we are renovating a 1905 Victorian. I stripped and stained the downstairs woodwork/trim (oak) and headed up stairs to work on the trim/woodwork (baseboards, window/door trim/doors) only to find that it is pine (was told possibly southern yellow pine). Well my husband hoped for a medium/dark brown stain but it looks uneven/not uniform in color. I have tried wiping stain, wiping stain with wood conditioner first, and gel stain) I don’t like it. The woodwork had shellac on it (I stripped the baseboards and three windows already). I am thinking maybe I should have just cleaned up the shellac and made it nice again. What are my options to remedy this? Can I shellac what I have stripped and clean up/add shellac to the remaining trim/doors?

  • 1
    "Looks horrible" isn't a very clear problem statement. What's the question, exactly?
    – isherwood
    Dec 6, 2017 at 23:15
  • Sorry, it is just uneven and not uniform in color.
    – Erica D
    Dec 7, 2017 at 0:40
  • Old wood can be stripped with chemicals and even sanding but because of the thinners used in the past they may have penetrated quite deep I found many years ago after stripping and sanding Victorians it is sometimes best to seal the wood when it looks good then add a "stain" or color over that to provide a uniform color.
    – Ed Beal
    Dec 7, 2017 at 2:49

1 Answer 1


Pine and spruce don't take stain evenly, due to the pitch in the wood. The usual way to deal with it is to start with a coat of shellac, although thinned varnish will also work.

When I did a set of pantry shelves out of pine I had the same problem. What I did was to start with a coat of clear water based varnish. Then I mixed clear varnish with a water based dye stain (non-pigment) stain, at about 3 parts varnish to 1 part stain. Applied enough coats of this to get to the tone I wanted.

It took a lot of coats. If I were doing it again, I might go to 2/3 stain 1/3 varnish. Fortunately the coats go on really fast.

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