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Frequently Asked Questions
Start your project confidently and get the answers
to some of the most frequently asked questions
regarding wood staining.
Problem Solver - Deck Stain Still Feels Tacky
Q: I have a four year old ipe deck that we recently had stained. It has not dried and is tacky. Any suggestions short of stripping the finish and starting again?

A: You might wait. Most deck coatings contain wax, and if it is not removed, that will inhibit the drying of the next coat applied. However, it will eventually dry, though I have seen it take upwards of six to eight weeks in some cases. One trick that sometimes helps with deck coating that is still wet (beyond just tacky) is to spread sand on the deck, then sweep it off. The sand will absorb some of the surface oil and remove it, thus speeding up the drying time a bit.
Problem Solver - Stain Not Drying Properly
Q: I am using Varathane Wood Stain to refinish the top of my maple coffee table. My second coat of stain will not dry hard as the first coat it just remains gummy after two days of drying. What am I doing wrong?

A: You are probably applying way too much stain. It is important to remember that stain is not paint. It’s designed to be flooded onto raw wood, then wiped off completely while still wet, leaving only what the wood has absorbed.

To a limited degree, you can wipe more or less aggressively to get some color variation, and even that will result in substantially longer drying times. You can not simply paint on layers of stain. Even if you wait for it to dry, which it will do eventually, you are creating a situation where the top coats of finish are likely to peel and delaminate prematurely. It is not a good idea. A better idea would be to scrub off as much of the stain as possible now, before it is too late, using Scotchbrite and lacquer thinner. You can then restain properly.
Problem Solver - Finish For Shellac
Q: Will you please recommend a hard, clear top finish for an existing waxed and dewaxed shellac finish?

A: The only things that will go comfortably over shellac with wax in it are shellac and lacquer. Anything will go over dewaxed shellac, including waterbased coatings, varnish, polyurethane, shellac, lacquer, and most everything else, including all latex, acrylic, and oil based paints.
Problem Solver - Matching Old Oak To New Oak
Q: I am working on an antique piece of furniture. I had to replace the old doors with a new set of oak doors. The antique wood has a yellowish color to it while the new doors are more white. Is there a way to match one to the other?

A: There are two ways to match new oak to old, and both involve using dye. If you have not worked with dye before, get some scrap wood and practice first. While you are at it, practice mixing the color of dye that you will need to match your new oak to the old. Depending on whether the wood or the finish has yellowed, you will either want to dye the wood with a light amber dye, or add dye to one of the coats of clear finish to make a slightly tinted coating. Both will work; one mimics aged wood, the other mimics aged finish.
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