Sanding/Staining/Finishing Advice

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TominZebulon

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Tom Meehan
I need some help!!!! What grit do you guys and gals sand your projects to before staining and finishing? It seems that every article I read says something different! I am building a sewing desk for my mother for Christmas and am just about to that stage. I read somewhere to only sand to 150 because the stain needs something to "bite". Is that really enough? I always learned to sand to 220! AAAGGGGHHHHH! Help!!!!
 

clowman

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Clay Lowman
I think you may find that the answer depends alot on what type of wood you are staining. For example, Red Oak, some people will tell you that sanding over 180, is pretty much overkill, due to the porous nature of the wood. I normally sand my red oak projects to 220, cause that's the grit of pads I have the most of.
 

dave_the_woodworker

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It also depends a bit on the type of stain you are applying, pigment based or dye. The advice you've heard about not using too fine of a grit so there is something for the stain to "bite" into applies primarily to pigment based stains. This is because the grooves created by the sandpaper allow the pigment particles to collect, giving a much darker stain effect. The finer grit you sand with, the finer these grooves are and the less pigment collects. The same thing is true with woods that have very small pores, like maple for instance. There is very little space for the pigment to collect and the stain comes almost completely off when you wipe it, leaving very little color behind. This is much less the case with dye based stains. They are true solutions of molecular size dye particles (rather than comparatively large pigment particles suspended in a solvent and binder) and penetrate into the wood's cellular structure. They will color wood regardless of what grit you use - but you still must sand to a fairly fine grit or the sandpaper grooves will stand out and look really ugly!

All that being said, I generally sand to 220 grit on most everything and usually use dye stains as the first coloring step.

The best advice is to always try your full finishing schedule - sanding, staining, topcoating, etc. - on a scrap of the same wood in your project.

Dave
 

DavidF

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David
Daves answer is prety well complete. I would only add that if using a pigment stain and may also apply to dye stains; is to NOT sand between coats until 3 coats have been applied; it is just too easy to sand through the stain.
 

TominZebulon

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Tom Meehan
Excellent advice clowman, Dave and David! Thanks! DavidF, when you talk about sanding between coats, do you mean between coats of stain or coats of finish? I have never put more than one coat of stain on any of my projects (all 3 of them!). And I don't think I have ever used a dye based stain. By dye based, do you mean the dyes you mix with alcohol or do they come already mixed? And what brands are dye instead of pigment based? I feel like I am developing into a halfway decent dustmaker, but I know so very little about staining and finishing. Does anyone have any favorite books on finishing that would be good for a beginner to read?
 
M

McRabbet

I'd recommend Michael Dresdner's The New Wood Finishing Book from Taunton Press. Well illustrated softwover book by one of the pro's on this subject. You can find it in larger bookstores or order it from Amazon com for only $13.57 instead of the $19.95 Taunton Press price.
TominZebulon said:
Does anyone have any favorite books on finishing that would be good for a beginner to read?
 

D L Ames

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D L Ames
TominZebulon said:
Does anyone have any favorite books on finishing that would be good for a beginner to read?
I have found Jeff Jewitt's book Great Wood Finishes useful. It is also available through amazon.com

D L
 

Steve D

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Steve DeWeese
There is also a ton of information in the forums at www.homesteadfinishing.com (jeff Jewitt's website). I'm sure that David is speaking about sanding between coats of finish. I've had great results using Transtint Dyes. They can be mixed with water, alcohol and even added to most finishes as a toner. Dyes color the wood without obscuring the grain. The decision to use alcohol vs water depends on type of wood, method of application, etc. Alcohol prevents the stain from raising the grain, but also makes the finish flamable. I used water for most of my applications and spray on the stain. Walnut grain doesn't raise much anyway.

One word of caution. it doesn't look very good when it dries. Don't let that fool you, the finish makes it come to life. As recommended elsewhere, go all the way through your finish schedule on a piece of scrap from your project, sand, stain, finish. That way you will know what to expect. You can even cover a part of the test board after the stain and before the finish with painter's tape. Remove the tape after the finish and you will have a before and after version to remind you what it should look like after staining.
 

dave_the_woodworker

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Tom,

I haven't het seen Michael Dresdner's latest book but he is an excellent finisher. I will second the recommendation for Jeff Jewitt's book that was mentioned as well as his more recent one. I'll also add a strong recommendation for Bob Flexner's classic book on finishing. All of these books can be found on Amazon.

I also use Transtint dye in water for most of my base coat staining work. For toning applications I've used Transtint mixed with clear finish. I generally spray it since this is very quick and can prevent blotching on some woods. Tom, since you said that you haven't done much staining, I would strongly recommend you read any of the books mentioned because things like toners and glazing stains can take your work to a much higher level. Experimentaion is key!

I agree with Steve's suggestion to make a sample board showing the various stages of the staining/finish process. It's very useful in duplicating a finish to have an actual sample piece showing the finishing steps used on an old project.

Dave
 

DavidF

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David
Hi Tom, Yes, I was taliking about rubbing down between finish coats - don't start until you have 3 coats on top of the stain. Especially if you have applied thin coats by rag.
 

TominZebulon

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Tom Meehan
I am in luck! I found Jeff Jewitt's book in the Wake County Library's online catalog and should have it in my hands in the next couple days. I am looking forward to learning something about finishing. That is by far my weakest skill (well, handcut dovetails are still impossible for me)! For those of you in Wake County, I am here to tell you that we have one of the finest library systems in the state, if not the country! I have found so many books that I have not had to buy its not even funny! But anyway, I digress. Thanks to all for the advice and hopefully I can learn something and become a halfway decent finisher.
 
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