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Welcome to Whidbey Millhouse®

Manufacturing fine home finishes from solid real wood. 

Some tips on getting a good-looking finish on pine millwork

Pine is a fairly inexpensive and versatile wood. It is used in manufacturing everything from moldings, to doors, windows, furniture, soffits, wall paneling and flooring.  Finishing Pine however requires some knowledge and planning.


Staining Pine:

Like any softwood pine will absorb a lot of stain.  The absorption rate across a board is not uniform, as the wood is more or less porous around cross grain patterns or knots.  The result can be a blotchy hot mess that is difficult if not impossible to repair.  Before staining it is strongly recommended to test your finish on several boards (not just 1 or 2).  Many times the back side is a good place to hide your test, but if not get some sample/scrap pieces to try.  Several stain manufacturers offer pre-stain wood conditioners. The pre-stain is designed to even out the rate of absorption, creating a much more uniform surface to absorb the stain.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the best result. Or, you can always do it wrong first (like me), then read the instructions, while learning a painful lesson you can share later.   


Painting Pine:

Painting pine is not such a difficult task. The exception, is painting it white.  White paint may go on looking great, but slowly over the next few weeks or months the knots and pitch streaks will likely bleed through and turn pink, yellow or brown. My experience is that this happens quicker when the surface is exposed to direct sunlight.  Continued re-painting multiple coats will only provide a momentary fix, and the color will surely return. Some woodworkers claim you will never stop this from happening over time. I have however sold pine to furniture manufacturers both foreign and domestic for 30 years. Several of my customers recommend a good stain blocking primer like Zinser’s B-I-N shellac based primer.  Again with the directions I’m always too rushed to read…, read them,… follow them.  The surface needs to be sanded first, and my require more than 1 coating with adequate dry times in between.  


Whidbey Millhouse offers a solution to customers who wish to use white paint on softwood shiplap.  Our paint grade material is coated with gesso which is a primer / plaster mix.  It seals in the knots better than any primer coating I’ve seen, and can shave days off your projects. It's roughly $ 0.70 per sqft more expensive, but well worth it.       

Thank you

Chris Harrett

Whidbey Millhouse

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