Applying Dyes / Stains Over Charles Neil Blotch Control ( PreStain)

First lets understand how the prestain works.

Any prestain is going to seal the wood, to some degree, it has too, the objective of the prestain, is to be absorbed by the softer grain and thus equalize it with the harder grain, so when applying it you want to wipe it or brush on a wet coat, then lightly wipe back,this allows the soft grain to drink it up, spraying will apply an equal amount, which is not what we want, we want the soft grain, to be able to absorb more than the hard grain, so wiping or brushing is best,  then  allow to dry about an hour or until it feels dry, then a light scuff sand , just to remove the whiskers, then apply a second in the same manner, then allow to dry at least 6 hours, over night is best, several days will not hurt.

The prestain is designed to soften some when a water base stain or dye is applied, in order to allow for  the prestain to take the color.

The softening action can be aggravated by over wiping and over brushing, additionally water base colorants dry fast and maintaining a wet edge can be difficult, meaning, brushing a dye or stain on a large area, isn’t a good idea,  odds are you will have a streaked surface, simply because the dye or stain is drying faster than you can work it, over raw wood or plywood it’s not as big a deal, because the wood is absorbing the colorant, over the prestain, the more you wipe the more it will soften, and you can get a sticky mess, if so stop, and let it dry, then using a damp stain pad or similar you can often level out the color, remember, both the prestain and the colorants are water base and can be dissolved by water.

Foam brushes and regular brushes simply put, do not hold enough product to allow you to wipe a good wet coat on a large surface, we much prefer, spraying the dye or stain, by applying a wet coat, then immediately wiping it back, but you want to work it in sections, meaning, do a side panel ,immediately wipe back , then do another, do not try to work a huge area, the colorants dry too fast to be able to control them well. Adding 1 to 2 oz of Floetrol per qt of colorant , especailly in hot weather can help alot .Floetrol is designed to slow the dry of latex paint , you will find it in the paint dept. of most box and hardware stores. HOWEVER if you use the floetrol I strongly  suggest you use a coat of shellac over it prior to topcoating to ensure adhesion .

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My alternative to spraying is to use a stain pad, which is basically a terry cloth-covered sponge, and I get it wet , and wipe quickly and wet, then wipe it back, and I am done, additionally water base dyes and stains dry to a very dead ,dull looking appearance, and usually look terrible when dry, but the top coat brings them back to life, what you see when the colorant is wet is what it will look like when topcoated. This rapid drying can cause many issues , by thinking as it dries they have missed a spot, or didn’t put enough, and they will re-wipe it, not a good idea, in the case of dyes, you just got a double shot of color and it can go much darker , again, looks good wet, it will look good when topcoated.

If the color is too light , let it dry well before applying a second coat, if  too dark, again let it dry well then using a damp pad pull some of the color off, but again, you really need to test your products and be sure before diving into the actual project, it,s a must

Oil base stains, look better , because the oil in them give a sheen , and depth of color, but it’s simply the wet look from the oil, the water base products will as stated, come right back to life.

The issue with oil stains is they are slower to dry so workability is better, they dry much slower, and additionally they do not soften the prestain,  this then presents another issue,  color retention, meaning, since the stain is not penetrating the prestain, the color may be lighter, it’s the same with any prestain,weak box store stains are the worst,  with our pre-stain often with an oil base product , especially a gel stain, often one coat is all that is needed , but you must do a test sample to be sure.  It’s a case of you can’t have your cake and eat it too, while many have used and I have as well, thinned shellac as a pre-stain  it is too unpredictable, a 1/2 lb cut on a piece may do well, then again on another section it’s too much or another too little, our product was designed to give as uniform a surface as possible, but it also seals, and on plywoods , where now days we have such a super thin veneer, 2 coats may be too much, you have to test, the reason is under the tissue paper veneer, is glue line, and it will also hinder absorption of the color. so testing on scraps to be sure is a must, I have had cases where I did 1 coat on the plywood and 2 on the solid, I have also had the reverse.

The basic rule to control dyes is simple,  ” saturation”, meaning, wet it quick ,wipe it off and your done, trying to gently wipe light coats of dye never works, you just can’t control it well enough , over any thing,  raw wood or anything, its absorbtion and drying rate is just too fast, again,  on wet, wipe off , your done.

