How to Make Your Own Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

Save

The purpose of a wood conditioner is to partially seal the grain of porous wood, which allows the stain to penetrate evenly and provide uniform color. A number of companies manufacture wood conditioner, and most formulas call for a large concentration of solvents, such as petroleum distillates or naphtha, carrying a dissolved solid, such as styrene -- a plastic -- or an alkyd resin. If such a formulation sounds too complicated to mix yourself, a simplification in the terms may help: A wood conditioner is basically a wood finish reduced to a very thin consistency.

What the Conditioner Should Do

Consider the case of knotty pine. When you apply a stain without first applying a conditioner, the stain soaks deeply into the sapwood and remains on the surface of the resin-rich knots. A wood conditioner soaks into the sapwood and prevents blotching, so the overall color is more uniform, although somewhat lighter, because the stain can't penetrate as deeply.

When spraying lacquer, refinishers often begin by spraying a wash-coat -- an ultra-thin coat of the same lacquer they use for topcoating. An analogous wash-coat for a varnish topcoat would be an ultra-thin layer of varnish. This wash-coat -- which is the same thing as a wood conditioner -- makes an especially dramatic difference on softwoods and hardwoods with irregular grains, such as birch and hickory. It allows the stain to penetrate just deeply enough to color the wood without accentuating inconsistencies in the grain.

What the Conditioner Shouldn't Do

While a wood conditioner may have the same composition as a wood finish, it isn't a finish, and it shouldn't remain on the surface; it's important for it to soak deeply into the wood. Once it hardens, and you scuff the wood with 220-grit sandpaper, the conditioner should be barely noticeable, although it may darken the natural color of the wood a little.

Making Your Own Conditioner

It's best to make wood conditioner out of a solvent-based wood thinner than a water-based one; water-based finishes are complex, and simply adding water won't necessarily make an effective wood conditioner. Varnish, shellac and lacquer can all be turned into wood conditioner as long as you use the appropriate solvent:

  • Varnish -- Reduce varnish with mineral spirits or turpentine.
  • Shellac -- Denatured alcohol is the proper thinner for any type of shellac finish.
  • Lacquer -- Thin lacquer with lacquer thinner. If the humidity is high, use a thinner with a slow evaporation rate to avoid trapping moisture in the wood and causing cloudiness.

The actual concentration of finish depends on the type of wood you're sealing as well as the finish itself, so you may have to experiment on a test piece of wood. Begin with a 50-to-50 solution of thinner and finish, wipe some on the wood, let it dry and and apply stain. If the stain color is too light or the stain doesn't penetrate, reduce the solids' content by adding more thinner.

Tip

Using the Conditioner

The conditioner should be thin enough to wipe on with a cloth, but you can also apply it with a paintbrush. The wood should be freshly sanded, and the conditioner should soak readily, although you may have to wipe off excess. Give the conditioner time to harden, or the stain might mix with it and sink deeper than you want. If you used varnish to make the conditioner, wait overnight before staining. You may have to knock down the wood grain with 220-sandpaper before you apply the stain.

Related Searches

Promoted By Zergnet

Comments

You May Also Like

  • What Does Wood Conditioner Do?

    Explanation of the nature and purpose of wood conditioner for providing uniform color when staining wood.

  • How to Make Your Own Wood Stain

    Sometimes you just can't find the wood stain color you need. This is common when you are trying to match the color...

  • How to Clean & Condition Wood Surfaces

    Clean and condition the wood surfaces of your furniture with commercial or homemade cleaning solutions. Keeping wood surfaces clean and conditioned will...

  • How to Stain White Pine Lumber

    Staining white pine can be difficult because the wood is very porous, so it readily absorbs the staining liquid, which can lead...

  • Proper Wood Floor Conditioning

    Hardwood floors are easy to install and maintain. They can also last a long time if you take care of them properly....

  • Conditioning Wood for Staining

    Use sanding sealer or shellac to prepare wood for staining. Stain your wood project the right way by following the steps in...

  • Tips on Staining Pine Furniture

    Staining pine furniture can be tricky. Pine has natural yellow undertones that tend to show through most stains. Pine rarely accepts stain...

Related Searches

Check It Out

22 DIY Ways to Update Your Home on a Small Budget

M
Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!