Pre-stain conditioner, The Tornado Bed
Comments 4

Tornado Bed: big, big progress

My attempt at 3D blogging. With this post, the headboard continues to take shape. Click to enlarge and note how the panels and tenons fit into slots in the cross members.

After a slight set back, I have made big progress on the headboard. With my first panels relegated to the scrap pile and the replacement panels formed and sanded, I am back to work on the panel system for the headboard (see an exploded drawing by clicking here). I had already cut the needed slot in all of the cross members as well as the stiles, but I had not cut any tenons, so that is where I start this post; it is a long one, so pack a lunch…

Stubs. Technically, these short tenons are called stubs tenons. I set the table saw up for these cuts using a scrap. These tenons are 1/4″ long and are formed quickly.

A nice fit. The left and right stiles slip into pockets in the posts. Luckily, the fit is just about perfect.

Snug stubs. The tenons originally are too tight. I get a wood file out and after a few quick passes, I achieve a very snug fit.

Really happy with this. Things fit together very well. I am all smiles.

Adding the panels. After pulling off the posts and the top rail, I slide a panel into place. The fit here is excellent too.

Looking good. Fabrication of the headboard panel is complete. Note the grain in the two panels line up – this is more pleasing to the eye than mis-matched panels. I now need to dis-assemble everything and add some stain.

Soon after my wife and I married, I began work on our first entertainment center. It was my first time making panel doors. I learned a lesson with that project. Stain the panels first so that when they expand and contract during the year, your don’t have to look at un-stained areas in the panels. I did not do this and as wood moves in panel doors, slight stripes of unfinished wood appear where stain did not penetrate the panel.

To keep this from happening on the Tornado Bed, I need to pre-stain certain parts of the headboard. The headboard is sort of like two panels in one. In addition to the panels I have been talking about, the left and right stiles slip into the posts, like panels do. I don’t want any color issues should these parts contract during the year. So I took the time to stain them along with the inner edges of the rails and stiles…

Some pre-finishing. Note the stained areas including the inside edges of the rails and stiles. These get stained prior to glue-up.

Pleased. There is a little learning curve with Charles Neil’s Pre-Stain Conditioner. I had a couple of issues, but even so the stain went on very well.

Last week I put up a post about Charles Neil’s Pre-Stain Conditioner giving it a glowing review. I still like this conditioner, but it isn’t quite so easy to use as I originally thought. I updated my review with some additional thoughts (see it here), but overall it is still an excellent product.

Currently. My first photo of the headboard with all the parts except the finials.

In the photo above the headboard is dry fitted and the stained components don’t have any polyurethane on them. I am considering pre-staining and adding poly to more of the headboard parts, maybe even all of them. I would like to hear comments from others who have done this, or who considered this kind of thing and chose against it.

My thinking is this piece is so large, and I am still learning how to apply the conditioner, it may be better to tackle parts individually. So, depending how I go with this, I may have the headboard glued up by next weekend or I may not.

This project is being built in response to the historic tornado outbreak that occurred in Alabama on April 27th. On that day, 63 tornadoes struck our state which claimed the lives of 247 people and caused between $2.45 billion and $4.2 billion in property damage (click the image at the right). The Tornado Bed will be given free of charge to a needy victim of the April 27th tornado event.


  1. It's coming together! AND looking great. If I understand your question, I just stain panels early on. I leave the rest once everything is complete. I don't think clear-coating needs to be done until the end. Spending a ton of time masking off joinery to keep glue off is more labor intensive than the alternative in my humble opinion.

  2. Yes, that is what I mean – staining and finishing before glue-up. I am currently leaning towards staining and finishing the rest of the panel system as well as the inside edge of the posts.

    I'll leave the rest for the end of the project.


  3. Jason – one thing that I am concerned about is applying conditioner and stain consistently at the joints: where the cross members or rails join the posts. I foresee some frustration in getting that right and so I am leaning towards doing this before glue-up.

    I am even thinking of applying one coat of poly to these parts to help protect the area around the joint from glue squeeze-out and subsequent clean-up.

    All of this is new to me since in the past, I have waited until my projects are completely finished before applying any stain and such.

    I have seen people like Nicholas Nelson and Paul Sebastian pre-finish parts prior to glue-up and the idea intrigues me, so I am going to give it a try. I will begin work on the bed again tonight and this process of pre-finishing will slow my project down.

    If I had professional spray equipment, I wonder if all this would be easier?

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