I've never been good at finishing wood, the best I've done is to just spray with a tinted poly which turns out more like painting. This time I tried the standard Min-Wax "stain" and had disappointing results (surprise). I just can't get Min-Wax to leave enough even color on wood (and I follow the instructions, using the sealer prior to the stain), but I admit I am probably do'in it wrong. Fortunately, the power of teh Internets once again comes to the rescue (thanks Wood Whisperer!). And so it was that I found General Finishes Gel Stains, which will be my new favorite way to stain wood (though I plan to experiment with dyes plus water based gel next time). The gel stains are basically idiot proof, to a degree. Just wipe with the grain and don't leave too much on, and you're good. I actually did have a problem requiring re-sanding back to the wood (due to sanding marks which I missed) - so it's not completely idiot proof, but I'm a special case. Also re-learned the value of good sandpaper. The cheap stuff (*cough* Harbor Freight *cough*) fills up quickly with the finish being removed, or wood dust, etc. However the good stuff (like 3m and Norton brands), have papers which are more "open", so I could use just a couple sheets of each grit on the whole project.
I'm not quite done with this desk, but it will be a couple more days since the sealer needs a good drying time between coats. I'm gonna post it up some pics on the project page next week when it's all done. I can't wait to get rid of my kludged up standing (and sometimes sitting) desk.
UPDATE 9/1/2014: The desk is done (sort of). Unfortunately the Waterlox sealer is still outgassing after a month so it was recently removed to the patio where it will stay until it shapes up. In the mean time I have another GERTON desktop from Ikea which I am deciding on how to finish using more friendly water based stains and sealers. That will be another project though.
This project has got me thinking about another lift desktop that I could put on a standard desk to raise the work surface 20" using both a 10" stroke linear actuator, and the awesome power of a scissor lift. I need something like this for the desk I use most of the time. I've got the design down, but it will cost almost $200 bucks in parts (mostly because I lack the woodworking and/or welding tools to make a strong frame and corner joint necessary - so I'd probably need to use 8020 channel$ for the frame. Aside from the price, I need to make sure this will fit since the mechanism requires space (a bit more than 29"). Below is a pic of the rough design using many off the shelf parts available on Ebay, and a few custom plates which I could make on the mill. This project is not a go yet, I need to get the cost down first.
UPDATE: Pics added here.