When staining wood, how many coats are normal? Do some stain and nothing
more or do some lacquer over it? I understand it will probably depend on
several variables such as stain color, stain type, sanding prep (final
grit) and wood but is there a general rule for staining?
I'm encountering an slight concern after staining cedar with two coats
though I'm uncertain if it's normal. When viewing the wood directly, it
looks fine. When I lay it down and view it with light reflection, I can
see some shiny spots and dull spots, which I simply think it's just the
way the stain absorbed into the wood based on it's texture/grain. I'm
trying to determine if I should add another coat or lacquer over it and
What say the experts?
To date there are 1,233,367 correct answers and as many incorrect answers.
The most common of stains require one coat and multiple coats of clear
to protect the finish.
Some stains have a finish built in. That sounds like what you might be
using. Minwax by any chance? The trouble with a built in
finish/varnish is that you are essentially staining wood and then
staining varnish with each successive coat. The trouble also is that
while you might not want to go any darker with successive coats the
surface may not be properly protected, this is often visible by the
appearance of shinny and dull spots.
For best results, read the directions on the can.
If you don't like the results, try another brand. Not all stains and
varnishes are created equal and you absolutely will get different results.
A few rules to consider.
1. Don't scrimp on the finish. The quality of the stain/finish can
make a great looking project look terrible. This is no time to start
trying to save a few dollars.
2. Don't try a, new to you, product on your project piece, always
practice on scraps of the same wood. It is much better to change brands
before apply to your project if you don't like the results.
I don't have a problem paying for a good product. I just need to learn
what they are.
On scraps of the same wood, it looks good, but with a small piece, it's
difficult to grasp the color as a whole or to discover the shiny and
I understand I'll need to practice with varying techniques and products,
I'm hoping some tips would help me avoid minor catastrophes.
You just need "bigger" small pieces! I bought Jeff Jewitt's book on
finishing based upon it's excellent reputation (you might like it?) and
opportune pricing, but haven't really started it.
It's great to learn a bit about finishing/woodworking here today. It
appears many are away from their computers this week.
Well from me, anything but Minwax. I have never had any good
experiences with it. Now that I have said that, others have had stellar
results with the product. It may be that I expect much more from a product.
Brand recommendations and top on my list is Old Masters gel varnish. I
understand that their gel varnishes are top shelf however I have not yet
used their stains yet.
Next down on my list is General Finishes. I have used their stains for
many years and recently have been using their water based dyes. FWIW I
would advise going with oil based over water based any time you have the
With any gel stain or varnish, read the directions. But specifically
with Old Masters gel "varnishes" apply one to two square feet at a time
and IMMEDIATELY wipe that area down with a new clean lent free cloth to
remove the excess, you might use 2~3 of the initial wiping clothes
during an application. I wipe quickly enough that I get away using
Scott Blue shop paper towels.
Now this is key, after wiping the excess off, wipe it again lightly with
a different clean cloth. 2~3 coats will normally be necessary to get an
Alternatively if you want to build a heavier thicker coat more quickly,
I use General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil based varnish. I apply the first
coat with a rag as indicated on the directions.
I apply the second coat with, now this is key, A "Wooster" brand foam
brush. DO NOT USE a cheap inexpensive foam brush!. I find these
Wooster brand brushes at Home Depot.
I buy General Finishes at my local Woodcraft and Rockler stores.
I buy Old Masters gel varnish by the case from my local paint Store.
;~) Use a bigger scrap.
Shiny and dull is part of the process of applying a clear finish. With
a stain mixed in the finish tends to get darker as you apply more coats.
Gel Finishes tend to be extremely easy to use providing you IMMEDIATELY
remove the excess as indicated in the directions. Typically you do not
need to sand between coats.
One of the advantages claimed for gel finishes is that they blotch less.
I tried out one of the General ones shortly after they came out. A good
finish, but it blotched just as much as the liquid ones.
I still like a dye followed by a clear coat (usually Tried&True) or a dye
mixed in with dewaxed shellac (SealCoat).
This message was for rec.woodworking - if it appears in homeownershub
they ripped it off.
I started appreciating the gel when I had to do my slider replacement.
The wood is yellow pine. I do have splotching, but it's a minimum, and
looks quite acceptable since it didn't run rampant. I blame myself for
rubbing it in.
I have since started using it in other finishing projects, and can say
it works well.
