After steel-wooling these first coats of stain I ended up with a piece that didn’t look right at all. Once a stain dries, and until it is sealed with shellac, lacquer or whatever, the color is completely different from when the stain is still wet. Oh, the color also looks different depending on your light source. Good rule of thumb is that if you want colors to match, look at them in daylight. Otherwise you might be in for a shock when you finally see the colors in “a different light”.
After the initial staining I sealed the finials so I could see the real color, as well as sealing the woods surface so the following steps would not impact the stained wood. Then, back on the lathe to smooth off with steel wool. The next step involves fine tuning the color, as well as the opacity of the finish to match the original.
This work is also best done on the lathe. The goal is to mute the appearance of the new wood, just like the way the old wood is muted by the old finish: The original finishes on these pieces tend to darken, going brown, or even black as they age. This mutes the appearance of the original grain and changes the color of the piece.