The world of finishing, can be complex, and different woods, drying conditions all affect, as well as application, that’s what makes it difficult, unfortunately there are no perfect recipes, everyone wants a fool-proof finishing schedule, and there isn’t one, sorry to say, unless it’s a topcoat on raw wood, that’s about the easiest, but when you get into blotch prone woods and dyes and stains, it gets a bit more touchy, hope the above helps some.

Acetone , alcohol and lacquer base stains and dyes, will dissolve the prestain super fast, so spraying is the only recourse.

One of my favorite things to do is to apply a water base top coat,over the dye/stain , let it dry , then give it a very light scuff and apply another coat of the same dye or stain ,( it acts as a glaze) and  it deepens and enriches the color, works well **** you do not want to glaze between coats of General Finishes Endurovar , its a super finish, but doesn’t like water anything being sandwhiched in between coats, ****

Be Safe

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13 Responses to Applying Dyes / Stains Over Charles Neil Blotch Control ( PreStain)

  1. don says:

    This is by far the best write up about PreStain and staining I have seen. Definitely one to be printed and tacked to the shop wall.

    Nice job, thanks,

  2. g2-fd4943951fa0e5ff0db9f9894c72f418 says:

    I agree. Very good explanation. Everyone should make a copy of this and read it again each and every time they begin to finish a piece.

  3. Charles Mullins says:

    I used your technique today on a US Army command board. It was 4 ft. by 6 1/2 ft. The only problem was getting it covered before some areas started drying. It works great though. Thanks for “fine tuning” my procedure.

    Charles Mullins

  4. Jake Atwood says:

    I like the idea of applying a water-based top coat. Would you apply this over an oil based stain or do you need to keep all the layers water based?

    • Jake, you use this UNDER the stain,not over , its a pre stain conditioner, , not a finish, if using an oil based stain, you need to test because often only one coat of Blotch control is needed

      • Jake Atwood says:

        Thanks for the reply–I’m learning a lot from you blog. I’ll be finishing a large 4×8 sheet of maple veneer and want to get most consistent results possible. I ordered your blotch control and plan to use 2 coats before staining. From this article, it sounds like an oil based stain will give me more time to work and look better than water based? My only concern is if whether the stain will go on a lot lighter than expected. In this case, is multiple coats of stain the best plan?

  5. You need to test, but usually if your using an oil base stain, only one coat of BC is needed, The reason is the oil in the stain also seals . If you use 2 coats of BC the color will be lighter, any prestain is going to cause a lighter color because it has to seal the wood to some degree. Multiple coats of stain do work, however not more than 2 , Heavy coats of stain can cause adhesion issues of the top coats ..

  6. Jake Atwood says:

    Thanks again for the advice. I look forward to using the BC product!

  7. momalle3 says:

    I tried to do a basswood guitar using this stuff and it was absolutely terrible. the blotch contro;, dissolved very very quickly when I tried to apply water based analine dye to make a”sunburst” finish. it left a nasty gummy mess and basically ruined the project. I’m sure it works well for some applications, but I’m throwing it out. never again

  8. Charles Neil says:

    the only way I can think of would be to possibly use a water base finish as
    a base coat, before the French polish. Its not going to work with an alcohol
    or lacquer in a hand applied application . any water base colorant is
    possibly going to also dissolve with alcohol, it acts the same as water with
    water base colorants. The only way to apply an alcohol anything over it is
    to spray it, any mechanical application method is going to dissolve it
    pretty quickly.

    A coat of water base finish will seal off the BC and the colorants so the alcohol cant get thru, however be sure to let every thing dry really well before using the alcohol

  9. Charles Neil says:

    if it dissolved that quickly under a water base,colorant either you saturated and worked it for some time or most likely it wasn’t dry, a test sample would have been a good idea. The product is designed to slightly soften under a water base colorant so it actually takes the stain or dye, Also be sure to wipe it back , soaking the wood and just letting it sit will take much longer to dry, always wipe it back. and always do test samples of any process .

  10. Frank says:

    Can you use Danish Oil over a water based dye and youe pre-conditioner?

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