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Long story short, I built a book case out of birch plywood and some home depot molding. I stained it with General Finishes water based stain. It was a nice, rich color of rosewood. Then I made the critical error of using Minwax water based wipe on poly. It picked up the stain and moved it, what was a nice uniform stain is now a blotchy mess. The poly, which was supposed to easily wipe on with a soft piece of cloth, quickly became a mess. "No rag marks or drips" my rear end!

What kind of topcoat should I use over water based stain? I am guessing here; but should I use an oil based topcoat if i use a water based stain? I don't see a quick way to fix this, I think I am going to have to refinish the side that I destroyed. I am really bummed because this project was going so nicely.

I even posted pictures of it on facebook before the finishing disaster.

Thanks for any insight,
Nate
 

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Nate, using an oil base topcoat over the stain will work. Give the stain time to cure and then apply a seal coat of an oil base wipe on poly. After this cures you can either continue with the oil base poly or use the General Finishes poly.

Stain lift-off, such as you are describing, is fairly common. That is why I generally suggest using a seal coat of shellac when topcoating with an oil base poly over an oil base stain application. You could use shellac as a seal coat in this case but I would highly recommend spraying it on since the water base stain will dissolve in the alcohol base of the shellac solution. Putting a seal coat of wipe on oil base poly would be the better approach.
 
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