Troubleshooting Stain Bleedout

Pros consider how to deal with a situation where an oil stain dries too slowly and seeps out of the pores of an Oak piece. July 3, 2008

I am applying Varathane brand oil stain to plain sawn solid red oak and oak veneer. I started my sample board last night. I hung around the shop for an hour after I saw how bad it was bleeding stain after being initially wiped.

I applied the stain with a three inch disposable type bristle brush and I brushed with the grain getting it good and wet. I allowed the stain to remain on the wood sample for about five minutes before my first wipe down.

After an hour, I wiped it again for the third time upon seeing more bleeding. This morning, which is over 12 hours since I closed the shop, there was still bleeding on all surfaces - both faces and edges. The temperature in the shop was around 60 degrees last night and 45 degrees at start up today. Can anyone help?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
It sounds like a combination of problems. Low temps, no air movement, slow solvent. If I were you I would warm up the surface with a heat gun or hair dryer and then apply the stain and wipe off the excess and then continue drying with heat until all the solvent had evaporated and the pigment /vehicles had set. That should take about a half hour or so with moderate heat kept on it from the drier.

You can make a stand to hold the drier and clamp or tie it in place so you donít have to stand there all the time. Now - what you really need to do is get your shop temp up to 70 if you can and apply it in a booth if you have one. This will be able to be done without all I just stated - but this will get you going in the meantime.

From contributor G:
A quick and dirty approach if you don't have a lot of it to deal with is to air the surfaces with high-pressure air, which will blow the stain from the oak tubes.

From the original questioner:
Unfortunately, this is a rather large job and the hair drier/heat gun approach would be costly in labor. The airhose sounds faster but I would worry about possible streaking. The part about the slow solvent seems maybe workable. Is there a way to add a fast solvent to this off the shelf Varathane brand wood stain?

From contributor C:
Not without diluting the color which would lead to having to tone or glaze. Glen's method would work if you kept a dry rag there to immediately wipe off the stain as it's blown out of the grain. I to have used this method when necessary - mostly on deep grained woods such as oak, ash and etc.

It sounds as if it's a slow drying glaze so you should get no streaking as long as you wipe it quickly and blow the air immediately to bring it out of the pores. I'd give it a try on a sample and see to put your mind at ease at least. Otherwise more steps are ahead of you in the future.

From contributor P:
To the original questioner: can you get a local finishing supplier (e.g., M.L. Campbell, Chemcraft, Becker Acroma, Mohawk, etc.) to mix the stain color for you in a faster drying stain base? As an example, ML Campbell has color matches for Minwax stains.

The advantage is you get the same color in a stain base that doesn't contain a significant percentage of drying oil and so it dries fast and doesn't bleed out of the pores.

If you're stuck with the oil-base stain, keep it warm before use and apply it with a spray gun. Only spray just enough stain to wet the surface of the wood and then wipe the excess. There's no value in flooding the stain on and letting it soak into the pores or waiting five minutes to wipe the excess. If you're trying to time the wipe in order to develop more color from the stain, just use a dye on the bare wood before staining. Again, spraying the solvent based dye just wet enough to wet the surface of the wood is fast and very effective and you don't need to wipe the dye.

From contributor C:
Are you making a sample for approval or have you actually started the job? If you've started the job Contributor Pís way, though a good and sound method, may not work if you've developed the pores with the way you've started.

From the original questioner:
The customer gave me a wooden corbel from some existing work and wants me to match its color for the millwork I am making, finishing and installing.

I had Rodda paints modify the closest stock color of Varathane brand oil stain they sell to match my stain sample provided by the customer. They saved the recipe and made me a gallon for starters.

Now I am staining and top coating a sample piece to give to the customer for approval. If approved, I plan to have them make several more gallons which I will co-mingle before I begin to stain the actual millwork. The stain was probably quite cold when I used it last night.

I felt it was prudent to leave the sample stain on for five minutes because some of the pieces of millwork are quite large and could easily take me five minutes or more to go from applying the first of the stain to completing and then actually begin wiping.

Does that make sense or am I over-thinking the possibility of having some parts of the work get darker/lighter if I donít try to establish a time frame from application to wipe-down? I do know about toning and shading but there is no money in this job for such schedules.

From contributor C:
If itís drying slow your over-thinking. You'll have plenty of time to wipe off larger surfaces. I wipe 4x8 as I go and donít have problems.

From the original questioner:
What I am saying is not that I am worried about the stain beginning to dry before I begin wipeing.

I am worried about a large piece taking five minutes to apply stain and start wiping as opposed to a small piece taking only thirty seconds to apply stain.

If I wipe the stain off of the small piece after only thirty seconds I worry that it will stain lighter than the piece that sat under wet stain for five minutes before I was able to begin wiping. Am I being too cautious about "wet stain timing"?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the help guys. I will make a new sample sprayed lightly and wiped quickly. I have heard there are devices out there to warm five gallon pails of lacquer etc. Does anybody know who sells these?

From contributor P:

If you get a pail warmer, make sure it has a thermostat. Some don't and you can't regulate the temperature. I used one for a while but I really wasn't too impressed with it. I didn't have an agitator on the bucket, but that probably would have helped keep the temperature even.

You really only need to keep the stain as warm as the wood. If the temperature of the wood is higher than the stain, that will encourage the stain to bleed from the pores. Placing a freshly stained piece in direct sunlight for example will cause stain to bleed.
You don't have to work mad fast when staining, just keep a consistent pace so the color is also consistent. Practice spraying/wiping on the back of doors or on shelves to get the flow/pace down.