Controlling Stain Absorption on Poplar End Grain

Sanding and a sealer washcoat can help you fine-tune the way end grain takes up stain. June 28, 2013

I am staining some raised panel poplar columns and want to avoid having too much stain being absorbed by the end grain. I have stained all of the other woodwork in the house successfully by using Olympic's oil based wood conditioner and letting it dry for a minimum of four days before staining with Olympic oil based stain.

I know this goes against the instructions but it results in a nice finish and prevents the poplar from absorbing the stain in blotchy patterns. Instead it results in a nice, quiet grain pattern resembling cherry. This technique works reasonably well with the raised panels but still allows too much stain to be absorbed by the end grain of the raised panels. Can anyone suggest something to prevent stain from being absorbed into the end grain?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor E:
I donít know how many panels you have but you could use a bit of glue sizing or something along those lines.

From contributor N:
I have always had good results sanding that area with finer sand paper up to 380 grit and or sealing it with a coat of seal coat shellac which is a two pound cut, or thin it with denatured alcohol for a one pound cut. As with all finishing you would need to experiment first. Glue size would also work.

From contributor R:
Have you tried to just wet the end grain first with a rag soaked in paint thinner and then staining it. Try it out on a sample to see if you like the results.

From contributor B:
I always sand the end grain to a finer grit than face or edge grain then follow with a washcoat of shellac over the whole piece. I'm not a great finisher but this has worked for me in the past. One way to avoid the end grain on a raised panel is to edgeband the panel with solid wood then run the profile as normal. I've only done this where I have a large panel and I'm using MDF with a face veneer. More work for sure but you kill two birds with one stone. No end grain and if you know how to orient the grain on the edgeband no tear-out to deal with.