Tim Gunn Stopped By And Said…

September 08, 2011   //  Posted in: Bedrooms, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  10 responses

“Make it work, staining-newbie.”

Obviously, no. Not really. But there was a time during this whole staining-the-shiplap project that I needed the encouragement and perspective of a Tim Gunn. Or Emily Henderson. Or Mike Holmes. Or my mom.

OK, I’ll back up for a second. Remember the new paneled headboard wall that I showed you Tuesday?

Shiplap wall: Progress.

Once the boards had been installed, I was so unexpectedly pleased with the natural wood appearance that I decided to try staining the wall instead of painting gray to match the rest of the room after all.

How about that? My only concern upfront was if I could find stain that would be dark enough to cover the bazillion knots in the (totally true-to-form) knotty pine. Naturally, you’ll know if you’ve ever gone brown stain shopping that there are about 100 different options to choose from, although once I had eliminated any that appeared to be too light to disguise the knots and passed over any there riddled by a mischevious reddish undertone, I was left with two. Meet Jacobean and Dark Walnut, my new samples subjects. Oh, and Ebony sneaked into the cart too just incase it knocked my socks off and complemented the already gray walls amazingly (at $4.50 a piece, the samples weren’t going to break the ol’ bank). I was joyous bringing them home, mostly because I like adding more dark cozy colors to the house, and I had a hunch that one of these would fit right in since most of the furniture in the house is dark walnut or that famous IKEA black-brown.

Minwax stain samples from Home Depot. $4.50 each.

Before I did anything stain or paint-related, I really needed to take care of the 100 or so nail holes and 4 noticeable seams in the paneling, like this seam that you can see right here:

One of the 4 seams on the wall. I was lucky to only have that many.

My wood filler is MIA so I bought a replacement product also offered by Minwax that was labeled as stainable and paintable. Did I want to stain it? Yes. Might I need to paint it? Yes. Check, check, this was the ideal partner-in-crime. Plus, it clearly stated on the packaging that it was the ideal counterpart for the stain samples I had already picked out. I should note that this is not a post sponsored by Minwax, they just seem to have infiltrated both Home Depot and Lowe’s (good for them) and I wasn’t able to find any of my tried-and-true Elmer’s wood putty at either store (bad for me).

Recommended Minwax Stainable Wood Filler.

The wood filler did seem nice and fresh. Not only did it go on as smooth and cleanly, but was like nice light mousse with a slight grain which was nicer to work with than other more putty-like fillers I’ve encountered in passing. Comparable to as if I was prodding my finger (for the smaller nail holes) and the paint scraper (for applying over the paneling seams) into a vat of tiramisu or lightweight wall spackle.

After a quick sanding, it left the nail gun holes undetectable to the touch.

Nail holes no longer detectable to the touch. Success.

To test each stain – the Ebony, Jacobean, and Dark Walnut – I applied each stain two ways; by leaving it un-wiped to fully saturate the board, and also wiped (after a minute of soakage) to see how a lighter saturation would appear and cover the knots comparatively. I was generally leaning towards Dark Walnut, the stain furthest at the bottom on the right that was allowed to fully saturate into rich color. Rich, warm, and sexy.

Stain sampling.

This is when I cried loudly for Pete (and the staining champ equivalent of Tim Gunn).

It was game-changer. On both the saturated and less-saturated examples, we had less than adequate stain coverage on the I’m-going-to-be-stain’s-best-friend wood filler.

Stain sampling. WAIT, that's not covering up the wood patching.

I sulked a bit. A lot. And then went back with a soaked Q-Tip to concentrate the stain directly on the problem areas.

Concentrating my staining efforts directly on the wood filler problem areas.

Still no success. Heart. Breaking. Was there anything I could do? Maybe. I started with research.

Here are general learnings gleaned from basic online searches, Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis, and the Minwax customer support forums:

1. Stainable filler doesn’t mean that you can stain over it and expect it to absorb the same way as the wood. In fact, stainable means that you can tint the filler before you even use it to match the stain you’re using. No, this is not mentioned on the wood filler package, nor are there directions on the package for how to mix with stain, but a smartiepants all over the Minwax forums was all over correcting about 300 other people who had complained about the same issue I was experiencing.
2. If you stain over little holes without filling them, they would probably have been undetectable anyways. I’m sure this doesn’t also apply to the seams in the boards, but knowing this ahead of time would have meant that I wouldn’t have filled the little nail holes.
3. And proposed solutions from Minwax customer support:
A) avoid a fine sandpaper (lower than 100 grit) to keep the filler porous (I probably went to fine. Remember how the patches were undetectable?);
B) stain immediately after the filler cures (I had, and there was no trying again.);
C) apply Minwax Stain Gel in the same tone with a paint bruch (may be my last resort);
D) and the option D, which I’m trying right now, dampen a piece of 100-grit sandpaper with the stain, and basically wet-sand the color into the effected area.

Initial impressions of Option D? This might work. There are still some obvious show-throughs, let alone the fact that you can see right on through to my original test swatches (OOPS). And my fingers are going to be permanently stained dark walnut. Here’s my progress as of just this morning…

Staining progress. Splotchy and blotchy.

I still have some work to do on the other side of the window, not to mention inbetween each panel with a finer applicator.

And you’ll notice, there aren’t many visible patches. If visible, they present like the knots in the wood.

Staining progress. Knots and patches.

Will I keep it? We’ll see; Minwax recommends a 48-72 hour dry time on its stains, so hopefully by the end of the weekend I’ll have a good idea of how well the stain has taken, and whether it’s going to make the cut as a permanent bedroom feature. In any case, this is the largest and most challenging thing I’ve ever attempted staining.

And I’m surprised by the level of difficulty.

  • Tre
    6 years ago - Reply

    yeah I have found that wood filler is a big lie. haven’t found anything that works like it is supposed to. avoid it when you can. it still looks awesome though.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Argh. I should have checked with you first.

  • Cait @ Hernando House
    6 years ago - Reply

    Looking forward to seeing if you decide to keep it! :)

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Me too. I’m moreso looking forward to having the fumes out of the room so I can look at it long enough to assess the situation. Knocks me over.

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      6 years ago -

      Haha yeah I can imagine!

  • Jami Graham
    6 years ago - Reply

    Oh my gosh Emily! I SO agree…staining is way harder than it should be or I thought it to be! I can’t wait to see if you decide to keep it or not! Also, think second coat if it’s not quite what you’re wanting the first time! AND if you have any stain on you at all just whip out the WD-40 and it comes off like dirt does with some soapy hands!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      WD-40! Really! I’ve never heard that and will be sure to keep it filed away for future reference! Thanks!

  • Michelle
    2 years ago - Reply

    If you mix sawdust in your filler then you can sand it down and stain.

  • Kelly
    5 months ago - Reply

    It looks as if you posted this many years ago but I hope you came up with a solution because the wall looks great. I also had the same issue when staining my floors and did feel some relief in seeing your post that I’m not alone. What I ended up doing is sectioning off the spots where the putty was resisting the stain, sanded them back down with my last grit (100), water popping them again (method of opening up the grain) and restaining. The results aren’t flawless but unless you were the one fixing it no one would even know its there.

    • Emily
      5 months ago -

      Excellent!! Thanks for sharing, Kelly.

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