Asked on Sep 07, 2014

How do I fix this blotchy stain?

Jaime LaPlant
by Jaime LaPlant
I built myself a new nightstand. I used pine and plywood to make it. I normally paint everything I build, but this time I decided to try stain. I used Minwax Wood Conditioner followed by the Wood Stain. I followed the directions on both cans and I sanded it prior to putting on the Wood Conditioner.
I like the color of the stain, but I don't know why it is blotchy in places. I tried using Gel Stain to cover up these spots, because I thought that might help, but that did not work either. Does anyone know how to fix this?
I'm including pictures of what it looked like prior to staining in case that makes a difference. I built an entire bedroom set, but I don't want to stain the other pieces until I get this figured out.
Side 1 of the night stand
Side 2 of the night stand
Top of the night stand
Front of the night stand prior to staining
Side and back of the night stand prior to staining
Top of the night stand prior to staining
  7 answers
  • Mary Mary on Sep 07, 2014
    It looks like you might need to sand a bit more. Then stain it...
    • See 2 previous
    • Sandra Sandra on Jan 29, 2020


  • Z Z on Sep 07, 2014
    Nicely made night stand Jaime. Did you use wood glue to help hold it together by any chance?
    • See 1 previous
    • Z Z on Sep 07, 2014
      @Jaime it sounds like you did everything right. What brand of filler and glue did you use? I'm also going to tag Kevin from @KMS Woodworks to see if he can help you further.
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Sep 07, 2014
    Before I stain anything I sand it with finishing sand paper. But I can also tell you if it is yellow pine sometimes it grabs stain funny. And yes stainable wood filler leaves blotchy spots. Wipe in wipe off. So if the wood isn't smooth and finshed it will grab the stain blotchy. Sand apoff and rests in again.
    • See 1 previous
    • Sherrie Sherrie on Jan 29, 2020

      Did you use stainable wood filler?

      And if so large spots or small

      spots. Wood filler is a asset for small areas. If it is a large area it will leave it blank.

  • Plywood is really several veneers of wood glued together. As they make the veneer they use sharp knifes that shave the tree trunk down as it rotates. As this occurs different parts of the tree are exposed as the wood is shaven off. No doubt you have seen growth rings when a tree is cut down. We all have counted them to see the age. Its these rings that cause the different patterns and causes the stain to be taken in or absorbed at different rates. As the wood is shaven off, the thin veneer knives are removing the growth rings, some are thicker as perhaps that year more rain occurred so the tree grew faster. Then the thinner rings was during a time when the weather was dryer. These thinner rings cause the wood to be harder and less permutable thus not allowing the stain to be soaked in as much as other areas are. The same holds true with solid boards All they are is cross sections of the growth layers of the tree. It is because of that s why the stains do not absorb as well as we would like. To fix this we need to seal the surface of the wood. Some finishes require several coats of the sealer. Some do not. This is dependent upon the grading of the wood, or quality as well as the type of stain your using. If you noticed that the grain pattern showed the pattern of the wood, some being lighter and some darker, this is the hardness of the wood showing up. The darker colored wood tends to be softer and as a result absorbs the stain faster, while the lighter areas then to be harder and do not. Wood quality goes a long way into the final finished project. Your not alone when staining a project that took a long time to construct comes up a bit uneven. Higher end lumber will really only be the way to get around this issue, yet even better quality lumber suffers from this issue. The old time cabinet maker understands this and knows how to match and construct cabinets so this staining issue is much less noticeable. You need to sand the finish and apply several coats of wood sealer. You must allow each coat to dry completely before you sand again and seal again. After a few coats of sealer, you then can apply a new coat of stain, That should get you a better even look. But you will loose some of the grain pattern that people want when they stain a piece of furniture.
    • Jaime LaPlant Jaime LaPlant on Sep 08, 2014
      @Woodbridge Environmental Thank you so much for the detailed explanation!
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Sep 08, 2014
    In this case, I would sand it lightly, prime it and paint it!
  • Jaime LaPlant Jaime LaPlant on Sep 08, 2014
    Thanks everyone for all your help! If I was just making the night stand, then I probably would go back and resand and condition and stain and try again. However, I also built a bed, armoire, and dog bed. I used the same types of wood for those, so I think I would run into the same issues. I would love the stain look, but in this case, I think I am going to have to just settle for priming it and painting. Thanks again for everyone's help!
  • Roger S Roger S on Sep 09, 2014
    From looking at the pictures it looks like you might havesome glue stains left on the piece. When I build pieces the first thing I doafter putting a joint together is wash off all the excess glue several times. Even asmall amount of wood glue will seal the wood and prevent the stain from soakinginto the wood. Just because a glue or wood filler said it was stainable doesnot mean that it will absorb stain like wood. The spots look to be near thejoints and as for the top did you edge glue these boards together and useclamps to hold them if so this could be where the glue stains came from. Justwiping the glue off is not good enough to remove all of it. I always wash allthe joints and sand them smooth after it dries. If I do have some spots that donot stain just sand them again and reapply the stain. Also with plywood justmake sure you do not over sand and get into the glue from where the plies areput together this will leave the same blotchy finish. Then the only answer isto use Polyshades and just paint on the stain with the poly. In most cases thiswill solve the problem.