Minwax stainable wood filler not so stainable

Hi all,
First, let me say, that I am a complete newbie. My husband and I spent all summer building a bar (pine). Then we stained (using Minwax Gel Stain). A bit blotchy on the pine, but nothing I can't live with. The real problem, however, is wherever we applied the Minwax Stainable Wood Filler in a joint, over a nail, etc., the stain did not take. It stands out like a sore thumb! The entire project is now ruined, where we have nickle sized white blobs everywhere there is a nail. I had sanded this down, yet it seems wherever the stain filler touched the wood, it will forever repel the stain.
I have not Polyed yet. Is there anything I can do to save my project?
Thanks in advance.
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quick couple of questions that might help everyone answer your question a little better...
Did you sand the wood filler down before applying the stain? If so with what grit?
Why use the Gel Stain as opposed to the regular stain?
Did you apply a coat of wood conditioner or "seal coat" before staining?
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thanks for the replies.

Yes - 150.

Because I liked the "no drip" aspect of it. This had a lot of verical surface that needed to be stained, and I thought that the gel would go on easier. Plus, I liked the color I selected (brazillian rosewood) better than any of the non-gel alternatives

No, and I am really kicking myself for it. The guy at Home Depot told me that it wasn't really necessary. Like I said, I'm a total newbie and the fact that we were able to build anything is a minor miracle. It just seems that the staining aspect should be easier :(
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Hehehe... I have a theory about "the guy at Home Depot"- If he knew what he was talking about, he'd probably have a better job than stocker at a hardware store! :) Got bit by that line more than once when I let a client pick up materials from the store so I could keep working. "But the guy at Home Depot said that this new spray-on crack fixer works just as good as drywall tape", etc. Don't listen to that guy unless he is obviously too old to be out swinging a hammer- in that case, he could be a retired contractor, and actually know something.

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Kate,
Being newbie and all, we'll try to be kind.
Here's where you went wrong:
1. Nails... they have no place in structural joinery of cabinets. If you can't use classic joinery (glued rabbets, dados, dovetails, mortise and tennon), then I would look to screws. Finish nails to hold on molding is ok, but still something to be avoided.
2. Wood filler: as you found, they lie. Glue and sawdust will never stain like wood, ever! If you must fill tiny holes for finish nails. Do so after initial finishing but before the last coat using a tinited wood filler, and then you have a prayer of color-matching. That still is an accident waiting to happen as many woods will change color with age and exposure to UV making a perfect match not so perfect over time. Wood filler is meant to be painted.
3. Wood filler is not joint compound. It does not work and adhere like joint compound. It's a bit brittle and may chip off if a thin uncontained section is bumped. The reference to nickel sizes leads me to believe that you may have dimpled the surface with the hammer and filled the dimple like sheet rock screw on dry wall. This is particularly bad.
Fixes:
A few ideas:
1. Paint.
2. Laminate: A thin layer of something (veneer, formica, cabinet-grade plywood) over some or all of the surfaces.
3. Patch: Dutchmen or plugs. These could actually look like a nice feature if designed in from the begining. If your nails are not unevenly spaced it becomes less attractive.
-Steve

joint,
thumb!
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Kate: Well, don't say ruined yet but it sounds like you have work to do. I am, however, surprised at your reference to "nickle sized white blobs" That sounds awfully large for a nail fill.
Stainable fillers don't stain. Minwax and others lie. The best approach is keep filler use to a minimum. Filler over finish nail holes should be done after staining with a matching filler or filler stick. Joint filling is just bad practice that can be solved with more careful construction. However, this too might be fixed with filler stained while wet to the color of your project. In any case, you are going to have to remove the filler and replace with matching filler.
You might be able to clean out the nail holes with a drill bit that is about the same size as the nail hole (just touch the filler with the drill on low speed). Joint filling might pop out with use of a sharpened putty knife. Slow and tedious.
Pine, like a lot of soft woods, does take on a blotchy appearance when stained. This can be overcome by applying a pre stain conditiner.
If you just can't get there sand it down very smoothly and paint. Don't be discouraged. This is the way we all learn of woodology.
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I think that maybe I did a bad job explaining the "blob". We actually used a nail gun, so this is not from a hammer head. It is totally smooth when compared to the rest of the surface. What is consistant about these areas is that I had applied the wood filler here. I have a feeling that I did it wrong - I applied it with a putty knife and scraped it away. There was no filler remaining on the surface, and if there was, it should have been sanded away. To describe it better, I've posted a photo here:
http://badstain.tripod.com/bar/DCP_1530.JPG
you will see that the actual finishing nail did take the stain, but there are blobs around there that simply did not. Please be advised, my lighting is really bad here, so the stain job looks much blotchier than it actually is. However, the white dots look pretty accurate.
I appreciate all the feedback. Worst case, it's sitting in my basement where its dark, and most of these marks are behind the bar, where others won't see it. But it'll take longer for me to get over it :(
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Aha. Use a small brush and fill in those areas with the stain. Don't wipe it off, and just let it dry. You can sand it later with 600 grit if it has drip marks. It won't be awesome, but it should even out the color a bit. I'll tell you flat out that this is not the *right* way to fix that, but it's probably your best option judging from the picture. As an aside, I've usually used the Elmer's wood filler, and it has never done that- perhaps you should toss that stuff you bought!

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Prometheus wrote:

And if sitting extra stain on these spots doesn't do it, use acrylic paints and fake in your own grain. When the acrylics dry they may have a different shine than the rest of the wood, just wipe that whole surface with poly water based varnish and a rag.
By whole surface, I don't mean the whole structure but just the single edge surface where the boo-boos are.
Your work looks solid, fix up these minor things and enjoy!
Josie
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The picture really helps.
To me, it appears that the Glue component of the filler soaked into the surrounding wood, sealing it and preventing penetration of the stain.
I agree with others. You need to (I use this term loosely) touch-up paint just those spots. Trial and error will get you there. Start with the stain itself and see if that works. If the stain is mostly pigment an not so mych dye, I think you have a better chance. (simplified:dye is a translucent colorant, pigment is an opaque particulate in suspension, most over the counter cans of "stain" are some combination )
If that does not work, move on to artists paints and mix until it matches.
Cover with poly.
Cheers,
Steve

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see
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I like the idea of putting in contrasting plugs. Consider ways to turn the defect into a design.
Don't feel bad - I was fooled by "stainable filler" too on my first project. I suppose they're right - it does stain, just not like any other part of the piece.
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<<Don't feel bad - I was fooled by "stainable filler" too on my first project. I suppose they're right - it does stain, just not like any other part of the piece.>>
So I'm guessing this new Elmer's Stainable Wood Glue (with real wood fibers) I'm hearing advertised probably isn't really stainable either, huh?
Lee
--
To e-mail, replace "bucketofspam" with "dleegordon"



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On Wed, 13 Oct 2004 13:42:36 -0400, "Lee Gordon"

You first! :)
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If I worked all summer on a project, I would definitely try to rescue it. It would be worth the investment in time & money.
It will never look great by trying to sand/re-stain etc, so forget that (unless you want to try a really dark stain/poly combo with multiple finishes or simply paint it).
If you want the stain look, I would use what you have built so far as a base to which I would laminate something - maybe like oak veneer. Maybe even beadboard or something like that.
When I really mess up and get frustrated, it helps me to not touch it for a week or so until I think about it. Major mistakes can sometimes be put into better perspective and you would be surprised how often some solution will come to mind.
Also, consider this a learning experience for your next project - I have one with just about everything I build, but in a way, that is the fun of woodworking - trying to overcome new challenges. Otherwise, it's just "work".
Good luck!
Lou

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