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The stain is so horribly bad that I'm concluding the wood must be treated with something preventing staining. It's Douglass Fir, so I know it's hard to stain, but it literally looks like a zebra after one coat and doesn't change after subsequent coat.

Is my wood just bad wood?

enter image description here

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    With what and how did you sand it? (doesn't look very smooth) What conditioner? -The third half or so of the boards closest to us appear to be water damaged (unfixable, save for carefully staining the rest to match... GL). That grain will pop-out beautifully once the varnish has antiqued; the areas of discoloration, not so much. Wiping it with mineral spirits will give you a glimpse of what it will look like, varnished. Bearing in mind that any light spots will darken in the years to come. It'd be interesting to see it wet.
    – Mazura
    Oct 5, 2014 at 22:02
  • Good point re sanding. One of the purposes of sanding is that a more even surface will take finishes (including stains) better. (Up to a point. If you sand a board up too far in the fine grits, that may actually clog the pores and reduce how much stain it will absorb.)
    – keshlam
    Oct 6, 2014 at 4:37

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Some woods, especially softwoods such as pine/fir/spruce, are notorious for taking stain oddly. The usual solution is to "condition" the wood before staining, to reduce absorbancy overall and make them behave more like we would expect. There are products sold specifically for the purpose, or dewaxed shellac can be used.

Many discussions of this exist on the web. Let me see if I can find a good link to one of the magazines.

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  • Thanks. I did condition the wood with wood conditioner. I don't think I accurately explained how off the stain is. I'm going to post an edit to my question with a picture. Thanks! Oct 5, 2014 at 18:35
  • @AllenGingrich also, did you wait until the wood was fully dry before staining? It seems like it's possible the conditioner and stain interacted thus causing this unappealing look.
    – user24242
    Oct 25, 2014 at 3:36

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