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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Illinois
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    Default Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Help! I have a lot of hours into a Cherry Mantle but due to time I outsourced the finishing. I had seen some beautiful work by this finisher, so I felt comfortable.

    What he called grain variation, I called blotchy, and the homeowner called unacceptable. There are a lot of other cherry pieces around it to be compared against. The mantle was delivered stained and clear coated (Mohawk precat)

    So now it needs to be fixed. From where I am at as a starting point, how would you guys proceed? Mechanical stripping or chemical? If I resand up to 320 grit, is it the right place to stop for Cherry? Should conditioner be used before staining at this point(it wasn't used the first time? Should I light it on fire and start over?

  2. #2
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    Sep 2004
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Put the matches away, everything can be fixed.

    The easiest thing to do is to find another finisher. If your guy can't get an even color on cherry he doesn't really know what he's doing. I can't tell you how to proceed because I don't know how the piece was finished, I'm not familiar with the product and I don't know what you are trying to achieve. The solution may be as simple as spraying a coat of toner over the existing finish or you may have to strip the finish and start with a dye or a tinted washcoat to even out the color or get the proper background color prior to staining. Colors on a quality finish are complex, sometimes you need an color like orange or yellow behind the stain to match the existing pieces. Ity may be as simple as flooding the surface with stain base or varsol. A good finisher will know what to do.

    Sanding to 220 is enough for raw wood, any more than that is a waste of time if you're finishing with a lacquer. I use 320 to knock down the grain and scuff sand between coats. It's not so important what grit you sand to as sanding everything evenly.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    SE Florida
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Ditto everything Dave said. My guess would be that it will have to be stripped then re-sanded, though as stated there is no way to know without seeing the job first hand.

    The more experience I got with finishing over the years, the less I sanded the raw wood, and the better the stain and finish coating came out. When coating cherry, for instance, stained or not, I would not sand the raw wood any finer than 120 grit.

    Do a sample cherry board sometime sanded in clearly defined sections to different grits and check the results for yourself. And while you're at it, raise the grain with water in a section sanded to 120 , and spray two or three thin coats of sealer before knocking down lightly and proceeding with top coats.

    The flooding technique Dave mentioned is a great way to get consistent results with figured cherry and maple.

    Don't despair.

    Cheers,
    Jim

  4. #4
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    Sep 2007
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    Saint Paul, MN
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Quote Originally Posted by jim@miterclamp.com View Post
    Do a sample cherry board sometime sanded in clearly defined sections to different grits and check the results for yourself. And while you're at it, raise the grain with water in a section sanded to 120 , and spray two or three thin coats of sealer before knocking down lightly and proceeding with top coats.
    Water popping is really important with cherry.

    Make sure to match your stain to a piece that is water popped and not just raw.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2006
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    Illinois
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Thanks for the suggestions! Later I'll attach some pictures of what I am up against. I can't do attachments from my phone which I started this post from.

    This water popping.....What is the process when dealing with stain? How long do you let the stain dry?

  6. #6
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    Jun 2004
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    Lake Placid, NY
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Good post replies here, Eric, but you may want to go to the forums at Homestead Finishing to get an even wider view. The folks there are mostly professional finishers.

    Cherry can blotch terribly in sapwood or "semi" sapwood grain. Sometimes the best staining method is with a spray dye after first doing a conditioning coating.

    But, to recover, as said by other here, you gotta sand off the bad.

    Hope you haven't too many cracks and crevasses. Like dentil molding. Yuk.

  7. #7
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    Illinois
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Thanks, I'll check out that Homestead finishing.

    I have applied-moldings in the recessed panel areas. I am thinking of popping those off and putting them in the garbage and start with fresh ones. That would be less exacting than trying to strip up to the delicate moldings.

    So I am still uncertain of the proper grit to use for best results since there are differing oppinions.

  8. #8
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    Saint Paul, MN
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    I would go to 150 or 180 and then water pop (wipe with damp rag- not sopping wet, but just enough to raise the grain). I find it to easy to burnish the wood with higher grits. Be sure not to miss a spot with the water pop or you will get a bright spot.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Quote Originally Posted by ecarlson View Post
    So I am still uncertain of the proper grit to use for best results since there are differing oppinions.
    I don't think you will find a definitive answer to that question. Sanding to different grits will take stain differently, but consistent sanding is more important than how far you go. Sanding is important but it's just one step in your finishing schedule.

    If you are planning to finish this yourself, I would take Jim's suggestion and make up some sample boards. Try sanding with different grits, try some of the techniques posted here or on some of the other forums. Fool around for a couple of days until you find a schedule that works for you. Keep in mind that coloring blotch prone wood like cherry, maple and birch is one of the toughest jobs for a finisher. I have been working at it on an occasional basis for 25 years and have only gotten acceptable results, good enough for industry standards, for a couple of years now.

