Wood has uneven stain result, question


I'm refinishing a table. The top has turned out fine, but the legs took the oil wood stain unevenly, even after much sanding. There are a number of areas that are much lighter than the rest, and it doesn't look as good as it might.
I've got two stain applications on the legs and an application of boiled linseed oil that I will let dry for a week.
My last step will be to apply a coat of polyurethane. Is there anything I can do to darken the light areas? Any ideas?
Thanks
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Kurt Gavin wrote:

Assuming that you sanded all of the previous finish off, it's likely that the wood simply doesn't take stain well. Pine, maple, and cherry, for example, are all pretty bad about accepting stain evenly. Using a thick gel stain helps (as opposed to a brush/wipe on "flowing" stain), and use of a sanding sealer can improve things to some extent.
One of the common ways to evenly color these types of woods is to use a dye stain, rather than a pigment stain. Analine dye is a good example (Google it). The other advantage of dye is that it can darken tight-grained woods (like maple) much more than pigment stains. If you want a deep, rich walnut or mahogany color in maple, you'd have a really hard time achieving it with a pigment stain. There just aren't enough pores and crevices in the wood for the pigment to get stuck in. Dye, on the other hand, penetrates quite evenly.
Of course, none of this really helps your current situation. You've already put on the BLO. At this point, your options are to strip it and start over, or to shade the wood. Shading involves coloring a finish (such as polyurethane), then spraying it on the areas where you want to darken the finish. This is basically the same process as toning, which just means that you apply the colored finish uniformly over the entire piece. It's a lot like painting the piece with a translucent paint. If you don't have a spray gun, you can actually achieve pretty decent results from the $15 cheapie air-brushes you can get at Harbor Freight or on eBay. You'd need a compressor, though. In the worst case, you could try brushing on a pre-colored finish like Minwax Polyshades if you can find (or mix) one which matches your current color, or you could mix some of the stain you used into your poly (assuming they're both oil based) and brush it on over the areas that need darkening. Spraying makes it easier to blend the color evenly.
Good luck.
Josh
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Shading is the route I went, except I just brushed on the stain / polyurethane mixture, over the previous stain and linseed oil. It's turned out beautifully. Mainly, it's a constant deep shade of the color I wanted, with hints and shades of wood grain variations.
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