Trouble Finishing a Table Top

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Forum topic by Jeff_R posted 11-26-2021 11:50 PM 406 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 181 days

11-26-2021 11:50 PM

Hi all. Hope someone can help me. I have built a Stickley #622 dining room table (or at least the top is done) from quarter sawn white oak. Bit modified from specs as I added breadboard ends. I finished the glue up and sanding. Everything was going great until I put the stain on it. Unfortunately, the idiot (i.e., me) that did the finish sanding neglected to do a good job of checking the surface before applying stain (General Finishes oil based). I had some of the little swirls from the random orbital sanders. Not happy with how it came out, I proceeded to sand the entire finish off.

Once the finish was removed and surface was completely re-sanded, I applied the finish again. This time the finish ended up blotchy. I figured that I did not do a good enough job removing the first coat of stain and proceeded to re-sand off the second application. Got that done and re-applied the stain again and still blotchy. Did it all over again for a third time and made sure I sanded it thoroughly but the end result was the same.

Never had this problem with white oak before. Any advice? I have thought about changing over to a gel stain or maybe using a finish striper to remove the stain. I’m at a loss on this thing. If I did not so much time (and money) into it, I would throw it on the burn pile.


5 replies so far

View OSU55's profile


2945 posts in 3331 days

#1 posted 11-27-2021 12:20 AM

Just wondering if the 1st stain job was blotchy and you didnt notice due to the swirls? One of the reasons I use dye is it doesnt show defects as badly as pigment stain – the pigment collects in any itty bitty scratch. I’m assuming you are using box store stain with dye and pigment combination. Have you used this same brand and color of stain on white oak before? Even if you have its still a good idea to test on scrap with new batch of wood.

Typically white oak isnt too bad about blotching but Ive had it happen. How much is too much is personal taste. This blog describes it and how to deal with it. Good luck!

View Aj2's profile


4234 posts in 3140 days

#2 posted 11-27-2021 01:27 AM

I’m definitely not a expert on stains. I did have the desire to learn once and soon found my shop storage looking like a hazardous waste site.
Here’s something I learned some woods are blotchy and need to be approached differently. Conditioners? Once a stain or pre conditioner is applied it goes far down into the pores. When this happens the pore is closed out. And will not accept stain like the first time.
The good news with finishing in our shops is shop lites are very unforgiving. What might look terrible in your shop just might be great in a house with normal lites.
If the table sees raking light in the morning all bets are off. Every tiny scratch will be revealed.
I leave stains to those with the commercial experience or lots of kids.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View bilyo's profile


1466 posts in 2444 days

#3 posted 11-27-2021 07:32 PM

You don’t say what grits of sanding medium you used, but I’ll make two points: First, sand through 220 grit and be sure to thoroughly clean the surface when you change grits. Particularly with open grain wood like oak, grits from the previous sanding can be left behind and cause swirls that you don’t expect. Second, do the last sanding by hand stroking with the grain. This will better remove any swirls that the previous sanding left.

I have not experienced blotching problems with oak and I wonder if your problem has to do with the previous finish applications of stain. Can’t say for sure. However, I have had good results with Transtint dye applied with water dilution. I use water dilution because it distributes more evenly than alcohol when applied by hand and I don’t like setting up the spray equipment just for this. If you are inclined to try this, test the surface first by brushing on some water and see if you get even absorption. If you do, then dye may solve your blotching problem. BTW, you may want to use distilled water. Since you are working with oak, some minerals in the water, particularly iron, may react with tannin in the wood and create unwanted stains.

View Jeff_R's profile


4 posts in 181 days

#4 posted 11-28-2021 09:19 PM

Hey everyone. Thank you for the insights. Helpful. I was able to sand the entire top down and re-ply the stain. Not perfect but a lot better. I ended up aggressively sanding with 60 grit first then moving to 80, 100, 120 and 150. Finished up with hand sanding. Thanks again!

View Aj2's profile


4234 posts in 3140 days

#5 posted 11-28-2021 09:36 PM

Endeavor to persevere the American sprit alive and well ! Thanks for update Jeff.
Good Luck always

-- Aj

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