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Staining softwood

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Markp75

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I’ve just built a solid vinyl shelf out of redwood..I’ve done quite a few of these as they seem quite popular. The problem I keep coming up against however, is random blotches appearing when staining. I’ve been using two methods: after thorough, careful sanding/cleaning, on some pieces I wipe on two coats of rustins wood dye and then finish with danish oil. The 2nd method is fiddes hard wax oil (I’m using this on the current project). The blotches appear in both cases and look pretty unattractive.
Any ideas how I can prevent this?I live in the UK and can’t, for the life of me, find any wood conditioner...I’ve read a bit about the minwax stuff. Is there a UK alternative brand I can use?
 

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Trevanion

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I think all that “wood conditioner” stuff is just sanding sealer thinned down to the point where it’s mostly methylated spirits.
 

Markp75

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Thanks for the reply...yeah it does seem strange that there isn’t anything marketed as wood conditioner here.
So would you recommend wiping down with meths before applying the hard wax oil?
 

Phil Pascoe

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Are you dying the wood or are you just using a coloured finish? I found when using softwood it is better to dye the wood and use a coloured finish. It tends to be a little less blotchy, and if you scratch it in any way it doessn't show so badly if there is colour behind the finish coat(s).
 

Markp75

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I’m using fiddes HardWax oil and was planning on applying it straight onto the bare wood. When I use danish oil, I do dye the wood first and have the same problems in terms of the blotches. They remain apparent after the 4-5 coats of oil...so frustrating!
 

Markp75

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phil.p":320ldo2r said:
Are you dying the wood or are you just using a coloured finish?.
The hard wax oil is tinted...walnut, fairly dark so I’m hoping the blotches might not be so bad. I’ve tested on some scrap, but these were quite small pieces so it’s hard to tell how things will look over a larger area.
 

AndyT

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Redwood doesn't take dye well, as you have found. I think that's why UK manufacturers sell coloured finishes to change the colour and give protection in one go, with the colour in the varnish/oil. Of course, the labelling gives no indication of what you are actually getting in the tin and can call it a dye or a stain or anything else.

Like Phil says, some dye underneath won't hurt.

Bob Flexner, who wrote the book on wood finishing (but wrote it around US products we don't have) suggests another approach - use stain but spray it on and don't wipe off the surplus. Might work if you have spraying kit.

https://www.popularwoodworking.com/fini ... blotching/
 

thetyreman

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a solution would be to use a sanding sealer like de-waxed shellac and sand it back before applying the stain, that should help it look more even and less blotchy,

have you considered using stained wax? sometimes it can look ok, but I'm not a fan of dark wax on a rough textured surface.
 

Markp75

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Thanks for the advice guys...the stained wax sounds like an option, I’m going to look into this for the next project.
So I’ve started on the bottom of the unit tonight. I basically wiped it down with meths and then applied a thin coat of the wax oil. I let it soak in for 5 mins then carefully wiped off the excess. It doesn’t look to bad so I’m hoping this might have done the trick. I’ll see how it looks after a couple more coats and then reassess. Sometimes i reckon I overthink this stuff!
 

ED65

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Markp75":1jwm62yn said:
I live in the UK and can’t, for the life of me, find any wood conditioner...I’ve read a bit about the minwax stuff. Is there a UK alternative brand I can use?
I wouldn't bother looking any further for the Minwax stuff, or any other product sold for this purpose. Particularly for pine, but actually for anything really. Wood conditioner and other products made for the purpose are nothing more than very dilute finishes. The makers don't want us to know this because guess what? You can instead just use very dilute finish! No prizes for guessing which is cheaper :D

In the past this same job was routinely done by sizing using watery glue. Then later on either by sizing or by using a spitcoat or washcoat of shellac; as the names suggest these are just dilute mixes of shellac.

Markp75":1jwm62yn said:
Any ideas how I can prevent this?
Don't do anything that effectively amounts to conventional staining, i.e. using a colouring product that soaks into the wood. The blotching in pine tends to be so bad that any prior preparation to prevent it tends to be varying degrees of ineffective, plus by partially sealing the wood it limits how much stain it can actually absorb, greatly reducing how dark you can go.

If you want smooth, even colouring and especially if you want to go quite dark (darker than the natural colour of the denser latewood) you need to use a coloured overcoat, and the best of those is probably a gel stain. As Bob Flexner puts it:
Gel stain is so effective at preventing blotching it might as well be called "pine stain".
If you can't get gel stain easily then start with one coat of clear finish (which can be shellac for speed if you like), then begin adding the coloured varnish.

BTW no approach is ideal post-assembly on shelves like this, this is a job that cries out to be done by prefinishing as much as possible.
 
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I've had this exact problem and didn't really find a solution. My best results were with tinted danish oil, I used the Colron one. It's quite thick, so doesn't soak in so much. https://www.wood-finishes-direct.com/pr ... danish-oil

Spraying very light coats of a finish seems to be an option, but I don't have sprayer, so haven't tried that.

I wouldn't recommend the conditioner. I used shellac sanding sealer thinned down (about 1/3rd), and although it does stop the blotching, anything you put on top of it then looks very plasticy, and of course much lighter even with several coats. The end result is worse than the blotching in my opinion. That is unless you light the plasticy look.
 
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