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Blotchy Red Oak Stain

Brian74's picture

I sanded and restained some red oak trim on my stairs.  I used some stain and then one coat of poly, clear satin, both wiped on.  I followed all the directions from the manufacturer.  After the one coat of poly, it looked great and I thought why mess up a good thing, I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead.  A week later I noticed that the finish looks a bit blothcy when the light hits it.  It's only noticeable when I walk down the steps and the light hits it at an angle.  Otherwise it looks great.  It's not the color that looks blotchy, it just looks shiny in some spots and dull in others.  Can I fix this?  I'm very new to woodworking, and I'm hesitant to move forward on some other projects if I can't get this right.  I did a test piece, but that was from a fresh piece of red oak I bought at the lumber yard, and the piece I need to fix was a refinishing job.  The test piece looks great.  Any ideas would be very, very welcome. 

DonStephan's picture

If the piece was previously (post #159711, reply #1 of 3)

If the piece was previously finished, one possibility is that your sanding removed more of the previous finish in some areas than in others.  On raw wood, I would expect a wipe on finish to be partially absorbed into the wood, so that very little remained on top; of the wood.  As more coats are applied, a layer starts to accumulate on top of the wood and develops a higher sheen.

Was the piece previously finished, and if so how did you remove that finish?  Was your stain a simple pigment-in-oil stain like Minwax, a wipe on gel stain, or something else?  If you add more coats to one end of your test piece, does it start to develop a stronger shine like you are finding objectionable on the stair trim?

Brian74's picture

Thanks for the suggestions (post #159711, reply #3 of 3)

Hey, Don and Steve, thanks for weighing in.  It is a Minwax stain and it was previously finished.  I removed it by sanding it, following some guidelines I found on the Internet.  I added another coat of poly to my test piece and it does have more of a shine and is far more even.  I like the shine, I just want it to be more even.   It's more shiny in some places than others.   I think I may take the advice of Steve and add more coats of poly, testing it first on my scrap piece.  Appreciate the advice!

SteveSchoene's picture

Can you fix this. Sure, just (post #159711, reply #2 of 3)

Can you fix this. Sure, just give it several more coats of the polyurethane varnish.  Sand between each coat with 320 grit paper to give the fresh coat a place to bite into--especially on the glossy parts.  Even on bare wood, one varnish coat isn't likely to give full coverage, especially if the varnish is thin enough for wiping.  If this specifically a wiping varnish, then it takes about three wiped on coats to be equivalent to one coat of "full strength" varnish brushed on.  For stairs I'd want at least 6 wiped on coats, and 9 wouldn't be excessive.  Using just a couple of coats of wiping varnish will leave you doing this job over sooner than you want.  

In general, stripping is a better way of removing old finish, particularly if you plan to stain.  Otherwise it would takie extensive sanding to get all the old finish off evenly.  That's hard to do on stairs if you have to work around balusters.

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.