Fool Proof Blotch Free Staining

I’m very excited about this new discovery of mine that works better in my view than any other method I have seen currently available on the market.

There are four different types of stains, oil based, water based, gel and spirit (alcohol) based stains, the latter being the fastest drying usually in about 15 mins.  However I have never personally experienced that short amount of drying time even though I used only industrial types, half hour is more true to the word.  Because it is alcohol based when applying shellac which is also alcohol based reignite’s the stain, so always some portion will come off on the rubber.  I have somewhat limited that with my new little discovery.

Splotching is caused by density variations in the wood, woods like Pine including all species of pine, Cherry, Birch, Poplar, Alder, Aspen etc except for Camphor ironic because it’s a softwood are all prone to splotching.  Certain parts of the timber absorbs more stain than other parts leaving an inconsistent colour variation on the wood, some parts will look dark and burnt like while others will be lighter in colour.   This can be advantageous but generally it isn’t, in the beginning when I couldn’t afford expensive exotic timber I used pine and stained it.  As a result I used to use splotching to my benefit, it actually looked good and was a hit from the word go.  Eventually I accumulated enough money and bought nice timber, however many of my customers still preferred the splotchy look, why because I knew how to make it splotch to their liking.  But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

Let me add I enjoy working pine more than any other timber because it’s easy to plane. Tear out most of time is non existent.

There are products out there to help reduce splotching, wood conditioner by minwax is one way

.wood conditioner

You brush it on and leave it to dry for 24hrs but the can reads you need to wait only 15 mins, ignore that because it’s hog wash.  Another equally good method is shellac thin enough to use as a base sealer which is basically what wood conditioner is.  Afterwards you can use an oil based finish but the problem with that is it really doesn’t stop all the splotching nor does the finish really darken the timber irrespective of how long you leave it on nor how many times you recoat it either, but the label reads that it should.

Gel stain is an excellent choice as it sits on the timber surface and doesn’t soak into it, you brush it on with a foam brush, wait 5 mins then wipe it off.  What if you’re a scroller how will that help you, it won’t. Because the gel is thick and doesn’t run so it can’t get into any scrolled work and if you used a brush, how will you wipe it off.

gel stain

Let’s skip the water based stains as I have no knowledge regarding them

wood finish

Oil Based stains after you applied the wood conditioner does a good job but doesn’t eliminate the splotching completely.  It takes minimum 6 hours to dry before you can apply further coats of it or poly, shellac or any other finish.  The longer you will leave it on before wiping the darker the timber is supposed to get, I only experienced  a small amount of darkening in general and a greater amount of darkening in areas that it did splotch.


Last scenario is spirit based stains, above is the home brand that is also used by industries but not a true industrial stain as this one takes 4 hours to dry while industrial types take 15 mins to dry. Ok let me take that back it is industrial stain but is sold at home centres while the 15mins type are not available in any home centre.  This type of stain on it’s own cannot be used on pine.  Well actually that’s the part that I figured a work around, a solution to that is so simple that I don’t know how anyone else hasn’t figured this out yet.

These types of stain as its spirit based soaks into the timber very, very fast.  Now I’ve tried using wood conditioner prior with no luck, I tried using shellac with no luck so I let it go for a number of years as I abandoned staining altogether until out of nowhere did it just pop up into my head to give this crazy idea a go.

I knew oil based stains worked to some degree but didn’t give a real depth of colour and spirit based stains just soaked into the timber saturating it causing splotching but, what if I slowed this soaking process and only allowed a small amount to penetrate the timber. Would it work and the answer is yes emphatically it does work.  Here’s what I did and it’s the kick yourself in the ass one.

I poured some BLO in a small container and mixed a very small amount of spirit stain and then stirred.  I tested it on some scrap and if there was splotching then it meant I mixed more stain than BLO which means I needed to add more BLO.  This is the trial and error part, backwards and forwards mixing one or the other until you get no splotching and a rich uniform colour.  This took only a few minutes no biggie.  I also used the worst most notorious resinous timber for this trial; Structural Pine. See for yourself.



The top picture has the flourescent light shining on it hence why you see light and dark spots but the bottom picture shows it’s splotch free and uniform rich colour.  I did nothing to the timber this is straight off the hand plane, no sanding, no wood conditioner, no shellac.  I didn’t even wait for it to dry to apply more coats, the more I applied the richer the colour got and then it stopped getting richer.  It was amazing I couldn’t believe it like it developed its own depth stop.  I did allow it to sit for a couple of days to thoroughly dry besides I had work and couldn’t get to it the next day.

Remember when I said when applying shellac over a spirit based stain it would reignite the stain, well it did but only a very minute amount.  Some very small amount came off on the rubber but nothing that would show any noticeable effects.  Here are the results with shellac applied.


I don’t know about you but this is a great achievement using spirit based stains.  The only place it doesn’t work on is end grain but I have a semi solution to that as well.  Sand the end grain to the highest grit you can and then apply either shellac, wood conditioner or e beaut sanding sealer which in reality is all shellac.  Then apply a single light coat with a rag, just one quick swipe is all that is needed.  If you apply anymore then splotching or complete darkening effect will occur.

Also if you like you can spray your final finish rather than using a rubber, this will ensure that no stain comes off, just be careful as you will see the stain swimming.   I’ve never sprayed anything so I’m not the best advisor on this.

Staining is a great solution for those who are on a tight budget and not only that it was also used extensively in the 18th century with dyes and pigments to enhance the natural colour of the timber.


3 thoughts on “Fool Proof Blotch Free Staining

  1. Salko this is very interesting indeed and the results are fantastic!

    Just so that I am clear in my understanding…your combining pre-mixed spirit (alcohol) based stain with BLO until you have a ratio that provides color coverage without the dreaded blotching?

    Does the alcohol mix well with the BLO or is it more of a suspension and need constant stirring?

    I tone my BLO with linseed oil based artist’s paint and it works well. I have yet to try and mixture that dramatically changes (stains) the color of the wood however. Generally I like the natural color of the wood and a little toning helps to bring all of the pieces together, but there are times when I would like a dramatic color difference. So I’m very interested in this technique of yours. Thanks for sharing it!


    1. You have asked a very good question and unfortunately I don’t have an answer. I used a very small container at the time so I used all the stain for this sample, but I would suspect you would have to stir it occasionally during use like you would with oil based finishes.


    2. Oh and to answer your first question, yes you mix until you have the right ratio or viscosity for it to work properly. Mix a small amount of stain then test, the results will be immediate. If the colour is too light then add a little stain, if it’s blotchy then add more BLO or Tung oil. It’s a very simple procedure with powerful results.


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