Staining cabinet doors.....I'm having problems

I recently installed unfinished cabinets in our dining room. The installation and the way I planned them out looks great. My problem is the staining process. I had stained the boxes of the cabinets with Red Mahogany stain before they were put up and put the first coat of stain on the doors. I still have the doors off but now I'm having problems. I am now using stain with gloss poly and no matter what i do I am getting small specks of dust and other junk in the finish. And I get pooling of the stain around the edges of the inset of the doors.
I'm about to just sand them here and there and call them "shabby chic" This isn't the greatest picture because they are slightly sanded in this picture. I was also considering a satin or a flat poly since those finishes may not show the specks as much. Any ideas?
q staining cabinet doors i m having problems, kitchen cabinets, painting, shabby chic
  24 answers
  • Nest Home Improvement Nest Home Improvement on Jan 08, 2013
    Getting a good finish using stain is not an easy task to accomplish. There are many variables to deal with. Paint is much more forgiving! What are you using to apply the stain? How are you cleaning before staining?

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 08, 2013
    To help fix your problem I need to know a few more things. Specie of wood? What did you do to prep the wood? application method for both stain and poly? In my 30 plus years of building custom furniture I have settled into this method for pretty fool proof results. Sand to 220 grit...remove sanding dust with compressed air. Further remove dust with tack rag moistened with thinner. Some woods take stain unevenly (pine is one, cherry is another) for those use a wood conditioner or apply stain immediately after mineral spirit "tack" cloth. I apply stain with a small cotton rag, allow to work then immediately remove excess with another clean cotton rag. (second coat is applied after 8 hours or so if needed) most stain color choices are made so only one coat is needed. A good bulk of my pieces are never stained as I use beautiful hardwoods as a start. After 24 hours of final stain drying. I begin the top coat. The bulk of my work is done using Minwax wiping poly in a "satin" finish. This is also applied with a small cotton rag and allowed to dry a min of 8 hours between coats. After 3 or 4 very light coats the piece is smoothed with some 320 grit and a final coat or two is applied.

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 08, 2013
    The cabinets were unfinished oak.I am doing most of what you are saying. I just don't have the compressed air and I never knew to use mineral spirts with the tack cloth, I just been using the tack cloth. And, I didn't know that there is a wiping poly. That part would have made my life easier. I'll have to check Lowes or Home Depot to see if they have wiping poly, I never seen it.

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 08, 2013
    I just looked at and found it. Next sept, to call my local Lowes to see if they carry it before I make the drive, since I'm fighting this flu while working on my cabinets.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 08, 2013
    without the air and using a dry tack cloth you are just pushing the sawdust into the can improvise with a "can" of compressed air that you can get for computer key boards etc. My local HD sells the wiping poly, though only in pints. I get quarts (gold can is the satin) at my local ace hardware

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 08, 2013
    I'm on my way to Lowes to get some now, that is after convincing the sales associate to go and look on the shelf before I settled for her saying they don't carry it.....when in fact they do. I guess she learned something new today lol. Quart size should be good for my project. I' also going to get another bottle of thinner more tack cloths and give the doors a nice sanding before I apply the wiping poly. Thanks for your help :)

  • Z Z on Jan 08, 2013
    @Mary, though it seems you have the problem solved I have to ask if you meant you were using a combo of stain and poly in one? That's the way I took your comment " I am now using stain with gloss poly..." If so that's part of your problem. And I might add that we use a shop vac to clean the dust from sanding, though I'll be telling my hubby about the compressed air since we have an air compressor. Thanks @Kevin.

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 08, 2013
    Yes i did use a stain with poly combo and then a clear poly over that since i didn't want to darken the color but wanted added protection.

  • Z Z on Jan 08, 2013
    I thought so. I used a combo stain/poly when they first came out decades ago and hated the results. Tried it again recently thinking that both they'd probably improved them and I had more practice staining furniture, but I still was very unhappy with the results. I have used a combo spray on stain with poly on wicker with excellent results though.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 09, 2013
    The combo stain / poly are only a viable option for darkening a previously stained and poly'ed piece without the need for sanding through the old finish. Then you still get iffy results. The darker versions are much harder to get looking even.

