Spraying Stain on Alder

Products and techniques to help achieve even staining of Alder wood. March 12, 2006

I have a job for which I have to use a spray stain on alder. The customer wants it to have a spray effect, so I cannot wipe it off. I tried using a solvent based stain by itself before the sealer and I have also tried mixing in a little stain into the sealer. But none of these produced very good color. I spray on with a Spraytech airless pump piston sprayer. I also have to avoid the normal blotching that is common when alder is stained with wipe on stains. Any suggestions as to how I should stain the alder?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
"The customer wants it to have a spray effect."
What is a spray effect? Please explain.

From the original questioner:
Well, he didn't say "spray effect," but he wants to avoid the blotches when you wipe the stain on alder, so I have to spray on the stain and not wipe it.

From contributor I:
Not necessarily true. You can condition the wood first and use a spray and wipe, but spray only would assure you no blotching if spray technique is suitable.

From contributor D:
I like spray NGR dyes for alder. The wood is very soft and absorbs stain like a sponge, so I'm not wild about wiping stains for this wood. If you need grain definition, I'd go with NGR dyes followed by sealing and glazing. That's always given me the best results with alder.

From contributor W:
We use a dye stain from Sherwin Williams. You have to get it from one of their Chemical Coatings stores. You should spray it with an HVLP sprayer with a small needle like 1.4 or smaller. Anything bigger than that and it won't come out right. This stain has no body. It is thinner than water. If you try and spray it with an airless, it will make a mess.

From contributor T:
Also try sanding to 380. Then use a Minwax gel stain mixed with clear J'eld stain (brand name, about 20 bucks a quart). Apply this with a rag, then follow up as you wipe with a very thick, fine-haired oil brush. You can stroke until even. The J'eld stain will add viscosity and open time to your work.

From contributor C:
I've finished alder with water stains (but I think what you call blotching is what I call beautiful). Dewaxed shellac sealer followed by tinted clears will give you the dead even colors that you seem to want. Gel stains (which are really viscous glazes) can be applied on such woods to get nice effects that are a compromise between the dead even colored coatings and the "blotchy" looks. I commonly have to manipulate my glazes to get more interesting effects that I see finishers here striving mightily to avoid. The broken color finishes are consistently more interesting to the human eye than the perfected, even (bland) coatings that so many are striving for.

From contributor V:
I do 90% of my work with alder. I am with contributor W on this one - use the Sherwin Williams Sherwood spray stains and stay away from the Minwax stains. Those are for homeowners, not professionals. You can spray the Sherwood straight from the can and wipe any excess that remains on the wood. Or if you don't want to wipe it, you can reduce it with either Naptha, mineral spirits or acetone. You will have to adjust your volume control on your gun so as not to put down too much stain. The mineral spirits flash the slowest out of the three, and allow you to blend if needed. The Napatha flashes quicker, so you have to be careful to not get "strips" when applying the stain. And acetone flashes real quick and is ready for your topcoat in about 10 minutes. You can reduce these stains anywhere from 300-500%. This desk I made for a company is Sherwood's Traditional Cherry reduced 300% with mineral spirits, allowed to dry 30 minutes. Then I applied a seal coat of 50% acrylic conversion coating (SW pre-cat lacquer) and 50% lacquer thinner. Sanded lightly with 220 and then applied a toner made with the same stain. Then 3 coats of the pre-cat.

From contributor V:
I forgot to mention that if you feel comfortable with applying wiping stains, you could always do a 5% washcoat on the wood first and then apply your wiping stain. You will need to know the percentage by volume of the finish coat you are using. Let's say your finish is 20% by volume of solids, then you would take 1 part finish and mix it with 4 parts of thinner to get a 5% washcoat. If its 18% volume of solids, you would use 1 part finish and 3 parts thinner. Spray your wood with the washcoat, allow to dry about 30 minutes and then sand it with 320 grit and apply your wipe-on stain. This will fill the tiny ends of the grains (which are like tiny straws) and reduce the blotching that occurs. Although the stain will not be as dark as you want, you may still have to apply a toner coat to get the rich color you want.

From contributor W:
There are two kinds of Sherwood stains that I use. Wiping stain and dye stain. Wiping stain you have to wipe off, the dye stain is a spray only. The dye stain is especially good for doing woods that blotch and for making toners.

From the original questioner:
Thank you all, but I just discovered water-based stain, and that does not cause blotching, so I'm probably going to go with that because it's the easiest.

From contributor W:
Except that they are not all light fast (they can fade) and they raise the grain. The Sherwood dye stains do not require sanding the raised grain down like water based products.