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Woodworking/Staining a dining room table

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Question
Help! I am trying to refinish my dining room table.  I stripped and sanded the old finish off to bare wood.  I used a prestain conditioner, sanded and then stained the table with minwax dark walnut stain.  The first time I think I left it on too long and the stain dried skicky.  I sanded the table again and reapplied the minwax stain.  This time the second coat is drying cloudy in spots and I can see the lines where I wiped the stain off the table.  I wiped it with mineral spirits but now It almost looks greasy and smudgy.  What should I do?  Sand or strip the table?  Is there a different type of stain that I should use?  I am getting frustrated but determined to make the table perfect.

Answer
Hi Kim, I'm not sure where to start...after applying a stain or a conditioner, you should never sand again...prestain conditioner should only be used in a situation where it's warranted...on a soft wood or one that's prone to blotching(like Poplar, soft Maple, etc.), other than that it should not be used.Minwax is very finicky to use, and absolutely must be applied to bare wood only, and as with all oil type stains, must be wiped off completely between coats. The one big mistake everyone makes with this type of stain is to not wipe it off well enough (or at all) after application... and usually because it looks so good when the stain is on the surface, but when wiped off properly and thoroughly, it almost always disappoints with the lack of color depth, especially on a hard wood.There are MANY better stains, and several different types, (dye, Gel, oil base, Waterborne, Methanol, etc..)depending on wood type, situation, desired look and depth of color, etc. It will also make a difference as to what type of clear coat one would choose....do you know what type of wood you're dealing with, or what type of finish you were planning on using? Dining tables are among the most challenging of refinishing projects, so I hope you have some prior experience with this type of finishing....Please post back and I'll try to be of more help....but from what you've described, I would suggest stripping the table again, thoroughly.Regards- Greg

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Greg Scholl

Expertise

Questions on Woodworking, wood finishing and refinishing of all kinds, repairing furniture and wooden objects,Architectural details, Woodturning, carving, tool usage, product usage, some chemistry as it applies to woodworking and related interests,cabinet making and furniture construction/design, etc. I have experience with all manners of colorants, finishes, paints, stains, dyes, glazes, and coatings,wood species recognition,usage,etc.

Experience

Fine furniture restorer and cabinet maker for over 30 years,serving high end Antique dealers, Interior designers, Collectors in the CT area. Sold, built, serviced, setup Home,Industrial and Commercial stationary woodworking tools for a major tool retailer in CT. for three years, sold hand and power tools, and offered instruction on use and care as well.I even have some Trade show Demo experience.

Organizations
none at this time.

Publications
Published in Fine Woodworking Magazine (12/97), included on Fine Woodworkings first "Best of Fine Woodworking" CD-ROM (2002)-("27 year compilation of expert know-how"),Multiple times in Family Handyman Magazine, local newspapers as well.

Education/Credentials
Art School at Silvermine Guild in Norwalk, CT., 9 year apprenticeship in a European run Cabinet and Restoration shop in CT., various classes on subjects having to do with the field. Seminars by Major tool manufacturers, Delta, Powermatic, Performax, Porter Cable, Skil/Bosch to name a few.

Past/Present Clients
Many varied clients including work on Martha Stewarts' Westport, CT. show house, many fine Antique dealers and private collectors in and around Fairfield County and in Woodbury, CT.(the Antiques capital of CT.)
Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.), local Museums and Historical Societies.For the last two years I have been employed with Schwenke Auctioneers Inc.- Woodbury Auction LLC., as a staff photographer,IT tech,and doing restoration and repair work as well.

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