Sealcoat Before Stain?

A discussion of whether dye stain should be the first or the second step in a finishing schedule. June 4, 2012

I was told by my sales rep that Zinsser Bullseye sealcoat should be used on bare wood, then stain, and finally clear coat. I've been doing this differently. I stain wood, then sealer coat, and then finish. What would be the best way to do it?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
Try it on a sample, and see if it works for you. They are probably suggesting you use the shellac as a pre-stain wash coat to prevent blotching. It really depends. Some topcoats do need a sealer, or barrier coat, and others do not.

The one thing I find is that Bullseye seal coat is too thick of a cut out of the can to allow certain stains to penetrate. Make sure to experiment first and your samples should be sanded and prepped identically to the finished piece. I don't know if your rep advised you to thin it or not.

This all really depends on what kind of coat you're spraying, and what type of stains you're using. Solvent and WB are also completely different worlds. You would definitely get more advice if you post the specific products you're using.

From contributor I:
I will get in trouble for this but: Stain is colorant and a vehicle that is used on raw wood. Once you seal the wood off with any resin, i.e. conditioner, wash coat of lacquer or shellac or glue wash (all very good processes), you can no longer call it "stain" (chemical, dye or pigment). Call it a glaze, toner, shader, foxing or anything else, but not a stain. Stain interacts with the raw wood for better or worse to bring out background texture and tone that you will lose by sealing it first. Sometimes that is good; sometimes you will get grain jump or blotching. I would prefer to lighten out my base stain so I do not get blotching, seal the color off, then either tone or glaze into the correct color. Color layering will always get you a deeper looking effect. Start with an NGR if you need a darker color!

From contributor A:

I agree with the questioner 100%. We finish tons of wood and have never had any luck with conditioners. We've had better luck with sanding well. But you should do a sample.