How can I fix a bad stain job?

Old 08-04-14, 12:13 PM
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How can I fix a bad stain job?

I'm a new DIYer, so I'm learning as I go, and I think I might have messed this up.

I am attempting to restore an old dresser I bought at a garage sale. It was previously painted, and I want to stain the top and re-paint the rest. The top is just 1/8" plywood of some sort.

I sanded the paint off with a 120grit electric sander, and then I stained it with Rust-Oleum "Ultimate Wood Stain". I believe it is water based, but I don't see anything indicating that. It claims to "dry in one hour".

I suspect that these splotchy areas are because I sanded more "deeply" (?) in some areas as compared to other areas, allowing the stain to soak in more, or less, depending on the sanding at that area.

Will applying a second coat, and/or leaving it on longer help fix the splotchyness and achieve a more uniform look? Or is starting over the only way to fix this?


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Old 08-04-14, 12:26 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

Our finishing expert will be here soon but I am pretty sure you will need to sand it again.

Be sure to sand it completely and finish sanding with 220 grit. Looking at your picture, using a pre stain conditioner might help.
Old 08-04-14, 01:39 PM
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I suspect you didn't remove all of the existing finish. It's hard to get down to raw wood by just sanding, that's why it's generally best to start with a chemical stripper and finish with sanding.

I've never used any rustoleum wood stain but it should say on the label what you clean up with [water or paint thinner] I have very little experience with water based penetrating stains Stains for furniture and/or woodwork dry more by absorption than anything else, they don't have the driers added to the stain like paints and outdoor siding/deck stains do.

120 grit is fine for the final sanding prior to applying the stain. 180 grit is about as fine as I'd want to use before staining, if you use too fine a paper it will cause the wood grain to close up and not absorb much stain. I have on occasion used sandpaper over wet stain to help it go into hardspots in the wood. I think your best bet would be to remove what you have and get to clean raw wood, then start over.
Old 08-04-14, 01:50 PM
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I've never seen 1/8" plywood but if you truly have that or a veneer of some kind be very careful sanding so you don't go through the top layer.
Old 08-04-14, 02:10 PM
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Good point Mitch! I didn't even notice the reference to a thin plywood if you sand thru the veneer or any of the plys you'll either be replacing the top or patching/painting it

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