Stain Prep

Since I’ve got an interesting tabletop made, I have been trying to figure out what border to give it.  Since the top is veneer on plywood, the side edges need to be covered.  I could use strip veneer, which is easily applied with an iron and comes in exactly the size I need.  This being easy, I of course have chosen to use narrow pine boards, cut like a picture frame, with 45 degree mitered corners.  I think this will show off the lacewood desktop better.

Thinking further on the matter, I think the desk will benefit from some contrast.  Since I’m using pine, which has a relatively straightforward grain, the main question is what color stain to use.  I’m going to try for a lighter color, sort of a light honey.  However, since I’m using pine, I have another consideration to deal with.  Pine is cheap, and has a relatively clear grain, but it tends to get blotchy when you stain it, detracting from the visual continuity of the wood.  Minwax makes an inexpensive prep chemical that allegedly counters this problem.


On the left, the light stain I’m thinking of using – Puritan Pine – presumably a very disciplined stain.  On the right, the Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner.  (Is there post-stain wood conditioner?  Not sure.)

As always, as the instructions say: test first in an inconspicuous spot.  This stuff is easy to test because it only adds “5-15” minutes drying time to whatever you happen to be doing.  I can’t quite understand people who can deal with 72 hour drying times.

First try:


This doesn’t look very good.

Can you even tell where I applied it?  It’s on the left of the picture, extending right about three inches from the pencil line.  I began to think I had wasted my money.  You can see why I would want to avoid the uneven absorption of stain; much of this test piece doesn’t look very good at all.

However, when in doubt, use more!  (Note: this is not actually a good axiom when it comes to finishes, but I had a pint of the stuff just sitting there.)


I used about three times as much and gave it the full 15 minutes to absorb.  It works better.  There’s a bit of glare in the picture, but you can see the middle area is much clearer than the right and left edges.  I suppose I’ll use it.  I am concerned about the blotchiness of the stain detracting from the main desk surface, so any mitigation of the problem will be welcome.  I’m not sold on the stain color; I may add a few drops of something redder to darken it a bit.

Lots to think about.  I am increasingly impressed with craftsfolk, industrial designers and engineers, who deal with all of the design decisions about this sort of thing day in and day out.  Material?  Alignment? Color?  Treatment?  Joints?  Adhesive?  Topcoat?  Everything constructed has had these decisions made, even if not necessarily dwelt upon.

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