Way to Stop Stain from Bleeding on Red Oak?

Way to Stop Stain from Bleeding on Red Oak?

While finishing red oak, I found some pores or veins seemed to absorb more stain and would bleed back out after applying the stain and leaving it to dry overnight. This bleed-back left significant irregular spotting over the boards’ surfaces. Efforts to wipe the spots out after drying made dark streaks where spots had been (see the above photo). Is there any way to eliminate these spots from causing this spotting? – Joe Nakanishi

Tim Inman: This finishing problem has been one that is timeless for finishers. The open pored characteristic of red oak and other woods like it allow way too much solvent to be drawn into the grain. Then, as the solvent dries, the resins and colorants in the stain are wicked back up to the semi-dry surface, where they collect and magnify their colors. It works a lot like putting a paper towel into some water with food coloring in it. The next day (or the next week) the color will be seen to magnify up around the dry area hanging outside the water cup, condensing and concentrating themselves. This is usually a middle school science experiment teaching the action of capillary wicking, but it works with woods, too. Usually one can correct most of this with Minwax type solvent-based wood stains by re-dissolving the stain with appropriate thinner and dry-ragging the colors out to even them. It can best be prevented in the first place by not applying such a soaking coat. Second, pre-seal the wood somewhat with a very dilute sanding sealer or shellac coat prior to staining.

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  • Michael Dresdner

    Choose a different type of stain in the same color, since that overnight bleeding happens primarily with liquid oil based stains. It does not happen with pigmented waterbased stain, water or alcohol soluble dye, or oil based gel stain. As for getting the wood and pores the same color (also without bleeding), dilute some latex paint with water and use it as a wiping stain.

  • EC

    I too have had bleed problems. Years ago I heard that Japan Drier added to Minwax-style stains would stop the overnight bleeding problems. It makes the stain dry quicker so there is less chance of bleed. Wherever I saw the tip, they didn’t mention how much drier to use. Maybe that piece of info is on the instructions on the can of drier? I haven’t tried it because I haven’t used this type of stain on red oak or similarly grained woods since hearing about it.