Wood Conditioner

thickness. I've used some stains that were the consistency of thick cream. Others were like a thick paste.

Remember, what you want is a stain that's not going to seep into the end grain. So when choosing a gel stain, just keep in mind that a thick stain will tend to penetrate less and give you a more even color.

drawbacks. Of course, gel stains aren't the answer in every situation. There are times when I want the stain to penetrate as deep as possible. When I have a piece of figured wood, like bird's eye maple, I'm not going to use a gel stain because I want to highlight the figure of the wood. The gel stain isn't necessarily going to "hide" the grain. But it will even out the color more than I want it to.

The other time I don't use a gel stain is when I can't find the exact color I want. Here, I usually end up choosing a traditional (liquid) oil or water-base stain, so I take a different tack to handle the end grain.


When I work with a traditional liquid stain, I usually get a more even color if I do a little extra sanding on the end grain — to 600 grit instead of220, see photos above. The reason this works is because you're burnishing the end grain. The pore openings are being polished so they're smaller and don't soak in as much stain.

curved surfaces. With the coffee k When staining end grain, a regular stain will soak deep into the pores of the wood, darkening the ends much more than the face.

One solution to evening out the end grain is to sand it finer than the rest of the board. Here, I sanded the end grain to 600-grit.

table on page 20, the stain with the color I liked happened to be a traditional oil-base stain. The problem was the table was curved. In fact, this table threw me more than one curve.

For one thing, the cabriole legs have end grain at the top of the knees and the feet. But there's no "hard" corner where the end grain starts and the edge grain stops. So instead of sanding finer, I'd recommend using wood conditioner, see below.

But the oval top was a different matter. Wood conditioner applied to this narrow edge would seep into the face grain. I didn't want light streaks around the edge of the table, so I went back to the sanding solution and sanded the whole edge to 600-grit


When its time to apply a top coat end grain isn't nearly as much of a prob lem. The finish penetrates just as deep, and in fact you may notice that the end grain gets slightly darker. Thaf s because oil and varnish tend to add an amber tint to the wood anyway. But I've never thought this was very noticeable, so I haven't gone to the trouble of sanding it any finer.

About the only thing you will notice about putting a clear finish on end grain is that it dries out a lot quicker. So I sometimes end up applying an extra coat of finish.

One final note: I've talked to woodworkers who sand all end grain to 600 grit, even if they're just applying a clear finish with no stain. They do this because the end grain looks and feels so much better after it's been sanded so fine. But I think this is a lot of unnecessary work. After you build up a film of finish on the wood, you won't be able to tell a difference. ESS

What can be a little confusing about end grain is that it isn't just limited to the ends of a board. It can show up on the face of some boards, too.

This is especially true of woods like pine, cherry, and maple that tend to have wild, wavy grain. When the grain turns up toward the face of a board, you end up with a small patch of end grain.

When staining, these areas of end grain can end up as dark blotches, see the left half of the board above. But you can avoid this.

One solution I often use is to apply a wood conditioner (or wash coat) before staining. This is usually just a solvent that evaporates slowly (although it can also be a very thin finish). Because the condi tioner is applied underneath the stain, it limits and evens out the stain's penetration, see the right half of the board above.

When staining the cabriole legs, one way to ensure an even color is to brush a heavy coat of wood conditioner on the entire leg. After letting it set a few minutes, wipe off any excess and apply the stain.


V4" overhang d . Miter dentil block with full block on dentil molding

Rabbet to hold bottom


Cut shelf bottom after molding is mitered


Rabbet to hold

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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

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