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Sanding sealers vs. stain controllers; hate for the pine

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  • AlbionWood
    I m coming late to this discussion, but it appears there is still some confusion about terminology and applications. I ll try to clear some of that up, and
    Message 1 of 23 , Feb 10, 2007
      I'm coming late to this discussion, but it appears there is still some
      confusion about terminology and applications. I'll try to clear some of
      that up, and hope I don't have the opposite effect!

      Two different products/applications are being conflated here. Sanding
      sealer is one thing, stain controller is another. Sanding sealer is
      used to seal the surface of the wood before final sanding, to leave a
      smoother surface with filled pores (and prevent grain raising), so the
      finish goes on smoother. Stain, or anything else, will not penetrate
      effectively, that's why it's called a sealer! I don't think this stuff
      has much application for us - it's used mainly to produce better
      film-finishes (lacquer, shellac, or varnish) on contemporary styles of
      furniture. It wasn't used pre-1600 and will give a non-period-looking

      What you want is usually called stain controller or pre-stain. It's
      basically a thinned finish of some type that will penetrate the wood and
      partially, but not completely, seal the pores. There are lots of
      different formulas for this; much depends on the type of stain you
      intend to apply, as well as the wood it's going onto. If properly done,
      stain controller reduces the penetration of stain into the wood, which
      in turn reduces the blotchy effect stain has on raw pine, poplar, or
      cherry (among others). In these woods, the porosity is quite variable
      across the surface of a board, and so some areas quickly absorb lots of
      stain and get darker than others. In cherry and pine this happens
      mainly because the grain is not parallel to the board surface and so
      there are areas of exposed end-grain, even on the face of a board. (I
      don't know what it is about poplar, maybe the same thing.)

      Stain controller is really a way of trying to cope with an unsuitable
      mix of technique and materials. A better approach, by far, would be to
      avoid getting into the situation of trying to stain pine in the first
      place. Pine takes paint very well; both pine and paint (and paint on
      pine!) are period, so why not do that instead of trying to make pine
      look like something else?

      I don't hate on pine - what I dislike is the way people try to use it as
      a substitute for some other wood that is more appropriate for the
      application. Sure it's cheap, but if you have to do all this
      complicated staining etc. to get it to look like the wood you wanted...
      why not just start with the wood that will look right? And for certain
      things, like Glastonbury chairs, pine is completely inappropriate (it
      isn't strong enough). Woodworking isn't really a cheap hobby, so I'm
      always surprised when people cheap out on the materials.

      Tracy Swanson wrote:
      > All right, I'll bite:
      > How do you use a sanding sealer and still get the grain to show? Every
      > time I have used a sanding sealer, even if I sand it afterwards, I end
      > up with the stain basically sitting on the surface without soaking in
      > at all. At that point I might as well just be applying a faux bois
      > finish. Is there a step of which I have not been informed?
      > Thanks,
      > Malaki
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