So I have never applied any finishes other than paint and have been trying to learn about stains and such for my shelving. I read several blog posts, including the one here: "Wood Finishes Explained" along with watching lots of videos. I read about using 1# cut shellac as a base coat on pine to prevent blotchiness. I researched gel stains, oil stains, etc.
Having done all that, I decided to start experimenting - below are my results on some scrap pieces of 2x4's that I sanded down with 80, then 120 grit. The wood was not very smooth to start with, even after sanding they were a bit rough. These pieces were some poor quality to start with and I think that may have played into the less than stellar results.
Zinsser Seal Coat (100% wax-free shellac)
The left side of the board is just bare wood; while the right side has 2 coats
I did hit the 2nd coat with some 0000 steel wool - most of that section was incredibly smooth.
I liked the "color" of this clear coat, but don't think it fits what I am planning.
View attachment 200061
View attachment 200071
Minwax's Espresso Oil Stain over 1# Cut Shellac
I applied 1 coat of this stain over the wax free shellac because of what I read about blotchy wood
The bad results may be due to my poor application technique.
View attachment 200062
Here is the same section with a second coat of stain
This was ok, but still looked blotchy, even though I had put down the shellac.
View attachment 200063
Minwax's Espresso Oil Stain over Bare Wood
Here is the same stain after 1 coat on bare wood.
As expected much better color than the piece with the seal coat
View attachment 200064
After a second coat of the Espresso stain
I did not like this one, looked very dark and very blotchy.
I believe with this dark of a stain, I should have stopped with 1 coat.
View attachment 200066
Minwax's Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over 1# Cut Shellac
This was after the first coat.
I think the piece got some decent color.
View attachment 200067
Here is the piece after the second gel coat
This has a decent color to me, a bit richer than after the first coat.
It seems to have a bit of a semi-gloss finish.
View attachment 200068
Minwax's Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over Bare Wood
Here is the Gel Stain on the bare pine after 1 coat
This picked up a good bit of color and had a matte finish
View attachment 200069
Here is the same piece after the second coat.
The light areas picked up a lot more color with this coat.
View attachment 200070
My least favorite finish is the 2 coats of Minwax Espresso Oil Stain over Bare Wood. It was very dark and looked smeared. I think if I used a lighter stain and stopped at 1 coat, it would have been better.
My favorite look is the 2 coats of Minwax Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over Bare Wood. It looked very even and "natural" and seems to have a matte finish. I am going to apply this on one of my vertical pieces to see how it looks on a larger piece. My next favorite look was the 2# cut of shellac on the bare wood. I think that finish would be great in another application and on a better species of wood.
I must admit, I was a bit surprised at how much waste there was with the gel; although, I guess I could have applied it wrong.
Let me help a little. Get rid of the premixed shellac and order some fresh shellac flakes. The photo of the desk was done with a brush.