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Phil, Mechanical Engineer
Category: Home Improvement
Satisfied Customers: 8769
Experience:  Retired contractor, 51 years experience
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I have some wooden cabinets that Im stripping, refinishing.

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I have some wooden cabinets that I'm stripping, refinishing. They required a lot of wood puddy work (to fill the gashes/holes) but after I stained & refinished they left dark spots (the stain was lighter than the dark spots). What do you recommend doing to rid of these blemishes. I also have other cabinets I haven't stripped or stained and want to know if I could have done something to prevent the "spottiness" in the first place.
I was thinking they must make wood puddy that matches the stain or maybe a clear
puddy that works for any stain color---like a universal/clear puddy that assumes the
stain color OR maybe I can paint the puddy before I apply the stain (or after ?)

Welcome to Just Answer !

I see you have been waiting. I am currently traveling in central america and have extensive experience refinishing furniture and wood work, including large projects for some 4 and 5 star hotels. I can work with you if you can be patient with my responses because my broadband connections here are spotty.;

Let me know if that is OK with you or not.

I will impart several rules that I have developed for my own work that you may take or leave of course.

Rule number one:

- Less is better. It is better to leave damage or flaws in place, unattended many times than to attempt a repair. Each situation varies of course. 'Over workng' a piece looks worse than not working it enough.

- On very old wood work, an 'antique look' is not a bad option. Some manufactures of new furniture will take chains and hammers to their new product in order to give it an antique look.

- An un-professional patch job is fatal to any project. Patch jobs need to be perfect in all aspects or not done at all.


Regarding patch jobs. If the good parts of the stained and finished cabinets are light colored, then the patch material needs to cure one tone lighter than the finished wood, and then a dry fan shaped artists pig bristle brush used to apply some matching streaks of grain to the patch. (but under-done, and after some practice for an hour or so)

You can buy patch materials in a wide range of wood tones.

Then several clear coats applied.

The practice of leaving some flaws unrepaired, and blending the patched areas in with the rest of the wood work is the best approach.


There are other techniques. Antiquing with fine paint mists and micro specks in black, done with a can of black spray paint of the same composition as the primary finish (enamel, or lacquer etc) can be applied very faintly around the repaired areas... blending them with the rest of the cabinet.... that takes practice.. it is worth the time spent.

Only slight coverage is needed, Less than a few specs of paint per square inch. The specs tend to distract from the difference between the patched and non patched areas.


Let me know if you think I am on the right track or not, we can go from there.

Tell me more about the damage in the cabinets, how deep and how much area,, square inches of heavy damage or just pea sized spots.

One of my favorite techniques is a rub on, rub off gel coat stain, then an over spray with laquer to seal it, that dries very had and gives a natural finish look, compared to many brush on type stains that come in a can.

To hide repaired areas you can use the spray can fog technique, very lightly, then apply 3 or 4 coats of hand rubbed clear coats in between gentle blending and rub outs, using 600 grit wet and dry sand paper,

We can go from there.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Phil,


Thanks for you informed responses.

The damage/flaws are pea sized and not heavy or large gouges. It was done by an amateur and violated your "third rule" ("unprofessional patch job can be fatal to any project"). I think if we had left it alone we'd be better off.

Could you explain "the patch material needs to cure one tone lighter

than the finished wood" (what does "cure" mean).

I see I should have gone to a wood/furniture refinishing expert.

Is there one you'd recommend in San Francisco or an association of refinishers that might give me a referral for people like yourself.

Also is there a school where I can learn some of these techniques

myself (or even get referrals from---in San Francisco or nearby).

We have a 1915 building that has the original wood throughout and

were trying to restore it to its original condition--- a little at a time.

Also are you nearby for hire (looks like your retired).

Hello again!

I used to live in San Francisco and did some professional wood finish work when I was there after I retired. Hiring this done is expensive. I can coach you on doing it yourself if you wish.

First step is to locate some 'Dads Paint remover"... not some other brand, None are even a third as good as Dads brand. You can call around to the paint and lumber retailers until you find it. The other brands can be hellishly toxic as well.. Dads is no doubt toxic as well but does not smell nearly as bad. Dads will remove built up finishes several layers deep in 2 or 3 applications... virtually all other brands take 4 or 5 applications and a lot more scraping.

Then using a ''sanding block, (flat block of rubber built to hold a piece of sand paper) use #100 grit paper to get the surface clean, then finer grit paper such as 150 or 200 grit to get the surface smooth.

Then use a 'gel stain'.. but not a water based gel stain.... to stain the wood the color you want... apply it with a folded blue paper shop towel. wipe any excess off in the direction of the grain of the wood.

the brand of 'gell finish' you want is carried by Home depot as a rule and comes in about 15 different shades in dark brown oval shaped squeeze bottles.. I forgot the brand name. I will spend some time looking for it on line if you can't find it. Various legislation occasionally removes certain products from the market.. if you cant find the gel stain in the dark brown plastic squeeze bottle try minwax brand oil based gel stain..experiment with different colors.

We will have to do a test to see if it will tolerate the Deft brand clear lacquer over spray.. if not, you can finish it with tung oil wiped on with a folded blue shop towel.

..... while it is still not dry over spray it lightly with Deft brand clear lacquer, let that dry for a few hours, first coats should be flat non gloss or semi gloss. Final coat can be in high gloss if you want that look.

That is the easiest and most bullet proof way to get a very fine finish. It is actually a trade secret of mine until i have been spilling the beans on it lately.. If you use the lacquer too heavily it will react badly with the gel coat... its tricky business but also very easy if you go lightly with the Deft spray lacquer.

Try that approach. There are others as well but none this easy. You might also try the gel stain first, then a light Deft spray, then next day use a wipe on type oil finish such as tung oil in a can.. wipe that on with a folded blue paper shop towel.

the good thing about a tung oil finish (which dries hard) is that you can simply wipe on a new coat of tung oil years later, it will dissolve the old coat of tung oil and leave a brand new finish... much easier to maintain in world class condition that the non renewable type varnishes.


Regarding wood fillers, most shrink when cured. Try a few different types you can find at Home Depot or a similar place until you find one you like... after applying the wood filler in several coats and letting it dry for a few days...sand with a block as mentioned above between applications.

(Use a single edge razor blade to apply the wood filler and scrape it flat between coats.)

Let me know how that goes, we can proceed from there after you rate my work so far somewhere between good and excellent. (that does not close the question, I will hold it open for you)

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