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If I'd known, I never would have started

Posted by EAM44 (My Page) on
Thu, Oct 11, 12 at 13:00

to refinish the banister in the home I grew up in. I have refinished furniture before and done a good job. I researched the project before I got started, and the results have been so poor I'm on my second try.

object: The banister is almost 50 yrs old, made of oak, was professionally stained a walnut color (like the oak floors) about 25 years ago, that faded with use.

goal: To have a nice walnut color, protect the wood, and achieve a soft hand feel to the banister.

problem: The finish is sticky, and the color not as smooth as I'd like.

method: For the second attempt, I removed the finish with denatured alcohol and 0000 steel wool, sanded with 220 grit paper, used a tack cloth to remove dust, then applied Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner, allowed it to dry for 1 hour, then Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut (oil-based wood stain), wiped it 2X, let the banister dry overnight (16 hours), then applied Formby's Tung Oil Finish Low Gloss (store didn't have Waterlocks), wiped it off, then let dry 18 hours.

The banister doesn't feel right in my hand. Formby's says to let the finish dry completely, buff with steel wool and re-apply to build sheen. Will that improve anything?

questions: Is this ever going to look and feel right? What should I have done? What can I do now - must I begin again?

The Minwax fumes are killing me - I don't think I can stain with that stuff again. This banister almost killed me once when I was a kid. I should have known to leave it alone.

Thanks for your help.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

Prestain conditioner is designed for use on virgin(unstained) wood---was not necessary to use.

It is always necessary to wipe the surface after the oil stain has dried, there are usually always extra particles that need to be removed.

And a light hand sanding is usually necessary after stains have dried.

Finishes are finicky. And finish manufacturers are very often less than truthful about their products until you get deep into the fine print.

I've never used the product you used (Formbys) simply because I learned a long time ago there are much better finishes---they are just hohum normal stuff like varnish or lacquer. Or even shellac.

And shelf life has a HUGE impact on the viability of most finishes. It sounds like the actual container of finish was way over the expiration date. If it is, do not use it again as it will just compound the problem.

You should be able to get the finish off fairly easily with whatever is the base for the finish---alcohol/thinner/etc.---since it sounds like it is not drying.

I'd use a wiping varnish---lacquer feels better to me, but the fumes require a filter half face(or more) respirator. Just get the product from a real paint store and not a hardware/home improvement store.


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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

I see a few problems:


> The banister is almost 50 yrs old, made of oak,

While your stair treads look like oak, your banister does not. And it looks like some stain, sometime, has blotched.


> I removed the finish with denatured alcohol and 0000 steel wool, sanded with 220 grit paper, used a tack cloth to remove dust,

Unless the finish was shellac, denatured alcohol will not remove it. DNA might have some effect on lacquer of that vintage. But if the rails were done the same time as the stair treads / floor, it's probably a varnish.

Banisters are also a good place to attract body oils from use. That can soften many finishes and putting new finish over soft finish -> soft finish. Body oils also build up that might affect later finishes unless scrupulously cleaned.

And if this is your second attempt, what was your first??


>then applied Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner, allowed it to dry for 1 hour,

Contrary to directions, it works best if left to dry overnight. But if you have not removed the old finish, it probably didn't do any good, as it was not getting into the raw wood.


>then Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut (oil-based wood stain), wiped it 2X, let the banister dry overnight (16 hours),

Normally, this is good. A common cause of "sticky" finish is to not wipe off enough of the stain (which happens to be called Wood Finish, another misleading label.) But again, this product is meant to be applied to raw wood, which you may not have and thus just ended up sitting on top of what was there and didn't cure properly.


> then applied Formby's Tung Oil Finish Low Gloss (store didn't have Waterlocks), wiped it off, then let dry 18 hours.

Yet another lie on the label. This is not Tung Oil. It does not contain tung oil. It is simply a thinned varnish. It's not a terrible finish, you are not getting that mystique of "Hand Rubbed Tung Oil," you're getting wiping varnish.


>The banister doesn't feel right in my hand. Formby's says to let the finish dry completely, buff with steel wool and re-apply to build sheen. Will that improve anything?

With the situation as described, it's hard to say. One coat of wiping varnish is quite minimal. It's equivalent to about 1/3 a coat of finish. Air movement and adequate temperature are needed for these finishes to cure properly, that they do by absorbing oxygen and polymerizing.


>questions: Is this ever going to look and feel right? What should I have done? What can I do now - must I begin again?

I would give it a few more days then try some more Formby's. It may not work, but it's worth a try.


> The Minwax fumes are killing me - I don't think I can stain with that stuff again.

Stain is meant for raw wood. That train has already left. If you didn't get off all the original finish, it didn't even stop at the depot.

Worst case scenario:
Start over. Strip with a real stripper then get some better product than Minwax / Formby's.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tung Oil Finish


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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

Thank you both. Handy, it never occurred to me this stuff could be out of date. Bob - I was hoping you'd chime in. I've read a lot of your posts on tung oil - after the fact.

I'm embarrassed to say my first attempt was a light sanding followed by stain followed by polyurethane. It was hugely blotchy, just awful. I thought the poly might even it out. I then sanded down to raw wood but not everywhere. I started worrying about taking off too much wood, and I did a horrible job on the round bits at the base, so I switched to a finer paper surface sanding and moved on to round 2 which, as you know, has also not gone well. The ugliest part is the part I did take down to raw wood shown in the images above.

So the new plan is: wait and see, then do it right.
Do I sand after stripping or just leave the wood alone?
Can you please tell me what to use for the stripper, stain and finish? It seems as though waterlox and formby's are the same type of thing - a wiping varnish. I bought boiled linseed oil after being tired of the fumed, but it doesn't sound like that's a protective finish.

Out of curiosity, what type of wood do you think I have? There are occasional dark bits, as at the base, that could drive a lesser woman to distraction...


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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

Looks like hemlock.
Finish problems because stain probably did not have time to cure.
Always use fresh materials.
Casey


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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

Rats, I wrote a big response and it disappeared :-(


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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

Rats, I wrote a big response and it disappeared :-(


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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

I still prefer water based aniline dye and brushing lacquer (Deft 'clear wood finish).

it takes a few coats to build, but unlike polyurethane and varnish the coats melt into each other.

If you use the gloss you can reduce the sheen to any level you want.


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RE: If I'd known, I never would have started

casey - hemlock would explain a lot. Is there any way to know items are fresh? They don't seem to have expiration dates on them.

bob - thanks for trying.

brick - I looked up aniline dye and found a product called "Trans Tint Dyes" at the link below. Is this what you mean? What is the proper way to prepare the wood for this - strip, sand, stain? Do I need a wood conditioner to prevent blotchiness? Can you recommend a lacquer for me? Thanks

Here is a link that might be useful: Dyes


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