I got these beautiful cane backed chairs off a local buy nothing group. At some point in their lives someone decided to paint them with a cheap white paint that felt sticky to the touch.

I decided to try my first refinish job. I used Citristrip to take off the white paint and wiped down with mineral spirits. I noticed under the paint the wood looked blotchy almost and not even so I tried sanding it down but it didn't go away unfortunately.

I don't love the look any more. My plan was to stain them using a walnut color stain to try and match a sideboard we have. My worry is the stain will just make the blotches look worse.

Is there anything I can do to try and save these chairs or at least make it less noticeable?

enter image description here

  • Hi, welcome to StackExchange. Given what the wood frame looks like I think the plan to make them much darker makes a lot of sense and (other than painting again) is probably the best bet for an attractive end result. Just one question in relation to this, did you buy stain already? If you didn't that's good, because I think using something other than a conventional stain is advisable here.
    – Graphus
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 7:50
  • I haven't bought the stain yet - what stain would you recommend?
    – Ldubs
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 15:50
  • You might want to use something else other than sanding it down. Maybe thinner to remove the paint then proceed with sanding it down. Have you tried contacting a local carpenter or painter for advice? The texture/feel may be needed to proceed with further advice.
    – allison60
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 3:24

1 Answer 1


I noticed under the paint the wood looked blotchy almost and not even so I tried sanding it down but it didn't go away unfortunately.

I don't think it would be possible to get rid of this so there would probably be no point in attempting to sand further. Some woods are naturally prone to being blotchy, and any piece of wood can exhibit this to some degree if the grain is irregular.

My plan was to stain them using a walnut color stain to try and match a sideboard we have.

In the absence of painting the chairs again — which would give the most uniform result with the least effort — going dark is probably your best bet for an attractive end result.

My worry is the stain will just make the blotches look worse.

That's a legitimate concern with conventional stains which are intended to be absorbed by the wood and you already know the wood is problematical.

So instead of using conventional stain it would be advisable to use so-called gel stain. These aren't stains per se but instead coloured varnish that has been thickened to some degree for ease of application and to give them better covering power1.

They are easy to use and quite forgiving (e.g. of wood that was previously finished) so it's relatively easy even for a first-timer to get good results, although I would still highly recommend watching a few videos2 before attempting your first chair to get comfortable with the overall method and so you will be sure to have all you need on hand before you begin3.

Stripped of paint and sanded, your chairs are likely not to require any further prep work, although it is possible sanding lightly one last time with a coarser grit than you previously ended with might be beneficial — be advised by the specific product you buy.

In addition to the "gel stain" you'll need a clear finish for protection, again be guided by the brand you buy. However, as a rule you can use almost anything you like on top if you leave the stain to dry for a suitable period.

1 Many makes of "gel stain" are now available, and in a good range of colours, and while I won't recommend anything in particular I would caution that Minwax is generally the cheapest available for good reason.

2 There are numerous helpful videos on various channels on YouTube and a quick search will give you lots to look at. Two quick plugs: Dashner Design & Restoration uses the product quite frequently, so, many of his videos will feature its use and as a 'regular Joe' his content is very accessible; the finish manufacturer General Finishes have quick, to-the-point videos on all their major products.

3 I'm not sure if all manufacturer instructions will specify, or how much emphasis they'll put on it, but you'll want plenty of paper towels or rags on hand for wiping away excess. They can also be used for application, although you can apply "gel stain" with just about anything including your fingers (not joking, but obviously with gloves on). Note: as an oil-based finish, care needs to be exercised with any rags/paper towels soaked with it after use — lay them flat to dry, when stiff you can dispose of them with the rest of the garbage.

  • I'm not sure if/how much stain the cane will absorb, but I'd be cautious and want to mask it as well. Could you add thoughts/tips on that?
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 12:59
  • @FreeMan, the thing about "gel stain" is that it's minimally absorbed, that's how it sidesteps the issue of blotch-prone woods. Regardless, it is still an open question whether the cane will take the colour the same as the wood (assuming that's what the OP wants — looking at the pics closely it does seem like paint is still on the woven seat back.
    – Graphus
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 17:05
  • I wasn't going to touch the cane since it seems too delicate to sand and would have been alot of work to strip. My thought was to spray paint it black as i've seen a few videos on this. Thank you so much for the gel suggestion .. i'll try that and make sure to use a good brand. I had high hopes for this project but the wood itself just isn't in great shape.
    – Ldubs
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 0:44
  • @Ldubs, I'd be very hesitant to try to strip the canework as well I have to admit! Not because it can't be done, but due to the time & materials it takes. It would help loads if you could use a v good stripper, i.e. not Citristrip LOL Old-style strippers containing methylene chloride are incredibly effective, but sadly now almost completely banned for consumer use because of overtly cautious legislation; admittedly they are dangerous IF warnings are ignored but then unguarded table saws are far worse and we don't see vocal action groups trying to ban those in the US. But anyway I digress.
    – Graphus
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 6:00
  • Now that this has bobbed back up to the surface again, seriously people?????
    – Graphus
    Commented May 7, 2023 at 5:25

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.