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Filling grain on red oak

betula's picture

I have to apply varnish on red oak steps, and I would like to fill grain before. A friend told me that I simply have to add about 10% turpentine in my varnish, and wet sanding the first coat before wiping it. Is this ok? Witch grain should I use? Is there any advice from someone that could help me to avoid destroying my work?


Thank you!

keyridge's picture

(post #107380, reply #1 of 13)

We use Minwax Pre-stain Wood Conditioner on Red Oak for smoothing out the open grain. Simple to use.

nikkiwood's picture

(post #107380, reply #2 of 13)

The Minwax product is not a filler, and is really intended as a sealer for woods that tend to be blotchy when stained (which does not include red oak).

If you want an old fashioned filler intended for open grain woods (like red oak), Ben Moore has one called "Paste Wood Filler". The effect is great, but it is a lot of work for a whole set of steps. Pretty messy too.

********************************************************
"I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there."
-- Herb Caen (1916-1997)

******************************************************** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden 1910-
betula's picture

(post #107380, reply #3 of 13)

I will not stain these stairs, I will only apply varnish, so I dont need a stain conditionner. Do you think that wetsanding the first coat is a good idea?


Thanks

nikkiwood's picture

(post #107380, reply #4 of 13)

Using even a natural color paste wood filler will change the natural color of the oak -- but at least to me, the slight color change is not displeasing.

however, if I were you I would bag the notion of using the paste wood filler. Furniture maybe, but stairs.... hardly ever done, if at all.

What type of varnish do you intend to use -- water based or oil/alkyd? Your question about wet sanding will depend on that answer.

********************************************************
"I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there."
-- Herb Caen (1916-1997)

******************************************************** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden 1910-
betula's picture

(post #107380, reply #8 of 13)

It will be oil varnish.


 

nikkiwood's picture

(post #107380, reply #10 of 13)

Since an oil based varnish will not raise the grain, there is no need to wet sand first -- but that would be a good idea if you were to use some sort of waterbased finish.

Assuming this will be a polyurethane varnish, read the directions on the product you will be using, but many often use a thinned coat (maybe 25% mineral spirits or paint thinner) to get things started.

For steps (especially the treads) I would use at least 3 coats -- four would be even better.

Try to give them a week (at least) to cure before anyone goes up and down the steps with shoes. A full cure generally takes about 30 days, so easy does it that first month.

Good luck.

********************************************************
"I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there."
-- Herb Caen (1916-1997)

******************************************************** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden 1910-
MarkRD's picture

(post #107380, reply #5 of 13)

BEtula,
I'm curious, why fill the grain at all?

I did a set of stairs (red oak treads) and just put two coats of satin urethane on them... look and feel fine to bare and socked feet...

Mark


Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with chalk, cut it with an ax.

Measure it with a Micrometer,
Mark it with Chalk,
Cut it with an Ax.

Visit my woodworking blog Dust Maker
hammer1's picture

(post #107380, reply #6 of 13)

This site has some good info on paste wood fillers. I wouldn't use a paste filler on stair treads. I would never use sanding slurry as a filler.
http://www.woodcentral.com/bparticles/fillers.shtml

Beat it to fit / Paint it to match

Beat it to fit / Paint it to match

jazzdogg's picture

(post #107380, reply #7 of 13)

"I would never use sanding slurry as a filler."


Hammer,


Why not?


Whenever I finish a piece by sanding-in an oil/varnish mixture, the slurry fills the pores completely leaving a glass-smooth surface without the unsightly appearance that some manufactued pore fillers leave in their wake.


I don't always apply an sanded-in finish, nor do I always fill the pores. And yes, I do sometimes use commercially produced pore fillers - often to create contrast.


Thanks,


-Jazzdogg-


"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

-Jazzdogg-

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

hammer1's picture

(post #107380, reply #12 of 13)

We all have our finishing methods, Jazzdog. Sanding in oil and varnish isn't one of mine. I will say to the original poster, that I used to finish stairs like they were furniture back when I was younger. I almost wiped out a whole family, slipping on the treads in their stocking feet. Unless this is an extraordinary show piece, I wouldn't finish it like a table top. If it did require a show piece finish, I'd probably use a vinyl sanding sealer and a cat poly.

Polyurethane will give a nice looking, durable finish if it's applied correctly and carefully. I would lightly dry sand with a non loading 220 between coats. Cleaning the grit and dust off completely. Three coats should be plenty. The last coat can be sanded and buffed out for a smooth, satin gloss.

Stairs take a beating. Bare wood treads get scratched and worn quickly. I usually recommend a carpet runner, they are quieter, safer and last longer.

Beat it to fit / Paint it to match

Beat it to fit / Paint it to match

jazzdogg's picture

(post #107380, reply #13 of 13)

Hammer,


Thanks for the reply. I find it curious when people make absolute pronouncements without explaining why.


You're absolutely correct when you caution against treating a staircase as though it were furniture.



-Jazzdogg-


"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell


Edited 6/30/2005 12:33 am ET by jazzdogg

-Jazzdogg-

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

3fingers's picture

(post #107380, reply #9 of 13)

You would fill the grain to hide nail holes small cracks in the floor.  But also to have a smooth finish.  The over all floor would look incredibly better if you fill.  But the process would take a long time if you tried doing it like a piece of furniture.  At any flooring supplier would have a filler, you than apply with a trowel.  they can also help you with the steps in the process.


 


Highly recommend filling.  You will be very impressed with the results.


 

nikkiwood's picture

(post #107380, reply #11 of 13)

Fingers is absolutely right.

I just flat out forgot about this product. It's been a while since I did any floor finishing.

The stuff he is talking about is a waterbased product which you can trowel on -- or apply with a putty knife. It dries fast and sands very easily.

I doubt if the big box stores carry any of these products. Paint stores might if they cater to the floor finishing crowd. But maybe your best bet is to call around in the Yellow Pages for outfits like "floor finishing products" that sell to the pros. they'll know what you're talking about.

If you can't easily find it, post again. I have a gallon in the shop, and I will get the brand/info for you.

********************************************************
"I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there."
-- Herb Caen (1916-1997)

******************************************************** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden 1910-