  • Z Z on Jan 09, 2013
    The sad thing is @Kevin, they didn't use to advertise them that way. I was going to link you to their instructions on one brand and notice they now have on their home page a link about changing the color of prefinished wood using their poly and stain combo. They still have instructions for using on unfinished wood though.

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 09, 2013
    Yesterday I sanded 8 doors down and starting over ! I'm glad the 4 bottom doors came out the way I wanted them. Now I'm hoping I get the 8 upper doors the same dark red maghogany color I want. I will post pictures of the finished project when I am done. At least my tile work looks good but I'm still on the fence regarding what color to do the grout.

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jan 10, 2013
    Good luck. I have very limited experience with stain and varnish or any other type final coating. I cannot imagine even attempting to do kitchen cabinets.

  • Chris J Chris J on Jan 10, 2013
    Home Depot sells kits that you can refinish your kitchen cabinets with. It has all the stuff in a kit. There are 4 steps to it. I don't know how much one kit would cover, but it may be worth checking out. We want to redo our kitchen one of these days too and the product looked good on their samples.

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 11, 2013
    I'm not redoing cabinets. I am staining unfinished cabinets. This is a build-in dining room wall that I'm working on. This project is going slower than I expected but I will appreciate my hard work even more when I'm done. I did strip and stain my kitchen cabinets about 10 years ago with fabulous results but they are a lighter golden oak color. The color of the dining room is a dark red maghogany. I can't wait to post pictures and show off my dining room project when its done.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 11, 2013
    @Mary I. Im a fan of "dirt" colored floors in my kitchen are a chocolate brown with a brown mottled granite called panantella brown. my counters are / will be white wave ( a swirled white and black granite) with thin 1/8" black grout.

  • Z Z on Jan 11, 2013
    Ha ha ha Kevin. I hear ya. We have white grout in three bathrooms, so I totally understand your logic. The master bathroom has black grout and it shows the powder quite well. Maybe we should have used dirt colored grout which is basically what we have in the kitchen. It never looks dirty.

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 11, 2013
    I appreciate dirt colored grout too ! Now that we're on to grout I've attached a picture of the tile I put up on as a back wall of my built in. It is a multicolored glass. I bought grout in a color called Nutmeg but now living with the grout not in for a while I'm leaning toward something lighter. I know white would be too stark and sand may not match. Wonder if there is a shade called Vanilla?

  • Z Z on Jan 11, 2013
    Oh I love the tile Mary. I fell for it the first time I saw it at HoDe. Here's a link to the colors they carry.... Bone or Linen might work. They have little plastic samples at the store to help you decide.

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jan 12, 2013
    Becky if you love this tile, I've attached a picture for you to see my still unfinished dining room project. Remember its still not done. The white counter top is now a bronzey color and there is also tile above along the back of a shelf that runs wall to wall (12 ft). There is also 8 cabinets above and 4 cabinets along the whte counter, 2on each side and 8 glass front cabinets below the white counter. I can't wait until this project is done and I can share ALL the pictures.

  • Z Z on Jan 12, 2013
    That's beautiful Mary! I would love to redo our fireplace surround tile in this someday. Too many other projects on our list though.

  • Paula barsamian Paula barsamian on Jul 24, 2013
    did you seal the wood before staining? if not, it can become rather irregular. you can even things out a bit with steel wool dipped in mineral spirits.

  • Ken Ken on Jul 23, 2016
    look for a Tack cloth it has a sticky feel and will pit up the dust you just rub it over the wood like a dusting cloth

  • Mary Insana Mary Insana on Jul 23, 2016
    They are getting little specks in the poly while it's still wet. Can't use a tack cloth on wet poly. Thanks anyway.