I have never been a fan of General Finishes "Gel Anything"
I have not used the General Finishes gel stains, only their gel varnish,
and it was pretty sad IMHO.
My past favorites were Bartelys, Lawrence McFadden, and Verathane gel
Lately I have not been staining unless absolutely necessary and IIRC
have only used General Finishes Dye stain Which got the job done but I
was not impressed with the way it raised the grain.
I prefer the General Finishes liquid oil stains and finishes.
+1 for the dewaxed shellac and dye. Personally I have used SealCoat and
TransTint with decent effect. Rigorous testing is a must. Take notes.
Label everything. Buy a decent eyedropper to make matching colors
from one batch to the next a bit more likely. You can then add
protective coatings (or not) to taste and the environment the piece will
live in. Have fun.
On Tuesday, December 31, 2013 9:42:28 AM UTC-6, Leon wrote:
LOL (laughing with/at Leon's answer). How about let's just concentrate on
the issue you are now having.
view it with light reflection, I can > see some shiny spots and dull spots,
which I simply think it's just the > way the stain absorbed into the wood
based on it's texture/grain.
esults, try another brand. Not all stains and varnishes are created equal a
nd you absolutely will get different results.
Stain, not a dye: Some/most instructions state to wipe off the excess. We
may comprehend "wiping" differently. Often times, I wipe and rub hard, to
absolutely get all the obvious wetness off the surface. Even very little
or slight wetness/"puddling" (thicker in some spots, because of non-uniform
wiping off of the excess) can result in the results you describe, hence, o
ne cause of those results.
For our better understanding, what stain did you use, what was your applica
tion technique, and what type of wood?
Appearance is subjective. Normally, one coat is right, but some woods
don't absorb the stain evenly. In that case, you either like the blotch
or you use a pre-stain (mineral spirits will do) to help even it out.
I think you are right about the shiny versus dull spots. If you like
the overall appearance, let it dry and top coat it. If you don't like
it, go back and wipe some stain on the lighter parts.
There are entire books dedicated to finishing written by people far more
knowledgeable than me. You may want to check them out at some point.
When I stain, I usually use General Finishes' water-based stains, then
finish with spraying a topcoat of their pre-cat poly.
I apply the stain by hand, with as many coats as needed to get the
color I want. Typically 2 or 3, but as many as 5 or 6.
However, there is no finish in the stain...
I've built several projects with cedar and usually just put an oil based
poly on the bare wood. I think cedar looks great with no stain.
However, most of the projects I build are made with pine or poplar that I
get from the home center. Stain is a necessity with these, but they're
also very prone to splotching. I'm sure everyone has their own favorite
brands and techniques, but here's mine:
1. Sand the bare wood to 150 or 180 grit. I've tried sanding to finer
grits, but didn't see any signficant difference in the final product.
Then use a shop vac with a dust brush attachment to remove all dust.
2. Apply a "pre-conditioner" to the wood. I use the regular Min-Wax
version you can find at any home center. The preconditioner helps seal
the wood and really helps reduce blotching with soft woods like pine and
poplar. There's nothing finicky about this step, I just grab a paper
towel and wipe it on. If there's any excess, I wipe it off with a paper
3. Apply the stain within an hour or two of applying the conditioner.
Gel-stains blotch less than oil stains, but I've used both with good
results. I like the General Finishes gel stains, but they can be a bit
pricey. Ordinary Min-Wax oil stains work OK too. I like to use stain
applicators that you can find in the paint section at the home center.
Basically it's a sponge covered with a soft cloth. I find it helps even
out the stain application. Oh, and I always wear blue nitrile gloves when
staining so I don't end up with stained fingers. :)
4. Let the stain dry over night, then apply your first coat of
polyurethane. I've been using General Finishes oil based polyurethanes
recently, but can't say the results have been significantly different
than the Min-Wax versions.
5. Let the first coat of poly dry overnight, then sand lightly with 220
grit. Don't get crazy and sand through to the stain, you're just trying
to knock off all the little dust nibs that settle in the finish. The
clear finish will usually look dull and white after sanding. Then use the
shop vac brush to clean up any dust on the surface.
6. Apply a second coat of poly. Let it dry overnight, then lightly sand
with 220 grit again. Shop vac the dust again.
