Staining Wood

Tips on How to Stain Wood

By Mark J. Donovan

When it comes to staining wood there is one task you need to do first. That is, determine if it is a soft wood or a hard wood that you want to stain. Examples of soft wood are Pine and Cedar, and examples of hardwood are Oak or Maple.

If you are not sure what type of wood you have, then look to see if the wood has an uneven grain or is blotchy appearance. If it does, chances are it is a soft wood. If it does not then chances are it is a hardwood.

Softwood will stain unevenly if stain is directly applied to it. If you want a more even stain look on soft wood then you will first want to apply a pre-stain conditioner on the wood before applying the stain.

With hardwood you can apply the stain to the wood without first having to add a pre-stain conditioner, however more applications of stain will be required as the stain does not absorb as well into hardwood.

Staining Wood Preparation

Staining wood preparation is key for an excellent finish. Make sure the wood has been sanded to the level of smoothness you desire. Note that the lower the grit number sandpaper used for sanding, the rougher the wood surface, the more absorption of wood stain, and the darker the finished stain look. On the contrary, the higher the grit number sandpaper used, the smoother the surface, the less absorption of wood stain, and the lighter the finished wood stain.

Once you have completed the sanding of the wood, make sure the wood is thoroughly wiped down and free from any grease, dirt and sawdust.

Staining Wood

For the actual wood staining, it is preferable to wear some plastic gloves, as stain tends to be difficult to get off your hands.

You can use either a rag, brush or sponge for applying the wood stain, however I have found the sponge brush works best.

Apply the stain liberally to the wood and apply it in long fluid movements along the grain of the wood.

Let the stain sit on the wood for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove it with a cloth rag. Note that the longer the stain sits on the wood the more time it will have to soak in and thus produce a darker finish.

After you have wiped off the excess stain, let the wood rest for approximately 4-8 hours, depending upon the humidity level and ambient temperatures. This will allow the stain time to fully dry.

Also, when cutting the wood, have your stain handy to touch up the cut edges prior to installing the wood.

Applying a Polyurethane Sealer over the Stained Wood

To protect the stain finish, you can apply a sealer such as polyurethane over the stained wood. Polyurethane comes in high gloss, semi-gloss and satin finishes and can be either brushed or sprayed onto the stained wood.

Here is a wood door that I just stained.

It is best to apply two to three coats of polyurethane over the stained wood. Between each coat let the polyurethane thoroughly dry and lightly sand with very fine steel wool. The steel wool will help to create a really smooth finish.

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