Scratches showing through after stain

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Forum topic by yellowtruck75 posted 01-17-2012 05:52 PM 10035 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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469 posts in 3265 days

01-17-2012 05:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: oak

Let me preface this by saying that I rarely use stain so this might be a rookie mistake that I made.

I am staining a red oak table and there are several spots showing up darker than the rest. I also have been noticing several small spots of scratches. I have tried applying a second coat of stain to blend the darker spots but it doesn’t seem to be working. I plan to apply 3 – 4 coats of poly after the staining is completed. Is there anything I can do to blend the color and remove the scratches?

Do I need to start over by resanding with 220?

9 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16280 posts in 4416 days

#1 posted 01-17-2012 06:13 PM

The nature of red oak is such that staining it really brings out the distinctness of the grain variances. In other words, a board that looks pretty uniform in color before finishing will look like it is two different colors once you put stain on it.

The only way to make that variance (and the scratches) go away is to stain the wood so dark it’s almost black.

If you want to maintain whatever color it is you are currently staining, the only way to get rid of the scratches is to sand them out and re-stain.

You may also want to try using a pre-stain conditioner. They partially seal the wood pores to inhibit stain absorbtion and help prevent blotchiness.

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

View CharlieM1958's profile


16280 posts in 4416 days

#2 posted 01-17-2012 06:16 PM

One other thing:

You may have to sand coarser than 220 depending on how deep the scratches are. Wiping some mineral spirits on the bare wood is a pretty good way to check and see if you have removed them all.

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

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3011 days

#3 posted 01-17-2012 06:46 PM

Assuming the lumber was well-milled, you can progress through the sandpaper grits from 120 to 150 to 220 if needed. Some finishers like to start with even courser grit.
I use a random orbit sander.
The fact that the spots are darker tells me the area wasn’t as smooth as the rest. Glue spots, in contrast, will finish as light spots.
Red oak should not need a pre-stain conditioner, but that can be useful on some softwoods (or cherry).

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

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2552 days

#4 posted 01-17-2012 07:06 PM

Hmmm spots? as in spots?
Well, this is something alot of people who don’t do woodworking don’t know, and would never think about.
Wash your hands before handling a board after you’ve eaten. Greases from your hands can transfer to the wood and block stain from penetrating the wood. Also if you sweat over the wood and drops fall and hit the wood, you have spots where the stain won’t penetrate fully.

Oak is pretty good about showing the fine scratches that you did not get out when stained, both red and white love to highlight minor flaws. A way to get around this is to take the board and hold one edge up to the light and sight down it. If there are any major scratches you should be able to see them.

Also, there are several types of stains, not just that minwax stuff. Some stain types work better for some woods that others do not. Yes the minwax is cheap, but then you do get what you pay for.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7681 posts in 2998 days

#5 posted 01-17-2012 07:10 PM

If they are sanding scratches, they need to be sanded out with finer paper. Nothing looks as bad as a poorly sanded piece after it is stained. I feel for you… you have your work cut out for you!

Thanks for posting!

-Jim; aka “Stumpy Nubs”
(The greatest woodworking show since the invention of wood is now online!)

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View yellowtruck75's profile


469 posts in 3265 days

#6 posted 01-17-2012 07:15 PM

Alright so tomorrow I will hit the top with the RO sander and start resanding. I am going to start with 120 then go to 220.

View RONFINCH's profile


143 posts in 3122 days

#7 posted 01-17-2012 08:23 PM

Progression of sanding grits….. 120 to 150, maybe to 180, then to 220.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16280 posts in 4416 days

#8 posted 01-17-2012 08:37 PM

RONFINCH makes a very good point. Scratches are often the result of not going through enough progressions of grit. Skipping from a coarser grain directly to a fine grain will give you a finish that feels smooth to the touch, but the scratches will show when the finish is applied.

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

View yellowtruck75's profile


469 posts in 3265 days

#9 posted 01-17-2012 11:48 PM

Thank everyone, I will start with the 120 tomorrow

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