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I'm a beginner woodworker/wood finisher…..so I made this prayer kneeler for someone, and everything was awesome, until staining, and then it got ruined. I have all of these sanding spots all over. Its only out of pine, because I didnt want to spend big bucks on it and ruin it - Being new to woodworking, this is my first BIG project…. I sanded it with an orbital sander with 80, then 120, then 220. Then I finished sanding it with 400 by hand with a sanding block. It literally felt like a baby's butt, it was so smooth! :) Unfortunately after staining it, all of these sanding spots showed up. I did put a wood conditioner on it, to stop the blotchiness. so here are my questions, feel free to answer 1, or all…thanks a lot!! I NEED A LOT OF HELP! The actually kneeler part is not shown in the pics…..

1.) are my orbital sanding techniques bad? I had the machine running before touching it to the wood..should I have it on the wood and then turn it on? How do I not get sanding marks to show up when staining?

2.) you can see the top has some sort of stripes on it….I can only assume this is from sanding…is that right? did I do something wrong there? or is it just the wood?

3.) Should i sand and stain each piece and THEN put it together? I had it all put together, then sanded it (which was tough) and then stained it (which was tougher)

4.) Is sanding pine to 400grit too much? Should I have stopped at 220?

5.) Should I just give up on woodworking???? :)

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Pine is difficult to stain as it is. If you're staining a piece, you really don't need to sand with higher than 150 grit on a random orbit sander. The finer you sand, the harder it'll be to get an even stain. I almost never sand finer than 220. And I don't own any 80 grit disks. You could actually get away with only 120 or 150 discs.

The stripes you see are probably from not sanding enough. Those ripples were probably in the wood when you bought it, you just didn't see them.

Yes, sand as much as possible before assembly. If possible, staining and finishing prior to assembly can be much easier. Really depends on the project, though.
 

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Looking at the end view it seems you left a few major swirls there, still 80 grit or so maybe.

The top looks like it still has planer knife marks on it. Pine is soft has a tendency to compress when planed so those marks are sometimes from the feed rollers comprssing the wood, then its planed, then it springs back slowly after leaving the planer so yo get those colloped faces. Wetting it a bit and letting it dry before your sanding may even some of that out.

Pine is tough stuff to stain and finish and end up with an even finish, especially darker stains. Look at it wrong and it dents or scratches. If you want to use pine you need a good Random Orbital sander and lots of patience. Get some good lights and make sure everything is sanded evenly, no scratches left from the previous grit.

I would not go past 150 on pine. Sand the non show faces the same amount as the show faces and test them with stain first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The whole thing is made out of ONE 1×12x12 pine. I only got the ripples or stripes on the top, and not on the sides. That makes me think its something I did…not the planers fault.
 

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It's so hard to tell from the picture but it doesn't look that bad!? Don't quit man that would be terrible. Pine is going to look a certain way but it kind of looks like ripples from a large planer? If so you would need to sand it with 100 or something until it gets flat. Hand planing would be nice but difficult to not get tear out in pine. It looks like you sat a little too long with the coarser grit in a couple spots on the side, where it is darker, and then didn't spend enough time to work those out with the finer grits. If you're comparing to hardwood then you're in for it. Pine will never look the same as even a crappy piece of hardwood. Personally I don't think it's ever necessary to sand to 400. It may even block some stain cause it's too slick. 220 gives a nice smooth finish and unless your using an oil finish or something that won't solidify, you usually do your real smoothing after a couple coats of whatever finish your using. Put the sander on the work while it's off. Turn the sander on while moving slowly and sand the whole area. Turn the sander off while still moving on the piece and let it slow down. It looks like your hitting the wood with it running full speed and creating those darker worn circular spots. This isn't such a huge problem in hardwoods.

I believe I see the ripples on the middle of the side too, but it's not the greatest photo so hard to tell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
correction: Looking at the kneeler more closely - there ARE ripples all over it - so maybe it is the planers fault!! Woohoo!! - its not ALL my fault :) :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
shopguryl….I actually have one of those as well…but always thought I'd should use the orbital sander because I heard they work better…..am I wrong?
 

