Grain filler before or after staining

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 03-31-2013 01:08 AM 6808 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Purrmaster's profile


898 posts in 1137 days

03-31-2013 01:08 AM

This is both a question and meant to be informative. I’m using white oak for a project and I want to fill the grain. The filler I’ve got on hand and am planning to use is Aqua Coat grain filler. Charles Neil likes it.

Should I use the grain filler before or after putting on stain? I’m actually trying an experiment right now on some scrap to test this. But I wanted to also get the experience of others.

So far I tried staining first and then put in the grain filler. The problem is that when I sand back the grain filler I end up sanding back the stain.

Another wrinkle is that I’m not exactly using a stain. I’m using Watco black walnut danish oil. I realize this is just a stain but an oil/varnish blend. But I’m not using the danish oil as a top coat, I’m using it because it’’s given me the best coloration.

I’m about to try to put the danish oil over already filled pores to see how it goes. I’ve read that, in theory, water base grain fillers will take stain. We shall see.

Has anyone else ever used this combination?

Thank you!

12 replies so far

View shampeon's profile


1378 posts in 1227 days

#1 posted 03-31-2013 01:46 AM

I guess it really depends on whether you want the filled pores to be the same color or not. In the guitar world, a lot of people add dye to the grain filler when pore-filling mahogany so the steps are combined. Other people dye or stain the wood first, seal it with a thin coat of clear, then pore fill using a different color to enhance the grain (see TV yellow Gibsons).

In your case, I would try grain filling, letting it dry completely, sanding back, and then applying the Danish oil.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Purrmaster's profile


898 posts in 1137 days

#2 posted 04-01-2013 12:37 PM


I tried a couple of test boards. Somewhat to my surprise, the grain filler took the danish oil stain well. I noticed little difference between boards that had just the danish oil on them and boards that had been pore filled first.

And I just slapped the danish oil on the project (after pore filling) and it seems to have turned out nicely as well.

So it appears that Aqua Coat will take stain, at least in some circumstances.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2202 days

#3 posted 04-01-2013 02:21 PM

As Ian said, typically you might choose to do this in one step. If not, the pore filler can often be tinted to match the stain choice so that you fill first and then stain (as you discovered). But many will fill by sanding up a slurry with the oil and letting it dry in the pores..which is an effective method that I utilized on a humidor I’m finishing. Others might use a shellac with rottenstone as a filler, which is often used when doing French polish.

Regardless of the method, the key is to allow it to dry completely before sanding back. This assures that you don’t pull the filler back out of the pores. In other words, you have to be content to allow the project to look like crap for a short amount of time while the pore filler dries…which is easier said than done sometimes. You just have to trust the process.

-- jay,

View CharlesNeil's profile


1302 posts in 2914 days

#4 posted 04-01-2013 02:25 PM

+1 for Aquacoat, its my personal choice,

View Purrmaster's profile


898 posts in 1137 days

#5 posted 04-03-2013 06:51 PM

I didn’t tint the Aqua Coat. I’m not sure it can be tinted. I have no dyes, regardless. But the clear aqua coat took the danish oil/stain admirably. I plan to put on a varnish top coat to protect the whole thing. Either poly or Waterlox.

View BMaloney's profile


17 posts in 1443 days

#6 posted 04-08-2013 10:57 PM

Aqua coat actually says to color first, then apply a coat of finish, then use the grain filler. I would guess it is so you don’t sand back your color. I applied some Aqua Coat on some mahogany then applied a dye. Everything looked fine until I applied the finish. That’s when I noticed that some areas didn’t take the color as well as others. Next time I will wait until I have at least 1 coat of finish before applying Aqua Coat.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8800 posts in 3143 days

#7 posted 04-08-2013 11:05 PM

Shampeon and Cosmicsniper are right, it does depend a bit on what look you want.

Butt the basics are pretty much always the same. Grain filler can be tinted or stained before use if the bases are compatible. Apply, let dry thoroughly before sanding.

If filler is applied without any color, once it is dry, it should accept stain or dye of any base either waterborne, oil, or solvent.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View henricus's profile


8 posts in 223 days

#8 posted 08-26-2015 05:21 PM

The only problem I found with the Aquacoat and Aniline dye was the pores open up as I tried to sandwich the dye between the Aquacoat. I finally mixed the dye into the Aquacoat and this made a huge difference. I have a piece of very figured mahogany that had open grain and even some splitting. Once I mixed the two above, these bits sealed and filled right up. It is so good as a filler that I can get away with wipe on poly. Certainly not a French polish, but nice.

-- Henricus

View CharlesA's profile


2584 posts in 841 days

#9 posted 08-26-2015 05:33 PM

How about both? I haven’t used aqua coat, but in using Timbermate with Danish oil, it was suggested to me, and it worked, that i put on one coat of the oil before the grain filler, and then continue afterward. You might try that.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View henricus's profile


8 posts in 223 days

#10 posted 08-26-2015 09:58 PM

It is different if you are using water based dye and Aquacoat, you will raise the grain.

How about both? I haven t used aqua coat, but in using Timbermate with Danish oil, it was suggested to me, and it worked, that i put on one coat of the oil before the grain filler, and then continue afterward. You might try that.

- CharlesA

-- Henricus

View DrDirt's profile


3570 posts in 2786 days

#11 posted 08-26-2015 11:05 PM

In the class I took with Mitch Kohanek – - he would put an initial wash coat of Shellac before stain or filler. That made it where the stain/filler was ONLY in the pores. Otherwise the filler would color the wood also.

But you mention you are using Watco… so not a “pure” pigment stain situation. You did the right thing, you have to try out your system and find out what delivers the result you want.

There isn’t a “Right” way… or certainly not only ONE way. Good luck.

-- “The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.” ― H.L. Mencken, Minority Report

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

5681 posts in 1424 days

#12 posted 08-27-2015 01:59 AM

Been a couple years, hopefully he figured it out already.


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