Let me start by saying I'm no expert. I've read a number of
books on finishing and spent a few hours reviewing a variety
of ideas on the subject of staining blotch-prone woods such
as maple, cherry, etc.
There are more than a couple of popular ways of dealing with
1. Use a pre-stain conditioner.
2. Sand to a higher grit (400) to close the pores.
3. Use a gel stain.
4. Seal with shellac or a wash coat of finish.
5. Spray with alcohol or lacquer based dye.
6. Color the finish coats (least desirable for the obvious
reason that scratching the finish will expose the lighter wood)
I may have forgot some other methods, but those are the ones
that come to mind at the moment.
Using materials that I have on hand, I decided to try some
of those methods, with a little fudging (#4, below).
1. Sand maple with 100, 150, 220, 320, 400 and then apply
water soluble dye. Result: terribly blotchy as expected, so
sanding to higher grits, without utilizing additional
tricks, isn't sufficient to prevent blotching.
2. Same as #1, but use Zar oil based stain. Result: just
as bad as #1.
3. Follow same sanding schedule as #1 with Zinnser Seal
Coat cut 50%. Sand moderately with 400 to cut back smooth
wood, leaving shellac in the pores. Applied water soluble
dye. Result: not as much blotching, but the resultant color
was not only way too light, but the color shifted to yellow.
Totally unacceptable. I didn't bother to try using the
Zar stain. I figured a pigment stain wouldn't darken sealed
4. Final attempt: Tried mixing water soluble with alcohol
for grins, since I don't own any alcohol solubles yet. My
tip for the day: Don't even THINK about it. The dye doesn't
dissolve properly. Threw out that batch and mixed up some
dye in warm water and loaded up my HVLP gun. Using the .043
tip, I sprayed numerous light coats, pausing on each pass to
avoid wetting the surface, so that the dye wouldn't run. I
got it on fine enough that immediately after spraying each
coat I felt it with my finger to see that it was essentially
dry to the touch, just seconds after application. Results:
darn near perfect! So what I'm planning on doing is to
order an even finer tip like .028, and order some alcohol
soluble dyes and do it according to Hoyl. Being a
perfectionist is why I'll order a finer tip, but the results
today are great, considering that finishing wisdom dictates
using a finer tip (not to mention that an alcohol dye should
be used for faster drying).
Now I've got TWO questions:
1. How do YOU get perfectly blotch-free results on maple or
other blotch-prone woods, OTHER than putting tint in the top
2. Do my results match your personal experience? I know
there's more than one way to do just about anything, but
having said that, I was unable to get even mediocre results
with some of the methods espoused by those with infinitely
more experience than me.
Not having a pre-stain conditioner or gel stain, I've had no
opportunity to evaluate those methods. I've read plenty of
caveats on relying on either one, though. What's your
experience with them?