Polyshades yuck, what now?

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Forum topic by Tammy80 posted 08-01-2014 09:55 PM 6219 views 0 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 1905 days

08-01-2014 09:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing

So this being my first wood ‘staining’ project, I should not have looked to the kid in the stain department at one of the ‘big box’ stores for guidance. Ah ha, lesson that I should have already known.. learned! Now I am hoping that someone who really DOES know can help me with the mess I have gotten myself into. (Sigh!)

I purchased a couple of the inexpensive interior doors (I don’t know what wood they are but I”m sure someone here will) and went with Minwax Polyshades because to a beginner it seemed to make sense to do something in one shot, stain and polyurethane in one. Now that I tried that, see the results, and have read on forums here I see that was maybe not a good choice.

Thanks for not criticizing me, I’m at the very start of the learning curve and see now I went about it backwards.

Hopefully I have posted the pictures correctly and you will be able to see the blotchiness and tell me what step to take next.

I put it on with a Minwax stain brush and did not wipe it off. The stuff dried so fast it was about impossible to get my brush back in the can and back to the door without what I had just applied getting sticky. Despite that it all looked pretty good when I got done, I was happy.. until it all dried.. blotchy. Ugh, now what?

36 replies so far

View Cricket's profile


2663 posts in 2103 days

#1 posted 08-01-2014 09:56 PM

I fixed the image links for you.

-- Community Manager

View Douglas's profile


424 posts in 3071 days

#2 posted 08-01-2014 10:30 PM

Hey Tammy, from the pics, it doesn’t look too bad. The frame looks like some sort of red oak over particle board, but the door itself could be… maybe a maple veneer, maybe cherry? hard for me to tell. But, as for the “lesson”, the “stain and finish in one” products sell to people who a) are intimidated by the process, and b) buy into the promise of an easy one shot solution. When I started out, I went the same route, and got s0-so results at best. I’ve learned that, regardless of which of the zillions of approaches you take with staining/finishing, one rule applies: lots of light/thin coats, and sand in between (for the finish). It is more time consuming, but actually easier: you can sort of correct any errors as you go along, and stop when you’re satisfied. So, for next time, get a stain that you like, and apply that. Then when its done/cured/dry, apply a finish in several/many thin coats, and sand lightly in between. Yes, it could take days or weeks, but the reward is that it looks great.

Coloring wood or finishing just takes practice, and you have to try a bunch of things before you get a regimen that you like. What got me on the right path, was actually this little video from the Wood Whisperer called “Simple Varnish Finish”. . Or, for free, read this article with some good references & links…

That should send you in the right direction. Good luck.


-- Douglas in Chicago -

View Redoak49's profile


4186 posts in 2500 days

#3 posted 08-01-2014 10:39 PM

I can not agree more with Douglas. There is no simple quick way to learn to finish. It will take time, practice, success and failures. Even for those who have done a lot of it and become reasonably good at it, we still run into problems at times with a piece of wood that is just a real pain.

Stay with it, but perhaps start with something small and do some practice runs on small pieces of wood.

Good Luck

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5227 posts in 4471 days

#4 posted 08-01-2014 11:08 PM

Simple, quick, and cheap descriptors about finishing should be outlawed.
No such products that I know.
Second… in the paint dept. at a borg know nothing except where stuff is (sometimes).

-- [email protected]

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1329 posts in 2446 days

#5 posted 08-01-2014 11:10 PM

Honestly, that looks much better that I would have expected. At this point, your only option is to sand that finish off, which honestly would be miserable, incredibly time consuming, and may not even really work. That said, I would bite the bullet on this one and either buy new doors and redo the project or just put them in and consider them a learning experience. Once you do a couple projects, you will also realize that nobody else notices all the mistakes that you do. Other folks might think these doors look just fine. I would just leave them be and consider it a learning experience. Stripping and sanding finish off is really not fun. Really really not fun.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 4058 days

#6 posted 08-01-2014 11:26 PM

We do a lot of staining with awesome success. We do this for a living. Our process has to be effective, efficient and results oriented or we go hungry.

So since we have made enough money on using this Confidential trade secret, I will go ahead and let u in on the secret. Just promise not to tell anyone. Fellow tradesman might not be happy if our trade secrets were revealed ;)

The big trade secret is the proper usage of conditioner to pre treat hard to stain material. But as I am writing this, I am thinking what you stained amounts to being basic plywood. With plywood it is easy. Using a wiping stain, we just spray the sheet with stain and wipe back the excess immediately. We do this quickly and do not let the stain soak in too much. Now that I think about it we do not use conditioner on plywood.

I actually have one more personal secret, but once again don’t tell anyone. My wife does all the finish work in our shop and she is our Top trade secret so really, what in the world do I know about finish work… Maybe she should post, but she probably will not since I need her in the shop applying finish to a set of cabinet doors. :)

But seriously, stay away from polyshades, go to a oil based wiping stain, we prefer ML Cambell. As Mr. Miagi would say, “spray on, wipe off”. Simple as that.

when u are ready to tackle staining hardwoods let me know I will help u more with the idea of conditioners, sanding process, etc…

-- .

