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Sand in between coats of stain?

17 years ago

I'm staining a wet bar I've built and is it really true you're supposed to sand the wood in between coats of stain? Doesn't it seem like that would wear the finish off the stain?

Also when you varnish it do you sand it after that also?

Comments (8)

  • handymac
    17 years ago

    Sanding after the stain really depends on the type of wood and the stain used. Soft and open grained woods need more sanding than dense wood. Water based stains raise the grain more than oil based stains. And gel stains are not exacxtly stains at all---sanding them simply removes the stain.

    Sanding wood before staining affects how well the wood will absorb any stain. The finer the grit used in presanding means the less the wood will absorb the stain. That also is the case when sanding after the stain is applied. The more the wood is sanded, the less the stain will penetrate.

    In most cases, two coats of stain on properly prepared wood is all that in necessary, with a light HAND sanding with 220 grit between/after application. The finish can be sanded to get an even cover.

  • mike_kaiser_gw
    17 years ago

    What does the manufacturer of the stain your are using recommend? Minwax, for example, does not recommend standing between coats of stain, at least for oil based stains.

    With most stains a fair amount of the pigments sit on the surface of the wood. When you sand, you remove the pigments. Others have suggested steel wool but I'll say it's unnecessary for oil based stains.

    You do need to sand between coats of varnish. Unlike shellac and lacquer, subsequent coats of varnish do not dissolve the previous coat and need to physically bond to the previous coat. A bit of light sanding creating minute scratches that improve adhesion. Sanding also removes small imperfections. Just make sure you use a tack rag after sanding.

    I'm not a big fan of steel or synthetic wool. With open pore woods like oak, bits of the wood can get caught in the pores. I prefer to use very fine wet/dry sandpaper between coats of varnish. I find it gives me better control and a smoother finish. I typically start with 320 between the first and second coats, 400 between two and three, 600 between three and four. Depending on the piece I may go to 1000 or even 1500.


  • brickeyee
    17 years ago

    The most common types of 'stain' are pigment stains. They are thinned down paint. Sanding simply removes some of the pigment.
    Dye (aniline dye) is available in water based and non-grain raising (alcohol or oil as the carrier). Water based dye raises grain and wetting the wood, then lightly sanding before applying the dye limits the sanding afterwards that can alter the color. Non-grain raising dye does not raise grain to any degree. Sanding is not required.

  • suncouch
    16 years ago

    Hi! I found this old post and hope someone might happen to give me any tips. I am using a gel stain on parawood and and now putting a gel polyurethane topcoat. I have put 2-3 coats on the table and have lightly sanded and am still removing color- especially from the edges of the table. I'm not sure I can sand any lighter and still scuff the entire surface evenly. I am using a 320 grit sanding sponge. What am I doing wrong? Thanks!

  • russmahogany
    16 years ago

    Sounds like you're oversanding. If you're using a oil based finish, you should use 0000 steel wool as lindac says. If it's water based, (I don't know if they make a water based wipe on) use the wet/dry sandpaper, but be very careful around the edges. Check the instructions on the can to see if you actually have to sand between every coat.

  • suncouch
    16 years ago

    Thanks for your reply. I think youre very right. If all i need is scuffing, the steel wool worked well and no more worrying about sanding off the stain on the edges. Thanks!

  • russmahogany
    16 years ago

    P.s. I've never used a wipe on varnish but what does your can say? Most finishes don't require sanding in between coats unless you wait over two hours, or some time limit, before applying the next coat. Since wipe on finish is supposed to be a gelled and thin downed normal varnish, I would give it about 10 to 20 coats and wait about three to four weeks then rub out the final finish.

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