2011 12:11 PM

I have had problems with Cabot’s the same day it was bought. Since then, if the store is out of Minwax, I go to a different store, choose a different color stain, or wait until the store can get what I want in stock (usually the next day if you ask at most stores).


View sedcokid's profile


2733 posts in 3627 days

#9 posted 07-01-2011 04:06 AM

Guys, Thanks so much for all your comments, Jim, I did use your idea using Laquer thinner it worked like a charm! Thanks so much!! I used 0000 Steel wool dipped into the thinner and rubbed. Removed the stain all except that in the grain.

Again, Thanks a Bunch!!

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View drewnahant's profile


222 posts in 3118 days

#10 posted 07-01-2011 04:22 AM

The only issue I have had staining oak, is the difference between endgrain and long-grain. End grain absorbs way more, and with even a medium stain, it becomes incredibly dark. This is even more of a problem when one board is a cathedral grain, and you end up with a flat surface being half light and half dark, with a highly visible glue line.

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 2581 days

#11 posted 07-01-2011 05:27 AM

I second the whole using a rag approach. A brush lacks the “hands on” control you get with a rag, and whenever I feel something is a bit too heavy or a bit uneven, a bit of turpentine usually removes excess and evens the stain out a bit.

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