Kitchen Cabinet Refacing: Getting An Even Stain

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Forum topic by boston_guy posted 04-09-2013 08:55 PM 4041 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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160 posts in 2601 days

04-09-2013 08:55 PM

I’m still at my kitchen cabinet refacing project.

To recap, I’m refacing 6 oak cabinets which I bought used.

I have already sanded the cabinet fronts which are real wood.

I bought red oak veneer which I attached to the cabinet sides with Weldwood contact cement, as I was advised by someone. It worked out really well.

I bought General Finishes Candlelight Gel Stain which you apply with a cloth.

I have stained 4 cabinets and they look great.

However, the 5th cabinet has been a major struggle. I just can’t seem to get the stain to go on evenly. There are spots that just insist on remaining light. I have stripped the stain like 4 times and started over again, only to get the same result. Someone told me that such spots are caused be left-over contact cement or even sweat drops (I sweat quite a bit). As a result, I was advised to get lacquer thinner because it’s a solvent for contact cement. I bought it today and cleaned the veneer with it. I got some improvement. But as you can see from the photo above, I still have a problem. Or do I? You tell me.

If you feel that I have a problem with how the stain looks, what can I do to correct it? I really want to get done with this project. Any feedback will be highly appreciated!

17 replies so far

View Kwit's profile


104 posts in 2410 days

#1 posted 04-10-2013 12:13 AM

I wouldn’t sweat it too much

looks good from the photo – I feel all that additional time to re-sand/stain/ etc is better spent in the rest of the project

-- don't talk about it - be about it

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160 posts in 2601 days

#2 posted 04-10-2013 03:11 AM

After I posted, I ran into a cabinet maker. He told me that what I need to do is gently sand out the stain without going through the veneer. Then apply a clear shallac. Let it dry. Then apply the stain. He said that he has used this method when he’s had my problem. The shellac enables the stain to go on evenly.

The only uncertainty is that he has not tried his method with oak yet. But he’s tried it with other woods and it’s worked.

Has anyone ever tried this method?

View Bill7255's profile


428 posts in 2736 days

#3 posted 04-10-2013 10:38 AM

I have done this with maple and cherry. Make sure you get dewaxed shellac Zinsser brand. I have not tried it using gel stain. The botching is caused by the wood not absorbing the stain evenly. The shellac helps in this situation.

-- Bill R

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160 posts in 2601 days

#4 posted 04-10-2013 08:03 PM

My problem has been fixed. I went to my local paint store (not Home Depot!) which has been in existence for many years and the manager is very knowledgeable. I explained to him my problem and asked for Zinsser dewaxed shellac. He showed me a can of it. He said he had heard of people using it. But he recommended Minwax Pre-stained Wood Conditioner. I decided to go with his suggestion since he had never steered me wrong (no offense, Bill R).

I came home and removed the stain on the cabinet that I did yesterday. I used 150 grit with an electric palm sander. I went really gentle so as to not go through the veneer (I’ve done this before). Whatever I couldn’t remove with the sander I did by hand with a block sander.

After almost all the stain was off, I cleaned the surface with mineral spirits.

I then applied the pre-stain conditioner. After 15 minutes I put on the stain.

I could not believe the difference. It worked like a charm!

I was so pleased with the result that I removed the stain on another cabinet that was in much better condition than the one I just did. I’ll apply the conditioner tomorrow then re-stain it.

Above is a photo of the cabinet I did today after I removed the stain. Then there’s the photo of the cabinet after I applied the pre-stain conditioner and re-stained it.

I never thought to get staining advice from my local paint store. I figured that staining and painting were two very different and disconnected worlds. That was a mistake.

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160 posts in 2601 days

#5 posted 05-08-2013 06:23 AM

As some of you know, I have been refacing 6 kitchen cabinets which I bought used on Craigslist.

This project has taken much longer than I imagined.

I am now done with the staining. Getting 6 cabinets to look the same, after staining, is no easy task.

I now want to put on 3 coats of satin polyurethane. I’m using an oil based poly and applying it with a cloth.

However, I need to sand in between poly coats. After putting on some poly on the first cabinet, I tried to sand it with 320 grit. But guess what? I sanded too hard and removed some stain. This was a major bummer since I had to sand down all the stain and stain it again.

I guess if you’re sanding in between coats of polyurethane you have to do it really lightly?

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160 posts in 2601 days

#6 posted 12-27-2013 05:13 PM

Now that the busiest season (Sept to Dec) at my job is over, I’m returning to my kitchen cabinet refacing project.

I ordered new red oak cabinet doors (with hinge cups), new dovetail Baltic plywood drawer boxes, new red oak drawer boxes, new KV soft-closing drawer guides and new Blum compact 38N hinges.

My greatest fear is mounting the drawer guides and the drawer fronts. Have googled liked hell.

Have just finished assembling the drawer boxes (basically gluing the dovetails onto the dovetail pockets). Used Titebond Translucent Wood Glue.

My question is this: Is there a preferred order of doing things? In other words, should I install the doors first, then the guides and drawer boxes, then the drawer fronts?

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5642 posts in 2945 days

#7 posted 12-27-2013 07:28 PM

Well, I’d put the drawer glides in first. You will appreciate having complete access inside the cabinet to do that. It doesn’t seem to matter what comes next, but maybe do the drawers; then the drawer fronts, take them out and install the doors.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View boston_guy's profile


160 posts in 2601 days

#8 posted 12-31-2013 07:57 PM

Hi Fred Hargis,

Thanks for your response. However, drawer glides and drawer fronts really scare me so I’ve left them for last.