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 3196 days

#7 posted 08-01-2014 11:33 PM

Oyster…I think I saw something somewhere that the best solvent for MinWax products was MinWax! If the OP like the color (way too much orange for my taste but personal preferences are what they are) then get a can of straight MinWax stain and see what happens. That is likely a hollow core door and is not going to like heavy sanding veneers are pretty thin). If that doesn’t work then I’d try a light 220 grit or higher sandpaper to knock the varnish off and then try again. I think darker brown might work. The orange is already imbedded in the wood but a darker shade might work over top.

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 4058 days

#8 posted 08-02-2014 12:10 AM

Now that I am on my full size computer, I am looking at your pictures and the blotch I see is not that bad. There is some uneven color but it is not that bad. Sanding those doors back is not likely a good idea. If they were in fact a cheaper door then just buying a new door and starting over would be better than sanding back. I am not certain that if you start over that you will have any real superior result.

One other trade secret is the usage of sample pieces before doing your actual project, so that you can somewhat predict your results on the actual project.

All in all, I think the doors look decent in your pics.

-- .

View JollyGreen67's profile


1676 posts in 3274 days

#9 posted 08-02-2014 12:54 AM

Polyshades stuff is garbage!

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected ! RIP 09/08/2018

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 2938 days

#10 posted 08-02-2014 01:30 AM

In my humble opinion the blotchiness is due to uneven sanding (personal experience) stain will ‘take ’ more darkly in slightly less sanded parts and less darkly in well sanded areas. From what I see in your photo is exactly what I have in my shop right now My ROS left sanded in arc areas and slightly less well sanded areas hence the sweeps of less color.
As I said just my humble opinion.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

580 posts in 2889 days

#11 posted 08-02-2014 02:00 AM

I agree with thee others that it’s actually not bad at all. I think it even looks kind of cool to be honest, almost like there is some curliness going on in an otherwise bland “wood”. I wouldn’t be too upset about it…

-- Matt, Arizona,

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 2407 days

#12 posted 08-02-2014 03:31 AM

I believe you have only applied one coat and if that’s the case a light sanding with 400 grit wet dry paper between at least two more coats should even out the color substantially and give you a passable end product. I don’t know of any finish that does the job with one coat and all of them leave a lot to be desired until you reach the final couple of applications. I wouldn’t sand off the finish that’s already on the doors, way too time consuming and really an unnecessary task. After you scuff sand the first coat the surface will be adequately sealed and will begin to look better with the second coat. If the color isn’t uniform at this point do your second light sanding and get a can of stain and of the appropriate color and use it to shade in the light areas until you have a uniform tone. After the stain has dried for a day float the final coat of finish over it, the last coat will seal the stain into the finish. Like the guy said above get some scraps of the same material and practice on them so you understand what the product will do and how to get the most out of it. God bless.

View skatefriday's profile


452 posts in 1994 days

#13 posted 08-02-2014 03:52 AM

I have a door that was stained and was blotchy
at the start, but has mellowed as time has gone by. Either
it will mellow, or your eyes will be come adjusted/less critical
over time.

Note that I didn’t stain the door in question and my contractor
applied conditioner prior to stain and did not use polyshades.

That said, I’m still kind of new at this and found the minwax
stains to be ok, but the minwax california legal poly to be a problem.
I switched to Varathane (a rustoleum product I think) and
am getting much better results. However it still seems like it’s
going to come out like crap until the third coat or so.

View Tammy80's profile


4 posts in 1905 days

#14 posted 08-02-2014 04:42 AM

You guys (or gals) are awesome! I’m not sure this point what I will do, but maybe like some of you said it doesn’t look as bad as I think and it will get better with time. (It’s not as orange looking in real life as it looks in the pictures teejk.)

Since I have only done one side of the door (unfortunately the side that will be more visible, the hallway side), and I have another door to do after this one, could you advise me what I should use and how I should do the other side?

See.. lol, I’m learning.. asking people who know before I jump in this time!

Thanks so much to all of you for your detailed and great explanations and ideas!!

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 2032 days

#15 posted 08-02-2014 04:53 AM

In Defense of Polyshades

But, as for the “lesson”, the “stain and finish in one” products sell to people who a) are intimidated by the process, and b) buy into the promise of an easy one shot solution.
- Douglas

Polyshades stuff is garbage!
- Jimbo4

While for most applications Polyshades is unworkable and leaves inferior results, I believe there is a narrow band of applications where Polyshades is usable, even preferred.

What I’m thinking of is a production application where speed is desired. It covers two finishing steps in one and, as Tammy says, it dries quickly.

If you can deftly spray on the finish so that it covers evenly and yet doesn’t pool or sag (this takes practice and attentiveness) it can yield good results for non-”fine woodworking” applications, and saves valuable shop time.

I use it for a job regularly and have come to find it indispensible. Clearly it is not for novices or for one-off projects, although it was originally designed that way.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tammy, I agree with others that the stain is now in the door and the only fix could be to add another stain over it. This would almost certainly make it darker and, if that’s unacceptable, you should start over with another door.

If a darker color is OK, you may be able to remove the polyurethane, getting the surface to where you can over-stain, with a solvent, such as scrubbing with mineral spirits or even a paint stripper. Then use a stain color of your choice and, when completely dry, top with polyurethane using the prescribed methods.

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