I'm attempting to refinish a crappy old desk. This is my first
refinishing project and I hope it'll be good practice.
I've stripped it and sanded it and now I stained it (according to
And the result can be seen here:
You might be able to tell that it is very uneven and somewhat blotchy.
What am I doing wrong and can it be fixed at this point?
Very many thanks in advance!
Maybe the picture is bad on my screen, but from what I could make out. it
looked like there were cross grain scratches and cross grain sanding. And
forget the manufacturer's instructions when re-finishing. Mostly they are
for new wood. You'll learn, as you go, when you refinish, make sure you sand
out all the scratches. They will trap stain and be darker than the rest.
Best to just dab a little on a rag and make light swipes until you get like
you want it. Avoid the deep scratches and Q-tip them lightly to match up
after you get the rest even.
For what its worth, when I refinish, I use chemical stripper and if I sand
at all, its lightly to remove any fuzz raised by the stripper. This will
preserve a lot of the original color/patina of the wood. When the wood
dries it looks very light which is why most run to the stain can. Wet the
wood with mineral spirits first to see what it will look like with a finish.
In most cases you won't find it necessary to stain unless you are trying to
match an existing piece or the component wood is terribly mismatched which
creates a staining challenge in itself.
Certain woods do not take stain evenly (cherry, pine, soft maple) resulting
in the blotching you experienced. As suggested, a stain conditioner will
help as it pre-saturates the wood with the stain carrier (linseed oil or
whatever) and partially seals it resulting in a more even take up of the
stain when applied. An alternative approach is to use gel stains which are
formulated to stay mostly on the surface resulting in less blotching.
As for fixing your existing problem, I think your best bet is to go darker
and try to even it out with a gel stain unless you want to try your hand at
I'd like to find the person who started the urban myth that aggressive
sanding is a necessary step in removing an old finish. Probably the same
one that started the myth that staining is a mandatory step in finishing.
Thank you, Max, for your response. All good stuff.
A far as light sanding, I found that my chemical stripper left a dirty
surface behind and I needed to sand quite a bit (with a 60 grit) before
I say prestine wood. May be it doesn't need to be prestine? Or may be
I'm refinishing a piece of junk? Or did I underuse the stripper?
Thank you very much again to everyone who responded.
My guess is you needed more stripper as in second coat (really depends on
the stripper and old finish). Its also important to rinse off the stripper
before it drys with what ever the stripper recommends. I find mineral
spirits usually works. That should leave a fairly clean surface if all the
old finish has been scraped/rinsed off. 60 grit is awfully aggressive.
When I said lightly sand I was thinking 180/220 grit. Sounds like you still
had a lot of goop left on the wood if you had to go after it with 60 grit.
However, don't be dissuaded, some of the best woodworkers are self-taught
and nothing teaches better than mistakes.
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