7 Tips to Applying Wood Stain

Painting of Wooden Parts
  • #7 High Quality Craftsmanship

    The key to attaining a great wood stain is to first make sure that the project at hand is one that the woodworker is eager to show off. One must remember that stain will not cover a craftsman's mistakes as paint would, but rather enhances the quality of a greatly crafted project. In short, if you have built a grand cedar chest equipped with dovetails on each corner, one would hope these dovetails line up perfectly. If instead, these dovetails held gaps or did not line up properly, staining the chest will only amplify these mistakes and the staining itself would render an uneven finish. Thus, high quality craftsmanship is essential when planning to stain a project.

  • #6 Sanding

    Now onto the first real step of the wood staining process, sanding. It is up to the woodworker as to what method to utilize when sanding, either by free hand sand block or random orbital sander. No matter which method you choose, the best process to use is to sand as you go and each time progressively utilize a finer grit of sandpaper. Additionally, a nice hand sanding finish is always recommended. However, there is the age old question of 'how to know when you are done sanding'? One way to know if you have sanded enough is to place a nylon stocking over your hand and rub down your entire project. Wherever the nylon stocking snags you will need to do more sanding. Once your nylon stocking can wipe down your whole project and still maintain looking as good as new, then you may continue onto removing the sanding residue.

  • #5 Removing Residue

    Once you conclude the sanding portion of your project, the next step in the staining process is to rid the wood of all sanding residue. Begin by vacuuming the lumber with a wood shop vacuum. It is best to utilize the brush attachment for this segment as it will not scratch or dent your project. Post vacuuming, it is recommended to do a once over on the project with a tack cloth. By following these few steps you will remove as much residue as possible.

  • #4 Preparing to Stain

    Several woodworkers will recommend avoiding the placement of wood stain onto bare wood and instead apply a coat of pre-stain conditioner first. The pre-stain conditioner works very much like the primer applied prior to painting. In short, pre-stain conditioner prepares the wood to stain evenly and to reap full color when applied. Make sure to always read the instructions that the manufacturer provides before you commence as some pre-stain conditioners call to be wiped off quickly while others need to set for an hour or so. Plan your timing accordingly. Keep in mind that some pre-stain conditioners will lighten the end result of your stain, however this can be combated with a second application of stain.

  • #3 Applicator Type

    The type of applicator you utilize while staining will depend upon the type of stain you choose. For example, a gel stain will call for a rag applicator. It is to be wiped down until the desired color is reaped. On the other hand, when it comes to utilizing an oil-based stain, one will want to utilize a natural bristle brush versus water-based stains that call for a synthetic brush. Although, the most important factor, regardless of the type of brush you use, is to take good care of your applicators. You are spending a great amount of money on these brushes and you should reward yourself by keeping them clean and in good shape to produce long lasting, high quality stains.

  • #2 Choosing the Type of Stain

    Ultimately, personal preference as well as trial and error will be the root of the type of stain you choose. It is a good idea to utilize scrap lumber to test out a couple of different stains ranging from water to oil based with the addition of 'all in ones'. Water based stains are known for drying fast without an overpowering odor. However, they tend to raise wood grain calling for another round of sanding. Oil based stains are known to create rich colorings and host longer working times. Although, many woodworkers avoid oil based stains because of the foul odor they create during the process. Either way, test out the stains you are contemplating utilizing first. Ensure that the scrap pieces you test upon are well sanded and coated with a pre-stain conditioner. If you have taken all of these steps then the result you see will be an almost identical representation of what your project's final stain will picture.

  • #1 Applying Protectant

    After your project has been thoroughly stained, the final step in the staining process is to apply protectant. Polyurethane is the most common post staining protectant. Oil-based stains will call for oil-based polyurethane, while water-based stains will call from water-based polyurethane. Regardless of the type of protectant you apply, always make sure to follow the instructions carefully and utilize a high quality brush. But above all NEVER EVER shake your polyurethane before application as it will cause bubbling and mar the entire surface of your project.