Got a fix for my dumb error applying water-based stain?

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Forum topic by dreamdogs posted 12-09-2012 01:37 AM 1258 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2042 days

12-09-2012 01:37 AM

Greetings all …

Well, things were going along pretty well and then trouble came along. I stripped and sanded an old fir sideboard, and then applied Charles Neil’s pre-color conditioner. That’s all the good part. I chose a Zar water-based stain and got to work.

Near as I can figure, here and there on the sideboard I applied the stain too thickly and/or didn’t wipe off the excess rapidly enough. Where I did wipe it down more quickly, I’ve got a nice color tone and the wood’s grain comes through well. Where I didn’t, I’ve got a muddy look (not blotching, but very thick stain) and/or thick brushstrokes. Total stupidity on my part.

I’m wondering whether:

1. there’s a product, a solvent sort of deal, with which I could wipe down the whole mess, or;

2. putting more stain on a rag (I intend to put another coat of stain on the whole piece anyway) and having at it with some elbow grease will resolve the issue, or;

3. the last thing I want to do … sand it back to bare wood and start aaalll over again with the conditioner and stain (properly applied this time).

Your thoughts … please?

I ain’t blaming the product, but gotta stay that Zar stain had a thicker consistency than I expected. It kind of “dragged” on the wood (the room was plenty warm while I was working). Anyway, again, I doubt it’s the product, but if I have to go back to bare wood, I do believe I’ll try a dye.

Most appreciative of any insights you’ve got. The project has been some work but had been going along pretty merrily. Right this moment, however, I’m thinking a can of paint might just put the thing out of its misery.

4 replies so far

View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2237 days

#1 posted 12-09-2012 02:28 AM

Don’t paint it!! :)

I’m sure somebody will come along with more specifics, but you can use one of the popular non-toxic water based paint removers to strip it back down. I can’t go into details because I’ve only used it to remove heavy paint, but it seems like the right solution. Safest-Strip and the Citrus-Strip come to mind.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2387 days

#2 posted 12-09-2012 02:46 AM

Try scrubbing it with water and maroon scotchbrite.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2259 days

#3 posted 12-09-2012 03:07 AM

+1 on the scotch brite pad. First try it with the stain, scrub with a wet pad then stroke along the grain. Follow up with a damp rag. It should clean up nicely, been there done that with Zar gel stain!
You have to work in sections to prevent it drying up on you. One large side might require you to hustle a bit.

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3409 days

#4 posted 12-09-2012 03:00 PM

I have removed water-based stain with lacquer thinner with great results. I have found water-based stain to be easy to apply to small projects where you can do it all at once, but a real pain when doing larger projects. The problem is, when you use other stains, like alkyd stains, you can do one section, then overlap while doing another section, and the solvents in the stain will re-dissolve the areas you overlapped and you can wipe it all down to get a nice even transition. When a water-based stain dries on one section, any overlap will just thicken the stain as you said, because there is nothing in the stain that will re-dissolve the dried area of stain and all the rubbing in the world will not thin it down and hide the transition/overlap area. You have to be really fast and really careful about where you leave off one area, such as at corners obviously and other areas where it won’t be so obvious. Even doing that, you have already found out it’s not the best product for large projects.
If you are going to strip it and try again, I would suggest having lots of rags available, working in smaller sections where you can, laying it on heavy, then wiping it down quickly and then quickly doing the next section before the first section has a chance to dry.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

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