Charlie shares a great technique on how to get perfect result when staining red oak:

The most difficult thing to do when staining red oak is to achieve an even depth of color. Since the early growth (deeper and darker grain lines) has a tendency to capture more pigment than the later more dense growth, the effect is ‘highlighted’ grain lines.

To alleviate this effect, it is necessary to partially seal the heavy grain without sealing the denser fiber of the later growth wood. To do this you will need a clear dewaxed 2 lb cut of shellac, denatured alcohol, a rag (old t-shirt), and a bucket for mixing that is large enough to dip the rag. I like to use Zinsser Sealcoat, which is already premixed to a 2 lb cut.

In the bucket, pour equal parts of 2 lb shellac and denatured alcohol, erring slightly on the side of alcohol. This will result in approximately an 1-1/4 lb cut of sealer.

Dip the rag into the mixture, then with one hand squeeze out as much as possible without “wringing” it out. Apply one quick coat to the red oak trying not to overlap. Let this dry for about 15 minutes, then sand using light pressure in the direction of the grain with 120 grit sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood... just let the sandpaper glide over the surface.

This will remove the sealer from the later growth wood without disturbing the sealer in the deeper grain. After the quick sanding you are now ready to apply the stain.

Since the early growth is partially sealed and the later growth is ‘roughed up’ to effectively capture more pigment, the result is a more even distribution of color.

-Charlie Vangas