Black stain didn't take

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Forum topic by SquintyPolock posted 477 days ago 1528 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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95 posts in 529 days

477 days ago

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


2199 posts in 1790 days

#1 posted 477 days ago

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

-- jay,

View tomd's profile


1749 posts in 2402 days

#2 posted 477 days ago

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

-- Tom D

View redSLED's profile


687 posts in 524 days

#3 posted 477 days ago

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


687 posts in 524 days

#4 posted 477 days ago

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


1016 posts in 918 days

#5 posted 477 days ago

Did it happen to be their Polyshades line?

-- John, BC, Canada

View RogerInColorado's profile


291 posts in 586 days

#6 posted 477 days ago

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


82 posts in 1036 days

#7 posted 476 days ago

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


961 posts in 1322 days

#8 posted 476 days ago

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

151 posts in 1534 days

#9 posted 476 days ago

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


195 posts in 481 days

#10 posted 476 days ago

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


1127 posts in 2502 days

#11 posted 476 days ago

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


95 posts in 529 days

#12 posted 476 days ago

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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