    Here's another thing: don't use slow drying oil stains like minwax, they are made for the consumer, slow drying and easy to use, but that slow drying oil also makes them blotchy and nearly impossible to get the same color one day to the next. When we were talking about flooding the surface with stain base it's because the cells of blotch prone wood absorb stain at different rates in different areas, hence the blotch. When you flood the surface with stain base you fill up the thirsty cells so when you use the actual stain all the cells take up the stain at the same rate. Slow drying oil stains sit on the wood wet for a long period of time so they absorb at different rates.

    Use a fast drying stain like SW Bac wiping stain, ML Campbells Woodsong (comes in all minwax colors) or Chemcraft. They go on much more evenly and can be topcoated in a couple of hours. They are meant to be sprayed but for a small job like a mantle they can be brushed on. They make a world of difference. When I spray BAC I have a helper right behind me wiping and it's dry to the touch in 10 minutes. It's hard work for one guy wiping when you get going, you can really work up a sweat. It tends to take to the wood even though. It can still be blotchy but it helps

    The Chemcraft and ML campbells products may be hard to find but the SW BAC can be found at any full service SW store, you have to ask for it. It's an industrial coating and not on display. http://www.mlcampbell.com/pages/Family.asp?fam=STN
    http://www.sherlink.com/sher-link/Im...ins_105-03.pdf
    Last edited by dave_k; 01-29-2008 at 04:37 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Staten Island, NY
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    E,

    I did a little piece a while back on blotchy staining and it may help you out.
    http://www.josephfusco.org/Articles/...tch_Stain.html

    You'd most likely be able to remove the finish and stain with either lacquer thinner or acetone.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    southeastern South Dakota
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    1,740

    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Also, if you put too much pressure on the sander while your sanding, it will burnish the wood. The trick is to keep the same moderate pressure the entire time you're sanding, and make sure your paper is in good shape, because worn paper will burnish the wood too.
    Mark


    If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, "If I had a dollar for every time....", I'd be a rich man.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Shelton, Washington.
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    128

    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    I sand cherry up to 220 grit. I think it's important to NOT jump to far from one grit to another but to progressively move up from one grit to another. 150,180,220 works for me.

    I always use at least one heavy coat of conditioner on cherry. then stain and finish.

    If I don't skip these steps then it works for me.

    Your situation sucks. I think I would also scrap the applied molding, strip the finish, apply conditioner, stain and refinish.

    Good luck.

    Steve.

  13. #13
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    Mar 2006
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    Seattle, WA
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    See, just one more reason things shouldn't be stained in the first place. Cherry is perfectly good looking au naturale, and will get better looking over time. Put stain on it and it will never get to the rich color it would without that stain.

    If you want to stain something, you don't want the wood you're using. So find the right wood.

    Sorry. This is just one of the things I argue with clients about all the time. I hate seeing perfectly good wood destroyed by stain. Just paint the damn thing if you don't like it looking like it's supposed to. And the moron who thought it would be a good idea to stain oak yellow? Plastic can be made a very nice yellow. It's very consistent, too. No grain problems. Want grain? Use Pergo.
    http://www.lavrans.com

    "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts; for support rather than illumination." -Andrew Lang

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Illinois
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. I really appreciate it!

    Last night we had a mini blizzard and lost power all night so I couldn't jump in to the discussion.

    Here are the pictures that show what I am up against. I hope it comes across in the photos.

    Thanks again to everyone.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  15. #15
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    Sep 2004
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    SE Florida
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    Default Re: Fixing Blotchy cherry stain job

    Lavrans,

    In nearly every instance, I have been able to convince homos, architects and interior designers to NOT stain cherry, by using a wide sample board, and another wide unfinished, freshly planed board I had baked in the sun with a small flat square sitting on top.

    On one end of the sample board I would stain without pre-flooding with thinner or applying a wash coat of 1# cut shellac so that it would look atrocious - then finish coat.

    The other end of the sample board would have been baked in the sun, clear coated and rubbed down then waxed two or three times with brown and/or cardigan shoe polish.

    That usually does the trick on new work.

    On "matching existing" , as in adding cabinets, I tell them that a "perfect" match today will turn into a mis-match in 2 years. and tell them I will do my best, but once they sign off on a sample - that is the finishing schedule they will get - stressing that all boards will not look the same as the sample - even though the same finishing schedule was used on all.

    Staining is a risky business, and some customers will just never be satisfied.

    Ecarlson,

    That is exactly what I like to show customers on a sample board to dissuade them from staining. It looks to me like your guy used a pigmented oil stain directly on raw wood.

    The two panels in the picture below were the last to be made and have only a wash coat of 1# shellac on them. The counter top has the same plus one full coat of conversion varnish on it - no shoe polish yet.

    The total aging time on the top is probably 3 weeks. The end panels are only a day or two old, but were baked in the sun for a couple hours both sides. The second pic shows the back side of the lower panel where I hacked an angle on it with a power plane on the job to eliminate stress risers. You can easily see the color difference, especially where the left side of the power plane gouged into the rail.

    Good luck.
    Jim
    Attached Images Attached Images

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