Help ! Stained door has sander marks on it
tokorieAugust 3, 2014
This is my second attempt at re-finishing these doors. I used a fine grit block sander to finish up before conditioning the wood. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I had applied the third coat of stain which happens to be ebony that I noticed the many sander marks still on the wood. How do I correct this please?
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
First thing that is very noticeable is the sanding marks going across the grain. The correct way to sand is with the grain, never across it. Also fine, medium, course grits mean nothing. You should go by the grit numbers. If the sandpaper you are buying doesn't have grit numbers don't buy it. Quality sandpaper is important, don't use the cheap junk.

Now to fix your door. This is how I would do it.

Strip off what is on there with a powerful stripper. Environmentally safe or no smell strippers don't work. Put it on, let it soak, remove with a flat sharp putty knife. Do it again, this time brush with the grain with a stiff synthetic brush. Wipe off with whatever solvent the stripper can recommends. Wipe down again with clean solvent.

Now for the sanding. Start with at least 120 grit, maybe even 100. For this step you can use your sander. Sand with the grain. Once the door is completely sanded with either 100 or 120. Vacuum it off and sand with 120 or 150, depending what you started with. Vacuum again. Finally finish up sanding with 150 or 180 (again depending on what the previous grit was) using a sanding block with a soft backing. I use a wood block with 1/4 felt glued to it. Don't move to the next step until all the sanding marks from the previous step are gone. (grit sequence is 100,120,150,180,220, and on and on.)

As you have found out, sanding is the most important step to achieving a quality finish. Short cutting it and using poor quality sandpaper won't get you there.

One more thing. Since you are using an ebony stain, you don't need to use wood conditioner.

Good Luck
4 Likes    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:40AM
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I would add that you don't want to sand with too fine a sandpaper if you are going for a dark stain. Stop at 150 if you can, 180 at the very most. I learned this the hard way. :)
1 Like    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:58AM
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
Good point bluezette. The grit that you finally stop at is not just a function of grit. The type of wood as well as the finish and how it is being applied, also come into play.
1 Like    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 8:29AM
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>>> it wasn't until I had applied the third coat of stain

Stain is not designed for doing multiple coats. If you want a dark result, start with a dye. Then stain.
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:43AM
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
Stain must also be wiped off. It won't dry if left on thick.

The scratches showed up after the third coat because of the gloss from too much stain. Stain should never be glossy. If so, there's too much on. Two coats is about the max, and each must be wiped.

If you have that much stain on the door, you absolutely have to strip it off.
3 Likes    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:53AM
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R J Hoppe Inc
I would add one more step to Al's great step by step above. After stripping but before the first sanding give the doors a bath. Yes wipe the doors down with water, not a bath but good and damp. If there is any standing water on the door remove it but let the water soak in. Then stop and let the doors air dry for a day. This raises the grain of the wood and gives you one more, a better, chance of removing the scratches. Then sand etc.
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Select Hardwood Floor Co.
Hope that's SOLID wood, not veneered.
    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 3:03PM
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River Valley Cabinet Works
Skip the sanding machines. I got in trouble with my Dad every time he sent me to sand doors. We used 80 grit on pine doors to get out the cross-scratches. The machine more back in. Neither of us knew better until the painter took over the job because he got tired of fixing sander swirls.
If the door comes into my shop with few cross-scratches and packing marks, I do a little sanding with a DA, then I stroke sand(piece of sand paper wrapped around a rubber block, sanding with the grain.) I don't have near the problems with sander marks.
    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 8:35PM
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What exactly is a dye? Where do I go get one of those? I have the same problem with the swirls from sanders but I find that hand sanding takes way too long to finish, even on just one door. I spent a whole week hand-sanding the roughness off one door before I decided to go get me a Ryobi Orbital Sander.
    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:21PM
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I was not actually going for black. I mixed MinWax Jacobean oil-based stain with MInwax Ebony oil-based stain but by the third application, I see more of the ebony than the dark expresso which I was going for. Where can I get this dye locally? Any one know any stores that stocks these dyes I can maybe run to?
    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 10:33PM
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Here is a video explaining dyes. You can google "wood dye" to find places selling it since I don't know where you are.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 10:59PM
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Al Fortunato Furnituremaker
Again, three coats of stain is way too much. Two max, and the first is what is really going to give you the color. The rest is just going to cover up the grain.

If you aren't experienced using dye, you just might get into more trouble than you are already in.

As far as sanders go. Stay away from the cheap ones. Quality tools + experienced operator = quality results. I only buy two kinds of hand tools. Porter-Cable and/or Milwaukee. Top of the line sanders don't leave your hands vibrating all night either.
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 5:21AM
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Select Hardwood Floor Co.
Often, people make the same mistake MANY in the wood flooring biz make when it comes to sanding (hard) wood, whether by hand or machine.
You should SAND with whatever GRIT is necessary to get down to CLEAN & FLAT bare wood...
Often, one gets impatient and figures... "this is good enough for 80, I'm gonna hit it a few more times with other grits", and they'll leave old stain, finish, over wood, or scratches thinking they'll come out with the finer grits.

I've always professed that you should get it FLAT with your 1st cut... and use each "paper" after that only to remove the scratches left by the previous grit or "paper".
And don't rule out using a "cabinet scraper"... look it up.

Here's an example of how WE get an "ebonized" finish on white oak using our DYE with stain.
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 5:21AM
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