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Woodworking/starting over with a grain filler


QUESTION: I have a piece veneered with red oak.  It was stained with a  water-based stain and then finished with a water-based gloss acrylic poly.  

The problem is that the stain is very monochrome, and the grain is over-emphasized such that the piece looks like a zebra!

My thought is that a grain/pore filler should have been used. And, the gloss finish is also emphasizing the grain.  

Should I strip the piece and start over with staining, grain filler, and then finish with satin poly or is there an easier way to fix this?

Thanks in advance!

ANSWER: Hi Mike, can you post a picture?'s likely that it could be the "look" of the waterborne stain as well...these are typically dyes, and look different than oil based, pigmented stains.I am also against using "Gloss" anything on a piece of always yields a garish, plasticky look to the surface...this is the one drawback with waterborne finishing schedules on certain pieces as can look harsh, and "cold", as compared to traditional finishes and stains, which can have a "warmer" back- regards- Greg

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I certainly agree about the "gloss" at a minimum, that has to be refinished with satin.  

Here are some pics as requested.


ANSWER: Thanks for the pictures, one reason people like Oak is for that open grain detail in the surface, but if it's not desirable then, yes, you will have to fill it, either with a pore filler, or with the finish....using a Gel urethane like the General product, allows you to actually fill the grain better than other applications, because you can actually push the Gel into the grain,and they level out beautifully.. but it will take many coats to achieve lessening of the pores.the final dried thickness will be lees per coat as well, so it will help the surface look less "open"'s the nature of the wood, Red Oak is very porous as compared to White or Brown Oaks...and can present this issue if you're looking for a certain look to the surface...waterborne products can make it worse as well, because they have a tendency to swell the wood fibers slightly more than oil based products...the Gel stains also will lessen this effect, as they're very thick, and in a polyurethane carrier...certain waterborne finishes are better at leveling and flowing out, I am a big fan of Zar's UltraMax line, as they have better workability than most other "consumer" type waterbornes,dry harder, and they make an "antique Flat" sheen which is a good choice for a more contemporary look...The General Enduro-Var is also good, and has a slight amber overtone to help it be a little warmer like conventional solvent finishes....hope that helps a little- post back if need be- Regards-Greg

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QUESTION: Thanks Greg!

So, I do have to strip all the old stuff off, correct?  After stripping, is there some amount of sanding I should do?

Based on your recommendation, I've used the General Finishes products in the past, so I believe I'll stick with them.  

Do I have this correct that, after stripping the old finish, I can re-stain the wood with GF Gel-stain and then finish with several coats of GF Gel Satin Urethane Top Coat?


Yeah, I'm afraid that's the only way to solve it....some light sanding will likely be in order, just to open up the wood again and to help the stain 'take'...and have it correct, the Gel stains dry in about 4-6 hours, but I give them overnight just to be sure, same with the topcoat, but they both excel at adhesion and ease of application..and dry thoroughly, and predictably in almost all Greg

I'm assuming that was you that made a nice donation via paypal and I just wanted to say thanks...we spend many,many hours doing this, and the occasional thank you gift means a lot. Happiest of Holidays to you and yours- warmest regards- Greg


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Greg Scholl


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.


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.

none at this time.

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.

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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