I'm trying to refurbish the posts and beams in my house. They're quite beat up in some spots and have water damage streaks in the existing finish(es) in others, so I've decided to strip the existing finishes and re-build them rather than just paint over. The beams are also solid timbers up to 40' in length, which I think is a unique feature of the house and shouldn't be covered with paint.
I've tried to refurbish a few beams already and, unfortunately, the results haven't met my standards. The unique challenges of this project are:
- The members must be refinished in place, with most surfaces vertical, and some surfaces upside-down (the underside of beams). I've concluded this means I can't use anything water-based as it will run too much, though I'm open-minded here.
- Douglas Fir is blotchy and has a high contrast grain pattern. This is a problem because the house is very modern and minimal and loud grain patterns clash.
Given the above, how can I achieve an even, semi-opaque, medium tone finish on large, vertical surfaces of douglas fir?
Ideally, the result looks something like these beams:
Image Source: Galerie Magazine
Image Source: Dwell.com
Attempt #1 General Finishes Seal-A-Cell, Gel Stain, and Arm-R-Seal
My first attempt was to sand down the paint off the beams, sand to 180, and use Seal-A-Cell (de-waxed shellac) to seal the beam. Then I applied 1 coat of General Finishes gel stain (5pt Brown Mahogany 1pt Georgian Cherry). Then I applied 3 coats of semi-gloss Arm-R-Seal (poly). The results look like this in the best case and this in the worst case . You can see that despite sealing the wood with shellac there was still considerable blotchiness, and even when the stain is "even", the grain pattern is extremely loud.
I'm probably going to sand down attempt #1 and try again either using many coats of dye-tinted shellac, or a paint cut with glaze or paint thinner. I'd love yall's perspectives and thoughts on this!