Kitchen table and benches:

I used all solid Birch from the same lumber yard picked up at one time. Everything was sent through the same planer. Used an orbital sander up to 220 grit + sanded everything with the grain. Applied minwax pre-stain and and minwax dark walnut all the same.

Is there a way to fix it? Or should I think about using a gel stain to try to knock down the contrast? Any ideas?


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  • Hi, welcome to StackExchange. That colour difference is really odd, and even if you did one or more samples ahead of time you might not have spotted this in advance. It could simply be that one board is different (could even be from a different tree). Now some difference is normal, but the colouring is so strange. It's a head-scratcher. "Applied minwax pre-stain..." Well it sure didn't do much!! If you followed the instructions on the can that's the problem, because Minwax are one of the makers (there are some others) who don't really understand the way this sort of sealer actually works.
    – Graphus
    Jan 23 at 9:09
  • Just to clarify, you're talking about the breadboard being a different color than the rest of the table, right? Not the blotchiness present on all of the boards? Jan 23 at 22:03
  • @SaSSafraS1232, my first thought exactly. But I presumed it had to be about the end board after looking at the pic again — I initially thought the weird colour was just a photographic artefact, which made the query about the severe and varied blotching.
    – Graphus
    Jan 24 at 0:04
  • Yes the breadboards are my issue. All the breadboard for the table and benches have the same effect. Depending on where you stand, the board is more dramatically different than the center of the pieces. I ended up trying a couple of coats of a walnut gel stain and it has helped. I will see today what it looks like after drying. Jan 24 at 14:15
  • The camera does highlight the differences a little bit more than in person but the breadboards are distinctly “whiter” than the more brown center boards. And the “Giraffe” spots are unique to them as well. Jan 24 at 14:17

Congratualations. You've just discovered that birch is really hard to stain well. It is noted (notorious) for being blotchy. Welcome to the club.

As David D has answered, if you want a stained wood surface you're going to have to sand through the stain and get rid of it.

There are a couple of approaches to staining blotchy wood. One is to coat the wood with a sealer like shellac and then stain. Another is to to use something like a gel stain. You can see both here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL_58_22SEA.

Note that MinWax, who you'd think know something about stains, says,

"Less expensive than hard maple, birch is often substituted for maple in furniture and kitchen cabinets. But, like hard maple, birch wood does not absorb stain evenly and should not be stained with dark colored stains. When staining, first apply a pre-stain wood conditioner, then select stains lighter in color."

There is lots of info about staining birch on the internet, so just search on "birch stain blotch" or something like it.

Also, file away the fact that lots of woods have more or less blotching issues, including maple and cherry. Do some research (or at least test panels) before staining a new wood.

  • 1
    While you'd think that MinWax would know a thing or two about stains, there are some here who contend they know next to nothing at all and that all their knowledge is in marketing and sales. Just a comment for consideration - I take no stand either way.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 28 at 18:58
  • 2
    @FreeMan - Well, yeah, but when you're taking advice from strangers on the internet... Jan 28 at 21:08
  • 1
    @FreeMan, well the instructions for best results with Pre-Stain are still wrong, literally years after Bob Flexner started to point this out — he's been saying this since at least 2007!!
    – Graphus
    Jan 29 at 8:56
  • 2
    "Well, yeah, but when you're taking advice from strangers on the internet.." You get what you pay for, right? ^_^
    – Graphus
    Jan 29 at 8:56

In the spirit of doing the easiest fix first you could experiment with a coat of darker stain, gel stain or whatever. The problem is that you are starting with inconsistent starting points - two slightly different colors - so I'd expect them to be different only darker. Maybe it would be close enough.

I'm a big fan of seeing the wood but another easy way to get a consistent finish would be to paint it. (I cringe even as I suggest it).

I know it's a lot of work and I hate to say it but when I've come out with finishing results I didn't like I've sanded it down to bare wood and started over.
Try a different product the second time.

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