I have a couple questions about some hard maple I'm trying to work with (bear with me this is my first staining/finishing attempt)
First of all the stain seems to hide the grain of the maple... in some spots it creates an inverse effect where the lines become lighter than the other areas of the wood. In other areas dark/light patches occur with no apparent correlation to the way in which the grain is moving. I've never really seen anything like it... it's sort of neat, but not the natural effect I was hoping for. Any clues as to why this is happening? I'm using Varathane's #263 "Mission Oak" on 240-grit sanded hard maple applied with a cotton cloth. I'll link to a picture if anyone thinks it'll help.
For the finish I'm using Varathane's water-based semi-gloss. No matter how meticulous I am about brushing it on I can't seem to avoid getting bubbles. I'm not using the most expensive brush in the world but it's not a piece of junk either. I didn't shake the finish, nor am I using the can rim to remove excess from the brush. The bubbles are there right as I apply, so it's not a heat issue as far as I can tell. Any tips on what to try differently would be appreciated.