7. Apply a third coat of poly. Let it dry overnight before handling.
I normally use oil based polyurethanes. However, they have a strong odor
and dry slowly (more dust gets trapped in the finish). Sometimes the oil
based poly tends to act as a solvent and picks up some of the stain.
Also, projects that I have finished with oil based poly can have a strong
smell for a couple weeks. This is more noticeable with projects that are
closed up like drawers and cabinets.
I am currently trying the water based Min-Wax brand polyurethane, over
the General Finish gel stain. So far I've been rather impressed. It
brushes on nicely, has virtually no odor, and dries quickly. I didn't
notice any of the stain being pulled up like the oil based poly does, and
there's practically no dust nibs in the finish since it dries so fast.
Otherwise, I'm using the same three coat method I normally use. The water
based poly is more "clear" than the slight amber color of the oil based
poly. This isn't much of an issue on stained wood, but could be a factor
if applied to bare wood. I don't have enough experience with the water
based poly to know how it will hold up long term.
By the way, avoid those stain and poly in one mixes. I had horrible
results with those. They go on streaky and additional coats just make it
On Thursday, January 2, 2014 8:30:31 AM UTC-6, HerHusband wrote:
At this point you should advise those that are seeking advice to read the d
irections on their <specific> brand of poly for its application. Generic i
nstructions won't serve well for all brands of poly. Some have recoat time
s of 12 hours, some 8, and some are as little as 2 to 4.
Failure to follow the specific instructions of the manufacturer can lead to
lack of adhesion, witness lines and a list of other problems.
See above for recoat times.
See above for application timing.
Read those instructions! I do a fair amount of finishing professionally th
rough my contracting company and I have never found it wise to work outside
the parameters and instructive directions given by the manufacturer.
With Minwax oil poly, Minwax specifically says a 2 hr recoat:
For Minwax waterborne poly, Minwax states 2 hr recoat as well:
These are a world apart from the oil based GF finishes you reference. And
when discussing waterborne finishes, overnight is simply too long. Take a
look at the Varathane site which also says 2 hrs. to recoat:
Sherwin Williams waterborne poly is a ONE hr recoat:
You get the idea. Many other manufacturers have their own times for recoat
s and their application. One should completely familiarize themselves with
the product they are using before they apply it to their prized wood worki
ng project. Giving advice in an off handed way can ruin projects for the f
olks that read these messages and follow their instructions...
True, but my own time constraints limit me to one coat each day. So
faster recoat times are never an issue for me. The only exception is if
it is really cold, in which case I might need to let the finish dry
I haven't used Varathane poly, but I took a look:
"Allow finish to dry minimum of 2 hours before recoating. Lower
temperatures and/or higher humidity may cause slower dry times. Re-coat
only when previous coats have dried clear and feel hard. (Should no
longer feel tacky to the touch.) A powder should develop when lightly
sanded. If any coat has dried more than 24 hours, lightly sand before re-
coating to avoid brush marks."
That's no different than any other poly I have used, other than I "can"
recoat after two hours if I wish. I always wait 24 hours and sand
between coats anyway, nothing unusual there.
Agreed, that seems like a given. Still, I was simply describing "my"
method of applying finish. It's certainly not the best or only way to do
it, but it works well for me.
And remember to wear these, safety glasses. :)
I skimmed through the posts pretty quickly, but I don't think anyone mentio
ned Watco. It's my go-to stain. Wipe it on heavy so it soaks in, wait the
directed amount of time and wipe off the excess. Recoat in about 30 minut
es. Give it 24 hours to cure and top off with your choice of oil-based top
On Tuesday, December 31, 2013 8:58:47 AM UTC-6, SBH wrote:
Leon, got a question about your gel finishes advice.
When you say to immediately remove the excess finishes, as in a table
top, are you saying to remove just the section you've just applied the
finish to? Or, are you saying to cover the whole table top and then
remove the excess.
Hope I've made my question understandable... I'd guess that much of
your advise depends on the size of the wood surface that one would be
On 6/29/2014 9:47 AM, email@example.com wrote:
Depends upon how big the table top is (and also the temperature and
humidity), but IME with gel stains it is best to do a small area, say an
area no larger than couple of square feet, wipe that down immediately,
then overlap to next same size area.
As your wiping rag gets impregnated a bit, you may be able to stretch
that somewhat, before you change to a new rag, but then it's back to the
smaller area with a new wipe down rag.
As always, YMMV.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.