Staining flop


I'm working on my first furniture grade woodworking project, a mini bar for my rec room. It consists of plywood (pine sandy-ply grade?) panels with 1x2 pine trim pieces covering up the joints, and some 2x4's and 2x2's inside for reinforcement. It was looking pretty good before I started finishing it.
I chose minwax red oak stain, which is relatively dark. I bought the wood conditioner too. Even with the wood conditioner, the first coat went on quite blotchy. Mostly blotchy on the 1x2 trim pieces, but the plywood too. When I rubbed around with a cloth it seemed to pull up and roughen the fibers of the plywood, making it look even worse. Also I had put wood putty around the nail holes and it stained very badly.
I put on a second coat and it looked considerably better. Most everything darkened, and I left a little extra stain on some of the pieces that were stubbornly light. I thought it looked acceptable after this.
Finally I put on a coat of satin polyurethane. Now it looks like crap again. The rough pieces on the wood look really bad, and now any blotchiness seems amplified. I started to sand it, but figured I'd ask here first.
What are my options from here? Will it look better after a few coats of polyurethane? My friend suggested mixing the stain and polyurethane together for the next coats hoping that everything would even out. Is that good advice? What amount of each to I mix? Should I sand down and start staining again? Stain over the polyurethane?
Thanks in advance! Jake
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snipped-for-privacy@thewolfweb.com wrote:

No, just smoother. Can you feel roughness now from wood fibers? ____________

You might as well paint it. _______________
Should I sand down and start staining again?
If you want it to look like stained wood, that is about your only option but it may be hard to sand the plywood down without cutting through the face ply. If you do it, you need to sand everything the same and to the same degree of smoothness (pre-sanded ply isn't very smooth) and seal it well so that the uneven stain absorption by the hard/soft parts of the pine is minimized.
Generally, the smoother the wood the more even the absorption but that doesn't mean you should sand it down with #600. Start with something appropriate to its current smoothness (#120?) and sand the hell out of it so you are sure all has been sanded to that grit; then use finer grits on all parts equally to remove the marks from the coarser. After $120, #180 would be appropriate. After that, #240A maybe (don't know, rarely use softwoods). Personally, I rarely use anything finer than #240 even on hardwoods except to sand the applied finish.
--

dadiOH
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snipped-for-privacy@thewolfweb.com wrote in

<snip>
My plywood supplier told me Sandeply was paint-grade material. I used a good latex primer and latex enamel on it to build some bookshelves for a second-grade school classroom last fall. Turned out great.
Most of the projects I've done with Minwax stains have been a challenge, if not a disappointment. Maybe it's just me, but I rather doubt it.
Patriarch
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snipped-for-privacy@thewolfweb.com wrote:

Don't stain over the poly. that wont work.
Sand or use steel wool to smooth everyting out. Don't worry about the blotches yet. You just want to get it smooth. 220 sandpaper should be OK by hand.
The stain/poly combo may be OK to even things up a bit. Minwax has a polyshades thing that is pre-mixed.
What the pros use to match things up is called a toner. it comes in spray cans and is lacquer based. behlens is one brand. You will find it at better woodworking stores, not lowes or that orange store. It comes in colors and you can adjust the number of coats in specific areas if more color is needed. When using it more light coats is better than heavy coats. The toner can be your final finish or can be topped with a clear lacquer spray (Same company sells this) or it can be topped with poly.
In my mind you are done with the stain. Use polyshades if you must but i would go to the toner.
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I know very little about staining, but I have a fairly good memory.
In a thread a couple of weeks(months?) ago, the OP stated he restained a section of flooring, and it looked good until he applied a coat of poly, which raised the grain and made it look terrible. Everyone's advice to that poster was to apply more poly... that it was common for the project to not look too good with only one coat of poly.
HTH..
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snipped-for-privacy@thewolfweb.com wrote:

I'd suggest taking a leftover piece of that plywood and recreating the finish you have now - it'll give you something to test out your options on. At a minimum you'll want to lightly sand the surface of what you have to smooth it out. When the raised fibers break off you may be left with small spots that have not absorbed any stain. Adding stain at this point will fix that but I'm not sure how it will affect the final finish. Adding color to the polyurethane will definitely help blend the uneven spots - you'd have to experiment a little to find out how much to add. If you're using a water based polyurethane then adding stain to it is definitely not a good idea. With oil based it should work but I've only tried coloring polyurethane with other colorants (i.e. TransTint dyes) so I can't tell you how well the Minwax stain will work. Making a sample will also let you determine how well sanding the finish and starting over might work, if you choose to take that route.
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