So I have this unfortunate line from my stain in some of the vertical boards. It's front and center, so I want to fix it. My only guess is that this is from when I was sanding the joint where those boards meet the top horizontal bar. Must not have hit it well enough with 120 after in the direction of the grain.

Is my best option to sand, maybe 120 grit, and re-stain just those vertical boards? I would imagine I need to wait until the stain is 100% dry.

Stain line


First pass at fixing came out well. Need another coat to darken, but I'm fairly pleased. The very edges of the vertical boards have some extra darkness, but I actually kind of like it. Kind of looks worn old or something. Managed to sand a tiny bit of the horizontal boards despite my scrap wood protecting the edges. Sanded those with the grain just slightly and added a little stain there. Seems to have mostly covered it.

initial pass at fix another look

  • No easy fix for this and prepare yourself for the possibility that you won't be able to get it to blend in invisibly. You probably have no choice but to sand (or scrape) back a bit and restain, but if sanding you'll have to be very careful not to sand the frame piece. Protect with firm cardboard or a scrap of wood and butt the sanding block up against it. What stain are you using by the way?
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 8:29
  • Rustoleum Kona. That's about what I figured. Btw why as a comment and not an answer?
    – Bob Spryn
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 10:59
  • Would scraping be better for some reason? I haven't done that yet.
    – Bob Spryn
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 11:17
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    Great to see the update pics, thanks for posting those. I think you've done a good job there so you should congratulate yourself! Re. me asking about stain, for any future time it's good to specify the type of stain (waterbased, alcohol, oil-based or "gel stain") because they each work slightly differently.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 7:37
  • 1
    I thought it was oil stain (there's a somewhat characteristic look) but wanted to be sure as a satin "gel stain" could look very similar. This being an oil stain really helped you out here because oil stains sit on the surface quite a bit rather than soaking right into the wood like with waterbased and alcohol stains, which means they're a pig to remove and to touch up.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 14:57

1 Answer 1


There are a couple paths that may work. First, this is tough problem so there isn't perfect answer.

First thing to try, is simply reapplying the stain to area that doesn't match. The surface will still have marks from sanding across the grain but the difference may not catch the eye as much.

If that doesn't work, then: Second, scrape (or sand) in the area where the mismatch is and reapply the stain. The problem here may be seam or border between the freshly stained area and the older stain.

Third (nuclear option): Once done with option two (scrape and stain the small area), remove the finish from the whole piece with finish remover/paint stripper and stain again. The process of removing all the finish will blur the line between the old and new areas and the fresh (third-pass) stain will look continuous and even.

Other options: A slightly more opaque mixture of stain and pigment will hide the marks, but you must feel comfortable with mixing stain and colors. An easy dodge on this count is to merely add in some raw umber or lamp black to darken the stain, but your mileage may vary.

Thin coat of a darker stain over area in question and a bit further down the vertical board can also be very effective. The danger is adding too much and having strange dark blobs. Perfect is the enemy of the good with this approach.

If the variation is slight, adding pigment to wax (applied over the stain) will also work but obviously this is a less permanent solution.

Part of the issue at hand is from the marks that the sand paper left. So the more work you put into making the marks on the vertical boards uniform the easier matching the finish will be. Looks nice; good luck

  • Thanks! I think I'm going to attempt sanding and re-staining just the three vertical boards in center of the gate. That way at least they will be consistent. Even if they are slightly different than the frame, it might look intentional. Is the only advantage to scraping the existing finish off (vs sanding) speed? I have no experience scraping, so a little hesitant to try it at this stage. :)
    – Bob Spryn
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 19:08
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    Scraping vs. sanding is beyond the scope of this question and might border on being a question of religion. :) Short answer: go with what you know. If you are unsure, you have scrap wood and the same stain so you can setup some test pieces if you like and try whatever strikes your fancy. As for myself, I'm a fan of sanding (and steel wool) as well as scraping. Speed is a side effect of skill. :) As an aside, I have often ground old hacksaw blades to different shapes to use as small scrapers.
    – ewm
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 19:28
  • Hehe. Don't have any pieces of steel to turn into card scrapers, so I'll probably stick with sanding and maybe the steel wool. Thanks!! I'll let you know how it turns out.
    – Bob Spryn
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 19:30
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    Added pics of first pass on fix. I think it will work out.
    – Bob Spryn
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 3:30
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    @BobSpryn "Is the only advantage to scraping the existing finish off (vs sanding) speed?" Partly speed and efficiency and partly that it doesn't scratch the wood like sandpaper does. If you don't have any prior experience with scrapers though I wouldn't use this to learn them on.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 7:28

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