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Most of what was said above I agree with. I have two comments- as stated above, 1. there are some swirl marks that would need to come out, and 2. there are still some serious mill marks (from the milling machine) in the wood. That's just one of them things, with wood. Also, pine (unless you're talking serious old growth) takes stain way different between the "winter" and "summer" rings. Those differences are taken out by using some sort of stain controller. McCloskey's, for example. You cannot make pine look like walnut or rosewood by simply staining, it takes a lot of "cheating". Sometime, if I get ambitious, I'll snap a photo of my bedroom set, which is pine, purchased from who-knows-where, that makes pine look almost good. 30 years ago, it was acceptable. Knowing what I know now, I just have to ignore the finish- we was po', and it was cheap.
 

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planer knives don't make circular patterns. it looks like you leaned into the sander a bit. and pine is super soft so if you ran 80 grit you could burn a hole real quick like.

and before staining a porous wood like pine you need to run a sanding sealer like zinsser's seal coat.
 

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Heavens NO don't give up woodworking, it's too much fun! There is a learning curve that you will eventually master. Personally, I do not like orbital sanders cause it leaves swirl marks, I like belted sanders that you can sand with the grain then finish with the vibrating palm sander. I can almost guarantee that there will be no swirl marks, but the belt sander does takes practice and a light touch. Good luck in the future.

Erwin
 

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Ok here's my 2 cents :) The main cause for the circular patterns when using a random orbit sander is you allow it to come up to speed before it makes contact with the wood, causing it to "dig" in. I always try to start and stop my sander while in contact with the wood.

On soft woods like pine I too agree start out with 150 and move to 220, making sure to dust off the piece between grits, so that you don't keep the 150 particles on the wood surface.

Also on soft woods, prior to staining, try either a water based, or oil based presealer, they do wonders to prevent blotchy staining.

I've also started using a hand scraper more and more to take care of some of the sanding work prior to breaking out the power sander, its amazing how well these thin pieces of metal smooth out the wood.

I wouldn't call your prayer bench a waste, call it a learning experience and sand it back down and restain it, I'm sure it will turn out looking awesome.
 

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Yup, the stripes are milling marks left from the planer ( not sanded enough). ( personally I very seldom use a "factory" milled surface on anything I build as far as "fine" furniture goes for that very reason)

Don't use any coarser sandpaper than needed to take out milling marks (on pre-milled surfaces, meaning I didn't mill the surface but used the surface it arrived with, I would normally start with 120 grit and end with 220 on pine). In the case of the planer ripple it would take a coarser grit to cut the tops off the ripple and make it flat without spending a lot of time and taking the chance of actually making divots or low areas.

As for the circular marks it looks like you either held it in one spot (possibly when you were using the coarser grit.) or on some sanders you can lock the pad and use them as a light grinder.

Keep the sander moving. I usually sand with the grain in overlapping passes - overlapping by about 1/3 the diameter of the pad, moving no faster or slower than needed to get a complete and even scratch pattern.
A raking light will help sometimes - you more than likely would have seen the ripple from the planer!
If you took Plexiglas and ran the sander on it you would easily be able to see what I mean.

Finishing before assembly is the best way sometimes depending on the project.
Do NOT give up woodworking based on this experience - you learned something that will improve your work from now on. This is a learning experience for all of us as long as we do NOT give up.
 

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well I'll give you my 2 cent first great job on the wood working end of it all, now for the finish don't give up its the hardest part of our hobby to master but it is the part of our hobby that makes or bakes a piece.

if i where in your shoes the first tool that would come to mind if i wanted to fix the finish on this piece would be my card scraper.

now i don't know weather or not you know how to use one and the learning curve can be pretty big but it would be the fastest way to clean up and would leave you with minimal sanding.

i think method's for a finish have been a addressed here very well for you level of skill, i would recommend if you are interested in any reading on the subject Bob Flexner has a great book on finishing that as far as I'm concerned is the bible of finishing.

Good luck and don't give up these little opps's are how we learn.
 

