Fir Won't Take Stain

Old 04-24-06, 10:20 PM
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Fir Won't Take Stain

I am refinishing a fir coffee table that has about 10 individual pieces. It was originally finished with a clear coat only. My wife wanted it to match the maple we have in the house. I noticed that the stain made the wood splotchy as the fir was not absorbing the stain equally. I restarted and treated the wood with conditioner. That evened out the stain but it was much too light. I tried leaving it on longer before wiping, but it made little difference. I decided then to leave the stain on the surface rather than wiping it. It comes out with the correct color but of course, the residual stain on the surface becomes a problem. I tried sanding it off, wiping it with stain, using a sanding pad, etc. but all that does it take the wood back to the lighter color. I need to get the fir to accept the stain but it refuses. I've read about using a coarser sandpaper (120 grit), wetting the surface with water to raise the grain, using dyes, etc. but would like to do it correctly since it looks like I'll have to remove the excess stain first. Any suggestions?
Old 04-30-06, 12:49 PM
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Thus the problem with softwoods like Fir. They blotch with dark stains. I build cabinets and fight this all the time-- maple, though a hardwood, is particuarly ugly with dark stain.

If you are finishing with polyurethane, just stain it as you are using the conditioner and then use, as the first couple of coats, "Polyshades" by Minwax, using the color that best matches what you are staining. It's just polyurethane with dye added to it. It will darken the color, but you will need to use a good quality china-bristle brush to avoid bubbles in the finish (and you may need to thin it a tad with mineral spirits or naptha if you get brush strokes).

Build polyshades no more than two normal coats, and then topcoat with regular poly (I like to thin my final coat by about 30% with mineral spirits or naptha b/c it lays down more smoothly).

Always smooth and scuff sand between coats with 220 grit sandpaper, and expect it to choke up the paper a bit, so use a good bit of paper and change it frequently if you can't scrape out the corns that develope. The corns will gouge your finish.

To remove the current stain, slop on some mineral spirits with a cloth. Let it set for a couple of minutes, and see if it will wipe off.

Lacquer thinner, though a bit more dangerous, is a sure-fire way to remove it.

Sanding the wood with 120 grit paper will make for a darker stain but it will likely also show a lot of sanding scratches. I prefer to hand sand the item up to 180 grit (I use a random-orbit palm sander up to 180 and finish with 180 again by hand, going in the direction of the grain).

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