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  • Sanding Stairs to Restain

    Hello there!
    Hope everyone is safe and healthy.

    Quick question: my dad is sanding his wood steps to darken the stain on them.
    After removing the varnish, how much of the old stain must be removed as well? (it's a mid tone natural looking stain, nothing dark on it currently). In other words, should he be able to see bare wood everywhere? 75% bare wood? Is there a good rule of thumb to follow on this? Photo attached is what they currently look like. He used 40 grit today.

    Thank you.

    Sent from my Pixel 3a using Tapatalk

    Best Regards, Jason.

    "Self-control is perhaps the greatest way to measure strength". David C. Pack

    "Successful people are successful because they form the habits of doing those things that failures don't like to do". Albert Gray
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  • #2

    Re: Sanding Stairs to Restain

    Without question, every bit of the varnish has to be removed. Any places where varnish has soaked in the wood and remains won't take stain.
    Without knowing what type of stain was used (oil or water based) it's hard to answer the question. Oil stain will also put a barrier to other types of stain, water based, much less so.

    I would say you have to sand every bit of this to bare wood and even with that, there's still a chance of getting blotches.

    I don't like the stuff I'm about to recommend but in this case, it might be the only way to get a decent coverage that looks even. I've used it and gotten good results though.

    Minwax makes a product called "Polyshades". It's polyurethane and stain mixed together. So the stain doesn't really soak in, it sort of applies like paint but looks like the wood is stained. It works but hatefull stuff. You have to be patient and brush it very carefully to get an even look. Stir it constantly while applying. It can be done and in this case will save a ton of sanding work. Buy excellent brushes for it. Something like a Wooster Silver Tip. If you go cheap on the brush, don't waste your time. It will look streaky and have brush marks.
    Jason Tello likes this.
    Learning something new every day.

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    • #3

      Re: Sanding Stairs to Restain

      Perhaps give Howard’s Antique restorer a try on a small area before sanding. It comes in different colours.
      Egon
      from
      The South Shore, Nova Scotia

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      • #4

        Re: Sanding Stairs to Restain

        Originally posted by PeterTZ View Post
        Minwax makes a product called "Polyshades". It's polyurethane and stain mixed together. So the stain doesn't really soak in, it sort of applies like paint but looks like the wood is stained. It works but hatefull stuff.
        would applying this with an HVLP work better? It doens't take long to take some 1" painters tape and some newspaper to tape and block off the walls and places that you'd not want to get coated. This way you could apply an even layer of coloured finish over the surface.

        Matt

        People are like a box of chocolates. It's hard to tell initially which ones are nuts.

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        • #5

          Re: Sanding Stairs to Restain

          Originally posted by matt.mackinnon View Post

          would applying this with an HVLP work better? It doens't take long to take some 1" painters tape and some newspaper to tape and block off the walls and places that you'd not want to get coated. This way you could apply an even layer of coloured finish over the surface.
          Hard to say. You could do a test on some scrap plywood or something similar. It would have to be thinned. The reason I said it needs to be constantly stirred is, it's not the same as paint. You can see the stain is partly separated in the can. So I don't know how even it would apply with a spray gun.
          Learning something new every day.

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          • #6

            Re: Sanding Stairs to Restain

            Use a sharp scraper. 40 grit leaves deep scratches. Take it easy on the risers, though, they're veneered.

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            • #7

              Re: Sanding Stairs to Restain

              At this stage ... the sanding already started ... I'd recommend using a gel stain when the sanding is finished. But as has been previously said, you need to make sure that all of the previous surface finish has been removed.

              If you were just starting and had not done the 40 grit sanding yet, I would have recommended a very light sanding with 220 grit and then spraying on a some toner coats in the darker shade. This could have been with Polyshades, but I usually use some dye mixed into the finish of my choice.

              With regard to Polyshades, the only person who has ever had success with brushing it on is Norm. Many forums are rift with people who tried brushing Polyshades and are asking how to fix it.
              Jason Tello likes this.
              the other Ken
              ------
              "Each flitch, each board, each plant can have only one ideal use. The woodworker, applying a thousand skills, must find that ideal use and then shape the wood to realize its true potential" - George Nakashima

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              • #8

                Re: Sanding Stairs to Restain

                Originally posted by Jason Tello View Post
                After removing the varnish, how much of the old stain must be removed as well? (it's a mid tone natural looking stain, nothing dark on it currently). In other words, should he be able to see bare wood everywhere? 75% bare wood? Is there a good rule of thumb to follow on this? Photo attached is what they currently look like. He used 40 grit today.

                Jason, simple answer, remove all of it.
                Are you sure it's a stain?

                Stairs are basically part of the floor and because they take more forceful abuse, they should be finished with a highly resistant floor finish, not some DIY hardware store product.
                Pretty much all the floor finishes I've encountered have compatible dyes that can be added to give a variety of tones.
                Check out Finitec, I have used their products and they are excellent and super easy to apply. My neighbour has a hardwood floor business and that's all he uses.
                They have dyes and compatible stains
                https://www.finitec-inc.com/EN/home.htm

                As most of the sanding has been done (40 grit is way too coarse and will need to be fined down to whatever your chosen finish recommends) I suggest wiping the stairs with mineral spirits (or, if you don't like the smell use a 50/50 denatured alcohol water mix) and carefully check the pores to see if all the finish has in fact been removed. If not then get some Circa 1850 stripper and apply it where needed, following instructions regarding clean up after. If you don't do this you run the risk of having residual finish in the pores giving you a spotty colour distribution.
                If you don't want to use a stripper, then you could apply clear sealer then either a toned sealer or add dye to the first topcoat. That way the residual finish in the pores won't affect the colour distribution.

                As Ken mentioned, Polyshades comes with a whole host of problems, not least of which is the fact the pigments often sag on vertical surfaces so one can end up with a very strange looking "graded" colour texture. As far as I know, none of Minwax's poly products are designed to be sprayed. You can, but be prepared to deal with a lot of sticky overspray. Not worth the effort IMO when floor finishes can be applied with a foam pad and will outlast and look way better than anything Minwax can offer. You can also get floor finishes that reduce slipping, which is very useful on stairs.

                Hope that helps
                Paul
                Last edited by Paul O in Paris; 04-28-2020, 05:07 PM.
                Julian and Jason Tello like this.

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