Black stain didn't take

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Forum topic by SquintyPolock posted 05-08-2013 12:30 AM 6047 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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99 posts in 1949 days

05-08-2013 12:30 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing

I built this television stand from birch plywood and poplar face/ top. I used Minwax ebony stain and a Minwax clear coat. I had a really hard time getting the stain to take; take note of some of the faded corners that just wouldn’t turn black (this happened all over the box; not just the corners). I would appreciate any comments how to get that stain to look better. Thanks.

-- It's all in a day's work...

12 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3210 days

#1 posted 05-08-2013 12:40 AM

Blend the stain with the clear coat. Then apply it.

-- jay,

View tomd's profile


2160 posts in 3822 days

#2 posted 05-08-2013 01:00 AM

Poplar should take the stain but birch is a hard close grained wood which is difficult to stain.

-- Tom D

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1944 days

#3 posted 05-08-2013 02:25 AM

The only time I have been able to successfully stain birch or maple very dark is with dyes, not with pigmented stain. With a water based dye stain, I was able to stain my bathroom’s hard maple floor almost completely black after a 150 grit sanding – it looked like a charcoal floor. Then when the oil poly went on, all the fine detailed grain lines and patterns showed through beautifully. I still miss that bathroom floor (I moved).

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1944 days

#4 posted 05-08-2013 02:31 AM

That blending trick can work. Also, for those poorly stained edges you could scuff sand them a little rougher and scoop any available stain sludge from the bottom of the can and dab it along the edge sections to soak it in a bit, let it sit the maximum time before drying up and then wipe off gently, then allow to dry overnight before finishing.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2338 days

#5 posted 05-08-2013 04:15 AM

Did it happen to be their Polyshades line?

-- John, BC, Canada

View RogerInColorado's profile


321 posts in 2006 days

#6 posted 05-08-2013 05:09 AM

I concur with redSLED on using a dye on plywood projects for a better, less blotchy appearance than that provided by stain. I built a stand like yours, but I decided rather than a glossy look I wanted a sort of a “patina” so I used milk paint by General Finishes, specifically Lampblack. I have no regrets and have used milk paint(different colors) since then on two other projects.

View junebug's profile


102 posts in 2456 days

#7 posted 05-08-2013 12:34 PM

I just went through this whole ordeal. Wife wanted a headboard stained jet black to match some other furniture. I used the ebony from Minwax and was not happy with the results. 3 coats of stain, each soaking in for 15 minutes. The test piece just looked dirty with highlighted grain.
I bought some General Finishes water based stain in black. 1 coat, wiped off after about 2 minutes, total jet black yet still able to see the grain.

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2742 days

#8 posted 05-08-2013 01:34 PM

I’m with junebug – get a decent stain – General Finishes is an excellent product. Minwax, not so much.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Adrian A's profile

Adrian A

169 posts in 2954 days

#9 posted 05-08-2013 04:28 PM

ditto redsled.

I am only able to use Dye stain as well, or general finishes water based stain which has rich color.

Anything minwax has not turned out well, their pigments are very known to be very weak. Fine Woodworking even did a test showing such.

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1901 days

#10 posted 05-08-2013 08:28 PM

I concur with the above posts who are suggesting the use of a dye. I understand that excellent results can also be produced using India ink. This is available through arts and crafts stores. India ink is made from ultra-fine pigments, so fine, in fact, that they closely resemble an ebony dye.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2421 posts in 3922 days

#11 posted 05-08-2013 08:43 PM

minwax is just no good, There I said it, its just too weak, I agree with Earlex, General finishes, Trans tint , WD Lockwood dyes do the trick, but on a black, a good “slug” of India ink will definately do the trick,it makes it super black, done it a time or 40 here ya go

View SquintyPolock's profile


99 posts in 1949 days

#12 posted 05-09-2013 12:47 AM

Thanks guys! I should have asked you before I went through the frustration (I’m a dp). From now on, I’m off the Minwax and I’ll use GF dye next time.

In response to your comments:

I tried the stain sludge technique and it looked painted; I didn’ like it and sanded it off the corners.

I didn’t use the Polyshades. However, I did use Polyshades on my pine baseboards and woodwork in the house and was really pleased with it. The pine really soaks that stuff up.

Thanks for taking a look.


-- It's all in a day's work...

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