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I made these stair treads out of reclaimed Douglas fir. The wood is gorgeous! Some of the stairs stained amazing and a couple have these much lighter spots where the wood didn't seem to take the stain?

Did I mess up with my process or is this just how Douglas fir works? How is it suppose to look? First time working with reclaimed wood.

Process:

  1. Sanded 80 grit- I read not to go higher than 80 to help the grain pop?
  2. 50/50 denatured alcohol/shellac
  3. Minwax gel stain coffee

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I love the markings and chose the darker color with the intention of getting them to stand out. I edited my pics and circled the spots I’m talking about. It’s these spots that came out even lighter that I don’t know about.

  • Those look like tool marks, possible from the original milling. Did you actually prepare these so that they were flat? 80 grit seems rather coarse. Did you get down to less aged material? High spots will often take more of a gel stain. – jdv Mar 7 '19 at 19:24
  • As in planing them? No. I was told by a friend it wasn’t necessary. I’m am brand new to working with reclaimed wood. I thought I got down to less aged. However I was afraid of going to far and messing up the saw mill markings. Would it be better to re sand these pieces down again and start over? Any advice appreciated! – Shelby Robinson Mar 7 '19 at 20:34
  • Those markings represent raised material, and by staining it you highlighted those marks. Folks here could probably suggest how you could reduce the contrast if you don't like the look, but to some extent this is what these sorts of stains do: highlight grain, spalling, nail holes, and the like. It becomes a matter of preference: to what extent do you want the beat-up wood to reflect how beat-up it is. A finer prep and (maybe) a thinner or lighter stain would both lead to less contrast. – jdv Mar 7 '19 at 21:56
  • Turn the question around: assume you have some reclaimed lumber you like the look of, and you want to use it in some project. To what extent do you want the surface damage to be highlighted, and how smooth of a finish do you want? People here would be able to tell you how to do that. – jdv Mar 7 '19 at 22:01
  • Maybe I’m not stating my question properly. I love the markings and chose the darker color with the intention of getting them to stand out. I edited my pics and circled the spots I’m talking about. It’s these spots that came out even lighter that I don’t know about. – Shelby Robinson Mar 7 '19 at 22:20
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In my judgement, from seeing your pictures, I would not be concerned about the spots that you have highlighted as being lighter. Those spots appearing to be in areas where the wood has become smoother due to the sanding process. The overall look if you stand back and consider what character the used lumber offers I would just accept those minor light spots as just another part of the character.

After all if you had wanted a more perfect and consistent finish you would have planed these boards down to a smooth finish that removed all the original circular saw marks and random scratches and gouges. And even then fir will still have variations in the way it takes stain!

  • Additionally, the lighter spots (only the one in the 3rd picture really stands out to me - I probably wouldn't have noticed the others without the circles) simply seem to indicate wear on the stair tread, making them look like they've been there a long time. – FreeMan Mar 13 '19 at 15:24

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