Did the upper cabinet doors yesterday. Did the base cabinet doors today. The total number of doors were 9. It surprisingly went really smooth.

Now, Fred, I can start to worry about drawer guides.

After the guides and drawer fronts, something else is worrying me. Staining my cabinet doors is going to be quite tricky because the stiles or rails grain run in different directions (see photo below). I just remember how difficult it was to stain the wood veneer on the cabinet sides. I wonder if there’s a trick to staining in a situation where the grain direction is varied within a single door. Any tips will be highly appreciated!

View Ross's profile


142 posts in 2424 days

#9 posted 01-01-2014 03:01 PM

Apply the stain with circular motion. This should minimize or even eliminate any overlapping problem. I have also thinned the gel stain just enough to spray it on then wipe it down using circular motion.
Hope this helps.

-- "Man Plans and God Laughs"

View Spain412's profile


5 posts in 2060 days

#10 posted 01-01-2014 06:02 PM

The WoodWhisperer on youtube has a very detailed explanation of some staining methods. I know you sorted your issue, but for future reference, his explanations may help. He recommends using shellac and cutting it with alcohol so that it doesn’t block all of the absorption. A lot of the cabinet makers and woodworkers who do projects on a large scale use this method because shellac serves multiple purposes and it not a single-use product like a wood conditioner. For the average DIY though I would recommend the wood conditioner because the shellac blocks some stain absorption and you don’t necessarily end up with the intended color. It is a learned and improved process that comes from lots of experience, so I wouldn’t gamble on it for a stand-alone project.

I would also go with the circular method for the doors.

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160 posts in 2601 days

#11 posted 01-02-2014 02:12 AM

Ross & Spain412,

Thank you very much for your tips. I never knew you could stain in a circular motion. Though I’m not yet at the staining period, I take your suggestion very seriously because I recall all too well how tough it was to get a clean, even look on the cabinet sides. I’ll first try this circular staining on a piece of wood, just to get a feel. Thanks for also letting me know about the shellac. If I ever have a large project in the future I’ll consider it.

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160 posts in 2601 days

#12 posted 01-03-2014 01:37 AM

I have just finished installing the first KV side-mounted soft-closing drawer guides onto the cabinet.

However, I have those metal elbows. They are 1” in each direction. If you look at the photo below you’ll see that I installed the guides right above them.

Has anyone ever installed these exact guides? If so, how do you determine where to place the part of the guide that goes onto the drawer box?

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160 posts in 2601 days

#13 posted 01-18-2014 08:19 PM

I have finished installing 4 of my 6 KV side-mounted soft-closing drawer guides. However, the last 2 have been a pain in the butt! They go in the cabinet pictured below. I followed the instructions from the place where I ordered them online. In other words, the drawer opening on the cabinet is 13 6/16” wide by 5” high. But when I ordered a drawer box I gave the measurements as 12 5/16 wide by 4” high, instead of 12 6/16 wide by 5”. Could this be the problem?

These 2 drawer boxes were always a very tight fit. But with a lot of finessing, I was able to get the guides on the drawer boxes and cabinet to work. Then I removed the rear brackets from the cabinet so that I could seal and paint over the wrong screw holes that I had drilled before I was able to determine the right fit.

However, after I screwed the rear mounting brackets back, I was never able to get the guides to work. First, I am able to move the drawer boxes with relative ease until they are 3/4 in. Then they get quite tight and will not self-close. For 3 days I have tried adjusting anything that I could (rear mounting brackets and the glides on the drawer boxes). But no luck. Now I’m thinking of sanding the drawer box sides.

Does anyone have any tips? If sanding is the only alternative, what grit sandpaper should I start with?

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160 posts in 2601 days

#14 posted 01-20-2014 03:20 AM

Since the cabinet does not have a center wall, someone suggested that I cut a piece of stick to a size that is snug between the front brackets. Then use this stick to ensure that the gap between the rear brackets is the same as the one between the front ones.

I did this with one of the two drawer boxes and made the adjustments. Sure enough the drawer box now moves much more easily. However, it’s not self-closing when it gets near the end, as it’s supposed to do.

I have measured and re-measured the gap between the slides at the front and gap between the slides in the back. They are now the same.

I have tried adjusting the 2 slides on the drawer box within the 2 vertically elongated holes on each side of the box. But the problem remains.

I’m thinking maybe I need to drill new holes on the drawer box. This is the only thing I can think of doing. But I’m not sure whether the new holes should be higher or lower than the present ones.

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160 posts in 2601 days

#15 posted 01-21-2014 11:33 PM

Progress so far:

Just for the heck of it, I called the KV (company that makes the drawer guides) customer service number. The guy I got was very pleasant. He asked me to look at the latch. Through his description on the phone, he was able to help me realize what he meant by the latch (the orange and blue thing at the back of the slides).

By comparing the latch on the cabinet with the ones of another cabinet that works, I was able to notice something. The latches on the “bad” cabinet were not on the “normal” position. So I pulled them manually and the blue thing caught the teeth of the round orange thing. Then I did some adjustments with the rear brackets. Now the drawer box is running much smoother. Most importantly, when it gets to the click sound, when it’s supposed to self-close, I have to push the drawer just past the face frame before it can self-close. With the “good” cabinet, once I hear the click sound the drawer self-closes.

So I haven’t totally solved the problem but getting there. I wonder whether there’s a trick from this point on.

I should also mention that the KV guy e-mailed me a 4-page troubleshooting guide for the soft-close slides. I’ve gone through most of it but the part about checking to see whether the slides are “toed” is hard for me to understand.

Anyway, I’m including photos.

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