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hoping someone can help! I'm new to woodworking and I thought I'd start out by restoring an old Ducal desk. It was previously varnished and seems to be made out of pine possibly. I sanded it all down and thought I had taken all the old finish off, but when I started putting on stain, I noticed a lot of patchiness.

The colour looks alright when viewed from the top and it all looks good when the stain is freshly put on but as it dries, and from the side with the light, you can see lots patchiness on the surface.

What can I do to rectify?? Will I have to re-sand it all and start again? I've used Dulux Dark Walnut oil-based stain if that's helpful.

desk viewed from top

desk viewed from top

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The colour looks alright when viewed from the top and it all looks good when the stain is freshly put on but as it dries, and from the side with the light, you can see lots patchiness on the surface.

You're actually describing two different things here and the second isn't necessarily related to an incomplete removal of the previous finish (and in this case doesn't appear to be). From the title I expected to see bad pale areas where the stain barely took, a very common issue when staining furniture that was previously finished as it is hard to remove every trace of the old finish.

The irregular surface gloss seen in the photos is merely due to variable absorbency of the wood. Plus, there actually isn't any finish on this yet. Oil-based stain is a colouring product, not a finish, and any gloss achieved so far is merely an incidental byproduct of the oil binder used in stains of this type.

Evening up surface gloss is one of the roles of final finish AKA topcoat, which is what you need to use next after giving the stain sufficient time to dry. All stains need to be covered by some sort of clear finish to protect against wear, minor scratches or dings revealing bare wood. The product literature should cover this, and likely also gives recommendations on what you might use.


For future reference, in case you want to do more stuff like this, sanding is the worst way to remove old finish as touched on in numerous previous Answers here. Stripping using a chemical stripper (many of which are now quite safe compared to some older types) should be the preferred method, with sanding a distant third.

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  • Graphus, thank you so much for your reply. These pictures were taken a couple of days after I applied the stain, so it's dry now and I will take your advice and cover it with a clear finish.The reason I was worried is because in the Dulux Decorator shop when I bought the stain, I was told I wouldn't need to put a clear finish on top as the oil stain would sufficiently protect the desk, so I thought the variation in gloss must've been from me putting the stain on incorrectly. Again, thank you for taking the time to reply, really appreciate it! – S_Lucy Oct 29 '19 at 18:58
  • Welcome. "I was told I wouldn't need to put a clear finish on top as the oil stain would sufficiently protect the desk" That's odd. If the product is exactly as described, an oil stain, it would never be used solo. But if it's a combination "stain and finish" product, which aren't uncommon these days, then it should be clearly named as such.... but there are no regs concerning finish names and companies can, and do, use varied terminology and sometimes (deliberately) misleading wording. Anyway if it is a combo stain & finish the same still holds true, a clear finish should go on top [contd] – Graphus Oct 30 '19 at 7:49
  • This will do the main thing, even up the gloss. It will also protect the colour as described above (even stain & finish products could do with a bit of help as far as protection goes). Lastly this will significantly improve resistance to staining from sweaty glasses, coffee rings or other liquid spills as decent protection here is only provided by a good consistent layer of clear finish. I would use a polyurethane varnish here BTW, and I think you should buy a small tin and convert it to wiping varnish. – Graphus Oct 30 '19 at 7:57
  • Hi Graphus, I followed your advice about the varnish and the desk looks really great - thanks for all your help! – S_Lucy Nov 11 '19 at 18:45
  • Welcome! Thanks so much for coming back to let me know, you'd be surprised at how infrequent that is. – Graphus Nov 12 '19 at 7:06

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