I am going to start a new project – staining an unfinished alder table. I have read both to pre-treat alder because it is soft and will take the stain unevenly, and that alder is hard and will stain well. What is the real situation? I am planning to use a Minwax Gel Stain. Do I need to apply the pre-treat to get an even stain? I have very little experience in finishing furniture.
Michael Dresdner: Assuming it is sanded appropriately, alder tends to take stain very aggressively, but not necessarily unevenly. I find alder one of the easier and more uniform woods when it comes to finishing. However, no matter what wood and what stain you use, it is ALWAYS wise to test your stain AND finish first on scrap of the same wood sanded to the same grit and method. That is the only way you can accurately predict what you will run into, and whether the results appeal to you. Finish (faux) firewood first!