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Fishy finish – Michael Dresdner

Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Fishy finish

Q: I stripped an oak fish tank stand and applied two heavy coats of espresso colored Varathane oil stain, leaving it sit one hour before wiping it off. I then applied two heavy coats of Watco Teak Oil and left them overnight. I found a sticky, gooey mess in the morning. When I tried to remove it using more Teak Oil, much of the color came off as well.
A: I am not surprised. Stain is meant to be wiped on and wiped off completely, leaving only what the wood can absorb. Layering it on heavily or leaving it longer won’t result in anything but trouble. Granted, more porous woods, like poplar, will absorb more stain than a dense wood like oak, and will get darker. The fact that stain came off when you scrubbed off the excess finish is an indicator that you left more on the wood than it was able to absorb.
The way around that is to use multiple types of color, not try to force one stain to override the nature of the wood you are putting it on. For instance, to get a very dark espresso, I’d start with a dark brownish black water soluble dye directly onto the raw, sanded wood, then follow that, when the dye was dry, with a dark wiping stain flooded on and wiped off. The combination will give you a dark, even color with wood grain still showing.
Teak oil is also meant to be wiped off in 15 minutes, not overnight, and letting it sit that long will indeed create a sticky mess. The simple answer is you really should read the directions and do what they say. At this point, you would be very wise to remove it all and start over.
Incidentally, Teak Oil, which is the exterior version of Danish oil, is not the finish I would have chosen in this case, for a variety of reasons that I have covered in previous posts. I’d have chosen an oil based polyurethane, either wipe on, gel or brush on, and I would go with several coats at least.