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How to Fix a Mottled Stain Finish on Maple

  • Posts: 40

chaplaindoug created the topic: How to Fix a Mottled Stain Finish on Maple

I made a large table top (84" x 42") out of hard maple. I milled this wood from rough lumber. It came out beautifully (and heavy). However, when I applied MinWax stain (Provincial oil-based), the stain did not take uniformly, but has a mottled look. It is dark in some places and light in others. There is a "line" of light area all the way across the top near the middle. I did not use any pre-stain conditioner, as I believed maple to be hard and non-porous. What can I do to remedy or improve this stain result?

I tried two things, (1) heating the wood and trying to put another coat of stain. This did noting. (2) resanding the areas that are light and reapplying stain. This slightly improved it, but not nearly enough.

Any ideas??? Colin?
  • Posts: 486

colin replied the topic: How to Fix a Mottled Stain Finish on Maple

Hi Doug ... I like the table, and to be honest, I am actually liking the blotching and I do have at least one idea.
Of course your first option is to sand the whole thing down and re-do it which is a lot of work, but when you dig in it will go by quickly.

Personally, I love the color of this, and here is what I would do (radical I know, but that's me) ... I would turn this piece into and antique style looking table. I am actually going to do a video on this in the next few weeks but for now I will explain. I would use a propane torch and very (VERY) lightly burn all the outside top edges of the table so that it is somewhat dark at the very edge of the board, then lightening toward the middle of the board. To me, at least from the picture, it looks like this table is already warn somewhat, I would enhance that effect. Assuming your customer is ok with this. I might also experiment with burning some of the joint of the boards, I would do this on another piece first to see what it looked.
In the end ... if you don't like it ... it still means sanding down and re-doing so in a sense, you have nothing to lose, except to experiment and learn.

I wish I had some magic way of telling your to fix the blotching but I know of none that actually work.

Hope this helps some ... I think we would all like to know what you do, and see some update pics too ...
  • Posts: 40

chaplaindoug replied the topic: How to Fix a Mottled Stain Finish on Maple

Thanks Colin for your usual helpfulness. Do you think if I sand it down that I could then apply a four-step process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EjIjCvxVGI (dye, sealer, stain, clear) successfully? Or might dye work over the stain as is?

Is there anything I might do to just address the light spots on each board (leaving the rest of the board untouched)?

Also, if I do sand down, would you use a belt sander or rotary and what would you use to sand in the grooves between boards so that color will retake? What grit?

Sorry for the basic questions. Our pieces usually come out beautifully. BUT we have never worked with maple before. . . Wish I had checked before I stained :(
  • Posts: 486

colin replied the topic: How to Fix a Mottled Stain Finish on Maple

Thanks for the link Doug, wow, that is a pretty complex finishing method but I guess it must work.
- I have stopped using stain for most of my finishing and now use water based dyes instead. To be honest, I have not tried to dye wood after it has been stained. I am not hopeful it would work well because of how stain is made (ground up earth) but you could try it on a test piece, then you would know for sure. Here's a quick link to my Dye Versus Stain video -

I don't know why it is, but maple sands really nicely with 80 grit. I think I would use that, then work down to 120 and maybe finish off at 150 or so.
I would use a random orbital. Belt sanders for this kind of work are risky, you may gouge the wood or make it uneven, random orbital should be fine, in fact, if you have a wood scraper, I think I would scrape all first. That might take off a lot of the top layer of stain ... make it a bit easier for sanding.

I use the Lee Valley dyes that come in packages and mix with water. I have had excellent results with them though a bit hard to pick exact colors over the internet, so I often get a couple of different ones so that I can mix a couple together for a custom color.
I personally have not encountered blotchy finish when using a dye, but again if you go this route, best to test to make sure.

Not sure what you are using for top coats, but my entire finishing regime has now changed and getting the best results using one of the German hard-oils like Saicos, Osmo or Oli Natural. They are all used for flooring so are very tough, are food safe and eco-friendly and won't blast you out of the workshop with their fumes, they are mild and actually smell nice. They DO take MORE WORK to put on, and require 3 coats because they MUST be applied in a very thin coat. What I like about them if you get a wear spot in a few years, you can simply re-coat it and it blends in, without having to re-finish the whole top again ... but now I am diverging ... sorry.

Anyway ... there you have it Doug :)
  • Posts: 40

chaplaindoug replied the topic: The Result

I purchased Mohawk wipe-on (pigmented) stain from Woodcraft. This is alcohol/acetone based. I "washed the top twice with acetone, sanded heavily with 80 grit orbital, washed with acetone again, sanded with 120 grit orbital, washed again, then applied the new stain. Below is the result for comparison to the original blotchy photo. I am MUCH happier with the result.

Once I have it clear coated and glazed, I will post that photo.
  • Posts: 486

colin replied the topic: How to Fix a Mottled Stain Finish on Maple

There ya go Doug ... well done. It's very interesting to see the two pictures of the different finishes and how they looked when applied.
I have not used the particular product you talked about but it's great to hear that it worked for you and you now have a beautiful table.

Thanks Doug, this has been a very interesting topic ... glad you posted this.

It will be interesting to see what comments and suggestions others add over then the next few months that we can all learn from.