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Seems like everyform of sanding technique has been covered. I would suggest getting a cheap desklight and putting a very bright bulb in it. You can shine it down and across the wood to see any trouble spots before finishing. Also a quick wipe with mineral spirits will highlight most flaws.

Keep cutting wood. It takes 10 years or 10,000 hours to master anything, so just look at it as a learning experience.
 

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I can only offer my sanding habits and i hope they help.
I start with a pretty low grit-100 and sand until I can't FEEL any bumps/indents. I move up through EVERY grit 100,120,150,180,220 and I count the passes I make to make the same amount of passes with all grits, usually somewhere between 20-50 passes and I go every other with the grain, across the grain until I get to 180 or 220 then it's just with the grain, put the sander down, then start up, always keep the sander moving when I think I'm done feel it with my fingertips, then look at it from every angle possible, I sand before assembly but finish after assembly and squeeze out removal, I also give it a quick wipe down with mineral spirits before applying finish and let it dry completely. I HATE sanding, but I HATE even more looking at what I've done and regreting it.I hope this helps, not saying this is THE way to do it, just what I do.
 

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In my experience, stuff like that rippling usually happens when I don't take enough time with the initial coarse grit to really level out the major imperfections in the surface. Of course the flip side of that is that if you lean too hard in one place, you will create those swirl marks.

My best advice: When you think you are done with one grit, wipe the surface down with mineral spirits. This will tend to make any problems show up, and you can correct them before you move on to the next finer grit. Also, as already mentioned, 400 is probably to fine if you plan to stain. It tends to burnish the surfuce, closing the pores and blocking stain absorption.

Hang in there… this ain't bad at all.
 

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Most of your questions have been answered, but I did not see one recommendation, which would be trying a gel-stain. I started out using pine and poplar as well (up until like last month, I'm by no means a veteran) for the same reasons of price and learning and such. I've had better luck with higher quality brands like General Finish over Minwax (which has usually been on the shelf too long and can be a thick pudding consistency). It does obscure the grain a bit and give a little of a painted look, but it avoids the blotching and is much more forgiving of minor imperfections. Judge for yourself:

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/20189 - gel stain
http://lumberjocks.com/projects/19144 - oil stain

Just my 2 cents.
 

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As I recall you work or worked at menards, the wood you get there is not great, I use some of it, sometimes (mostly what they call "random Oak"), but that needs jointing and planing in order to be usable. Everything has been covered, but i wanted to reiterate one thing, inspection before staining…. Natural light is best, you can see every defect under dirirect sunlight, next best is a good halogen work light. Other than that, I like the idea of a card scraper. They are pretty cheap and do a great job, I will actually sand a little first and then finish with the scraper, it leaves a super smooth finish when it is done right. If you are going to stain a project you may want to go back to 150 or 22 after scraping, just to rough it up and get a more even looking stain. Also with Pine, you conditioned the wood, that is good, I do the same but seal it with shellac instead ( it is the same basic idea). I just made a frame for a reader board at work, it is poplar, another horrible wood for staining, to darken it I used Black dye, then sanded, red dye, sanded, then yellow dye, very light sand. Amber shellac, then red mohagany stain, then amber shellac, then 4 coats of poly, light sand and tonight I will put on one more coat of poly that has been tinned 25% with mineral spirits. Thinning the poly makes it dry faster, less dust nibs, and leaves less brush stroke marks, smoother final finish coat.
Hope this helps, and no don't give up, never give up. If this is something you enjoy, then relish in the fact that you tried, and when you fail, you can learn a great deal. Study the defects, to find the root causes then you can work on the solution.
Good Luck
 

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just to add more info:

1. Pine is hard to stain, and can be tricky at times - so you are already starting with a 'harder' situation to control.

2. when you sand it to 400 - you are actually sanding too much - this in turn closes the pores at the surface. then when you stain - since you have a lot of oversanded-closed pores -they dont take the stain very well, and dont take the stain evenly.

I know the feeling of sanding wood to 400-600 it is awesomly smooth. but what you really want to be that smooth - is the finish. not the wood itself.

sand up to 220 - stain, finish, then sand your finish coats 400+
 
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