Sealing End Grain For Stain: Pre-Stain or Shellac?

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The bed I am building will have some exposed end grain - by design. The wood is quarter sawn Douglas Fir.
I started staining parts of it today - pieces with end grain that will *not* be exposed (e.g. the side rails) - so I could see how the stain looked. I used a liberal amount of Minwax Pre-Stain on all surfaces but the end grain still came out much darker than the face/side grain. Too dark. I lost all of the quarter sawn end grain pattern that I want to see.
Some sites I looked at said that end grain could be sealed with pre-stain or shellac, implying that one was as good as the other. Is that true or would shellac seal the end grain better?
I did find that if I used very little stain on the rag I could achieve a lighter color, but I think it would be difficult to get an exact match on all sections of exposed end grain. I don't expect to get an exact match of end grain to side grain, but I don't want the vast difference I am seeing even after using the pre-stain.
Would shellac do a better job than pre-stain? Is there something even better?
I also read that burnishing the end grain with a high-grit sandpaper (like 300+) will prevent the end grain from absorbing too much stain. Unfortunately I have already assembled some parts where end grain is directly adjacent to side grain, so burnishing just the end grain portions would be very difficult. Applying shellac to the end grain pieces is doable, burnishing just the end grain would be tough.
Thanks once again for your expertise.
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On 10/1/2016 1:52 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

face. You have pretty much stated the steps to prevent over absorption so there is not much more to say in that respect.
Most anything will seal the grain, just use something that will not add a darker shade. Use what you have on hand. Surely you have a few scraps to test on.
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On Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 3:00:45 PM UTC-4, Leon wrote:

So, to answer my main question: Shellac would be no better than the Minwax pre-stain? (I have pre-stain and can surely pick up a small can of shellac to test, but I figured I'd ask first.)
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On 10/1/2016 2:13 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Doubt, a pre-stain will do what you need, but test it on scrap.
Shellac or a glue sizing works better, IME.
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On 10/1/2016 1:52 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

1. Sometimes the darker end grain staining, due to greater absorption of the particulate, provides a nice contrast ... think Greene & Greene.
2. Sanding to at least 320 grit mitigates the darkness quite a bit, and lessens the contrast. Test on scrap
2. Shellac sealer (Zinsser Bull Eye, right out of the can strength) works nicely for mitigating the darkness, applied before, and after sanding.
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On 10/1/2016 2:10 PM, Swingman wrote:

Forgot to add, a glue base sizing also works. Just mix regular wood glue with some H2O, about half n' half. Let it soak in and dry. Test on scrap first.
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On Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 3:12:37 PM UTC-4, Swingman wrote:

I've got some glue sizing drying now. Thanks

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On Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 3:10:21 PM UTC-4, Swingman wrote:

Yes, that is what I am going for, I just don't want the stain so dark that it hides the quarter-sawn end grain.
The sides of the headboard are alternating end grain-side grain for the very reason you mention: contrast. The tops of the headboard uprights and footboard uprights are also end grain.
This is the headboard, face down, unsanded, etc:
http://i.imgur.com/bNE7j3l.jpg
I tested the glue sizing, burnishing, etc.
So far it looks like a combination of burnishing and multiple layers of pre-stain sealer will do the trick.
Thanks.
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On 10/2/16 8:53 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Just FYI... That wood is going to be very splotchy anyway, so you might want to use a conditioner on all of it as a first step.
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On Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 11:52:50 AM UTC-4, -MIKE- wrote:

Perhaps you missed this statement in my OP:
"I used a liberal amount of Minwax Pre-Stain on all surfaces but the end grain still came out much darker than the face/side grain."
This is a rustic style bed, so perfect color matching throughout is not required or even desired. Obviously "splotchy" isn't the goal. ;-)
IMO, the rails came out pretty nice, but you can see how the end grain is much darker. Granted, the rails aren't quater-sawn, but the stain came out the same as on the quarter-swan samples I tried.
http://i.imgur.com/oDFjTGz.jpg
I applied the first coat of wipe-on poly on this morning and the end grain darkened even more. It's obviously needs to be sealed more aggressively. I have some more testing to do before I stain any end-grain that will be exposed. I'm confident I'll find a solution that works. The good thing is that I have an almost infinite supply of end grain to test. ;-)
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On 10/2/16 12:18 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Either missed it or forgot about it. ADD :-)

That is very smooth and even stain application. That is what that conditioner does for you. Looks great.
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On Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 1:26:54 PM UTC-4, -MIKE- wrote:

Thanks. The color looks even better in real life. I settled on Zar wiping stain in Cherry. I don't see much Cherry in it and that's OK.
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Or/and, dilute the stain
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On Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 1:32:39 PM UTC-4, dadiOH wrote:

Yes, that is something I considered. Thanks.
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On 10/2/2016 1:32 PM, dadiOH wrote:

I don't dilute the stain, I sand with a finer sand paper, and I use zinser sanding sealer (shellac) wash coat, diluted 1:1 with alcohol. Sometimes 2:1 alc to shellac.
--
Jeff

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On 10/1/2016 2:52 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Don't use your final parts to experiment with finishes. Use scraps prepped to the same level. Sooner or later, you will ruin your material and waste hours or days of work, or spend extra hours "fixing" a finish that is not right.
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On Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 3:22:09 PM UTC-4, Larry Kraus wrote:

You may have missed my (subtle) point. I don't mind if the end grain on parts that won't be exposed is a little darker. It was chance to finish some of the larger pieces without really endangering anything. I knew going in that the end grain might be an issue, but for those pieces the end grain will not be seen. Plus I've actually *started* finishing - no more excuses or delay tactics. ;-)
Now that I know that the pre-stain doesn't really do what I want it to, I'm stopping (and testing) other methods for sealing the end grain. In meantime, the 2 side rails and a "hidden" part of the headboard are stained and drying.
Progress!
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On 10/1/2016 2:52 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

I'd go with shellac, but a heavy dose of pre-stain may do it.

I burnish with the shank of a #1 Phillips screw driver.
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On 10/1/16 7:57 PM, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

If you already have a good pre-stain conditioner it will do fine, you just need to use a few coats. A clear shellac could do it with one coat. Like everyone else said about 4 times, test on scraps.

Burnishing is effectively bending over the microfibers of the wood to make them edge grain on the smallest level. It doesn't always work... I would go as far to say rarely.
If you do this, push or sand in the same direction for each stroke. If you go back and forth, you are pushing those microfibers back and forth, lessening the effect.
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On Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 2:52:31 PM UTC-4, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Update:
After lot's of T&E on scraps, the following technique allowed me match the end grain to the quarter sawn face grain:
Burnishing with 220 grit in a palm sander and then 3 coats of MinWax pre-Stain. The face grain was sanded with 150 grit and then 1 coat of pre-stain.
I've got some more end-grain to do this weekend...hopefully the process is repeatable.
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