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I’m about to finish my first woodworking project, it’s a tv stand made from 2x4s. I’ve been doing some research on finishing but can’t find an exact answer. I’ve seen that a wood conditioner should be used first to get a consistent blotch free stain finish. Should I then use a Danish oil on top of the stain? So it will be conditioner, stain, oil?

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Your order is correct but you may want to add a step, and there are some caveats.

Since you're using 2x4s I want to assume your wood is either pine or fir, and not above a common grade. Get it out of the lumber store a week or so before you will create your tv stand so it can dry out a bit. The boards can be quite damp on the racks.

Once you're done constructing and sanding it (and cleaning it), you can apply a pre stain conditioner. This can do a few things for your common softwood:

  1. It can reduce the blotchiness of the stain (pigment) as it attaches to the grains of the wood.
  2. It can prevent the stain from being too dark. As the conditioner coats the wood it closes up some of the pores and crevasses that would otherwise accept a lot more pigment.
  3. This is something not typically mentioned, but if you have some exposed wood filler or putty, the conditioner will help hide it/blend it into the surrounding wood much better. Similar to #2, the conditioner acts as a coating that accepts the pigment more uniformly across the wood surface. Even after sanding, the "grain" of a wood filler is very different from that of your wood.

Always remember to use all oil-based products unless you want to deal with extended dry times or are an experienced woodworker. You typically want to use a oil-based conditioner, oil-based stain, and then oil-based finish.

The extra step you may want to consider is a quick dry sealer after your stain but before your finish. Your lumber will be very thirsty and will soak up a lot of your oil or oil-based poly that you finish it with, and it will soak it up non-uniformly. This is because most of your wood will have wide open pores, but some different grain patterns, knots, sap streaks, may have more closed off pores and you will notice a less "shiny" finished look on some of these sections. Any end grain you have exposed will be even more absorbent. An oil-based sealer will seal the wood so that the oil-based finish you apply can uniformly cure.

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I’ve seen that a wood conditioner should be used first to get a consistent blotch free stain finish.

To clarify something first, what is sold as wood conditioner is actually a dilute finish. That or finish you diluted yourself for the same purpose will reduce blotching but it rarely gives a truly blotch-free result. This is especially the case with pine and similar softwoods.

So it will be conditioner, stain, oil?

Yes, if those are the finishing products you're using that is the order in which you apply them.

Note you have to choose a stain type that is compatible with an oil finish. Another option would be to use a coloured "Danish oil".

But if you want to completely avoid blotching use "gel stain" instead, which is coloured varnish artificially thickened to the consistency of soft jelly.

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  • Great, thanks for your help! I’ll do some experiments on offcuts first. – Seetal Jhamut Jun 28 '18 at 14:44
  • Welcome. Experimenting on offcuts is an excellent plan. This is always a good idea, even if you've used the products before. – Graphus Jun 29 '18 at 12:24

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