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Thread: pre stain conditioner

  1. #1

    pre stain conditioner

    One of the finishing books says you can make your own pre stain conditioner by mixing BLO and mineral spirits. I've been doing this for quite some time, have experimented with ratios, and it doesn't seem to make any difference.
    I use about 4 parts ms to 1 part blo. Works very well on pine, but doesn't seem to do anything on cherry. Still owrking on that.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    prestain conditioner.. look at charles neils mixture he offers.. saw a video of what he done with it and if it works that well its a winner.. he made sapwood from cherry disappear with his process//
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
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    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Santa Claus, In
    I will second Charles Neil's conditioner. Works well on anything.

    I will keep your formula around and try to make up my own. Never hurts to have a back up plan.
    If you don't take pride in your work, life get's pretty boring.

    Rule of thumb is if you donít know what tool to buy next, then you probably donít need it yet.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    So. Florida
    There are way too many "experts" out there that have their methods. Some even write books. Maybe instead of writing books they should be doing the finishing. Some have their own products and are forum members and enjoy selling their wares. It's a jungle out there!!!

    Some woodworkers experiment with different products and come up with mixes that serve their needs. IMO, one product will not do all variations, as there are different species, and differences in woods of the same species. What works on one piece may not work on the next. Generally, if all the stock came from the same source at the same time, I would guess that somewhere around 50% may be close enough to work the same. If they came from the same tree...maybe the same percentage.

    So, what I'm getting at is that finishing takes practice and experimentation. Conditioning the wood for staining and finishing can be a very successful way to get an even blotch free finish. It could also be a disaster. Conditioning is simply a method of sealing the wood so the light parts of the wood will look like the dark parts. So, the soft parts will look like the hard parts. Sounds very simple...but it's not.

    Pre-stain conditioners are basically a form of a sealer. What the variables are that not enough sealer will not produce an acceptable surface. Too much sealer will inhibit colorization. Using an oil base conditioner can enhance the grain with whatever oil content it's limited to in its mix. A waterbase conditioner will likely not change the color pre-stain. Using dewaxed shellac mixed with denatured alcohol could also work, but I'm not that excited in how durable shellac is as a basecoat for a finish.

    So, basically, you can buy conditioners that are specifically for oil stains/dyes, and ones that are for waterbase stains/dyes. Then follow the instructions on the container and take your sample out to the final finish, which may be stain/dye and a clear topcoat. The sample will look different when stained/dyed, and then look different again after topcoating.

    If you want to play with making your own, start with a general mix. For an oil stain, you could start with a clear oil base varnish 20%-25%, and the balance with mineral spirits.

    For a waterbase conditioner, you could start with a waterbase clear polyurethane, with 20%-25% waterbase polyurethane, and the balance just plain water.

    In doing samples, see how the stain takes and what the wood looks like. If it still looks a bit blotchy, increase the sealer component and/or, decrease the percentage of the balance. If it doesn't take the stain well, decrease the sealer component, and/or increase the balance.

    Keep track of the ratios you start with. You can use cooking measuring spoons, or marked measuring cups. As a side note, you might just give a gel stain a try on a sample right off the bat (without a conditioner). On some species it may save you some shop time.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Santa Claus, In
    Thanks for the info Mike. I will add that to my shop notes.
    If you don't take pride in your work, life get's pretty boring.

    Rule of thumb is if you donít know what tool to buy next, then you probably donít need it yet.

  6. #6

    Charles Neal pre-stain

    I had never heard of Charles Neal, and was pleasantly surprised with his presentation on pre-stain -until I got to the price. Granted, you usually get what you pay for, but at $16.95/qt + 14.95 for big brown, that's pricy for a product you haven't tried yet. Guess I'm still looking for an answer. Gonna experiment with the w/b poly/water mix and see what happens.
    I have 350 bd ft of cherry I've had stickered for about 6 years, and am ready to build my fireplace surround and associated casework, but have never used cherry before, so would like to work out the finishing before I go any further.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Victoria BC
    Ed, try weldbond or probably any other pva white glue cut 5 parts water to 1 part glue. Basically follow Charles Neil's method of application.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Cape Cod, Ma.
    I have had success with using dewaxed shellac in a 1lb cut or even less.
    But, I have switched almost completely over to spraying my finishes and have been doing very little brushing or ragging.
    That said, what has worked for me is to sand my project to 180 or 220, spray a coat of 1lb pale or blonde shellac (mixed from flake not store bought) scuff with 320 and then spray my stain, do not wipe off. once the stain is dry then spray my first coat of finish to lock it in and scuff with 400 between coats from there.
    I have used this method on pine and on maple with very good results. It has virtually eliminated blotching.

    Like Mike said though. What works on one might not work so well on another.
    When I was ragging oil stains on I never had luck with the conditioners. What I did have some success with was wiping on a thin coat of mineral spirits just ahead of wiping on the stain, especially on end grain. It slowed the absorption to where I could work the surface, where there were areas of grain reversal or open pores the thinner slowed down the stain enough that I could wipe it away before it blotched or reduced it to where it wasn't so noticeable. The key there is not to flood the wood with the thinner, wet your rag just enough to wet the wood not soak it.

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