I have a new wood shelf that I am trying to stain to a sun-bleached colour. I believe the wood is pine. Before staining, I sanded thoroughly with grit 60, 100, 150, 220. I also used a conditioner before the staining.

My finished stained shelf has significant portions in which the stain is not absorbing. So far, I have put two coats on. Are more coats needed?

I have read on a couple of web sites lately that said to add a sealer before staining instead of after. Has anyone tried that? If I seal it now and then add a coat of stain, would that fix the problem?

Any tips are appreciated.

  • Pine doesn't stain well. Consider white washing.
    – DA01
    Jun 25 '16 at 5:25
  • What type of stain are you using?
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 18 '17 at 19:11

Sealers are important for pine because the stain will tend to seep in otherwise, making it look blotchy.

Sealing after the fact is not optimal but probably better than not sealing at all. I would recommend re-sanding it before applying the sealer.

  • Thanks for your feedback. So you are saying I should sand again (220 grit OK?), seal the wood, and then stain? Should I seal again after?
    – user43987
    Sep 27 '15 at 18:22
  • The "after" sealing would be a different product. With pine and dark stains especially, you'd want to typically apply a "pre-stain conditioner" which prevents the stain from soaking into the wood too much in softer areas and showing up as dark blotches or reversed grain. The sealer that goes on after stain is typically something else...perhaps a polyurethane or similar that protects the wood and finish. Aug 26 '20 at 13:56

If the stain is light colored, in my experience, a wood conditioner is not needed. For darker stains, yes indeed use it to prevent blotchy work. Sand it all back down. You can take it to 220G, but I usually stain at 120-150G, and after stain and the seal coat is applied, sand with 220-320G. and last finish coats with 320G. If you machine sand, finer grits will work on raw wood before staining, but I would not machine sand with the finishes.

  • Sometimes, sanding "too much" or with higher (finer) grit will have an effect similar to burnishing the wood and cause stain not to soak in as much as expected. Combined with a wood conditioner, etc. the color can be very much lighter than you think it should be. If you're going to sand again, try stopping at a lower grit and test the color, etc. Maybe, in this case, 150 is all the further you have to go... Aug 26 '20 at 14:01

Isopropyl alcohol will give a bit of a bleached effect to wood. Dilute with water. Use filtered water to avoid mineral deposits on wood too

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