I had my interior doors dipped a couple years ago and have been gradually staining them (using gel stain and gel varnish). They don't look perfect, but I think they're really pretty (see first two pics).

For my bathroom, the original door was long gone, so I purchased a painted door from a salvage place that looked like my other doors and stripped it myself. I used the lye type of stripper on one side, and a gentler type on the other.

The problem: The door I stripped myself looks much lighter than my other doors. I'm pretty sure it's the same kind of wood (fir?). But maybe it was made from newer wood, or the stripping process resulted in a lighter color, or it came out differently because it had been painted, while the other doors were originally varnished.

In any case, when I put the stain on, it looks much lighter and more orange than my others doors (and blotchy, but I can probably work on that by resanding). It does not have the rich, deep stained look of the dipped doors. (See last two photos.)

Is there any way I can get this door to look more like the other doors? I've been reading about tea staining and wondered if it would help make the door look a little darker before the gel stain, but I worry that it will turn the door too gray.

I have spent many weeks on this blasted door between buying, stripping, sanding, moving the hinges slightly, etc. and would welcome any advice to make it look better.dipped doors unstained and stained; stripped door, unstained side and with stain

  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. Unfortunately wood varies, and it can vary a lot. You might have judged correctly that this is the same wood, but some species can vary considerably in colour, texture/grain and figure etc. And with certain changes in figure (which are a reflection of grain direction relative to the surface) you can get some very unpredictable results, even with only a clear finish and no colour. This unpedictability includes blotching, which often you can't do anything about directly in terms of completely sidestepping it.
    – Graphus
    Oct 1 '20 at 7:27
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    Let me be blunt, tea staining is a fop for DIYers and leisure woodworkers who don't want to use actual wood stain. I say that as someone who has used tea to stain wood numerous times ^_^ But that aside, you can't use it now that you've applied get stain as it needs direct access to the bare wood surface. Speaking of which, how many times did you strip? To me the before pic of the bottom door looks incompletely stripped, and in some pro circles the rule of thumb is you have to strip at least twice if you're not using a dipping procedure. [contd]
    – Graphus
    Oct 1 '20 at 7:32
  • In addition to this commercial dip-stripping is done with hot highly caustic solutions, which can add a significant amount of colour to wood — caustic soda and potash solutions can be deliberately used to colour wood.
    – Graphus
    Oct 1 '20 at 7:32
  • Thanks Graphus. I almost wonder if it's worth asking the dipping place to dip my (already stripped) door to make the wood look more like the dipped doors.
    – JCK
    Oct 1 '20 at 17:18
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    The wood could simply be that different. And there's a decent chance this is the case since you say you use lye stripper on one side, which (even cold) should have resulted in somewhat the same colour change as on the commercially stripped ones. Anyway, you're using "gel stain" so the colour of the underlying wood kind of doesn't matter — you can use a different colour, or continue to layer the one you already have until you get something like the depth of colour needed. That's one of the chief advantages of "gel stain" and other coloured clear finishes, the colour can be continually built up.
    – Graphus
    Oct 1 '20 at 17:55

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