Wood Conditioning

It is my understanding that softwoods like pine and fir must be conditioned before staining. What is wood conditioner made of and is there any substitute?
I guess shellac would seal the wood so it wouldn't be conducive to staining to be used in lieu of the wood conditioner. So if you weren't staining, one could use shellac prior to putting on a poly. Is that right?
TIA for your comments,
Thunder
P.S. I'm building my first table out of white pine and spruce. This is mainly for a learning experience but my daughter was looking for an 18" by 60" hall/sofa table for an alcove. So if it doesn't come out very well, it will be well hidden, ha!
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Put on a spit coat of shellac and then stain it. The conditioner is essentially mineral spirits. Brush it on, let it sit a few minutes, then stain.
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You can buy pre-stain conditioners made by several of the paint and finish companies. Some will tell you that mineral spirits will do as well. I personally have not tried spirits but it probably works and is a little cheaper.

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A coat of Natural stain also works well. Anything clear that will be absorbed into the wood and is compatible with the color stain should work.
The basic idea is to get the more porous areas to absorb something clear, preventing the color from going extra deep in that area and blotching.
Barry
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Here is a recipe for conditioner from American Woodworker: 1 part boiled linseed oil, 8 parts mineral spirits.
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You will do better with a seal coat of 1# cut of shellac. You will get less blotching than with conditioner. After applying the shellac, scuff it with 320 grit paper before applying the topcoat.
Preston

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