Last updated on September 26th, 2021 at 11:56 pm
Wood staining is one of the best ways of beautifying wood or any woodworking project you have. A wood stain helps to change the color of the wood or helps to highlight the wood grain.
Even though staining wood is a good practice, there is a wrong way and there’s a right way to do it. Do it right, and you’ll end up with the color and effect you want.
Do it the wrong way, and you might just end up ruining the wood and your project. And one thing about wood stain is that it’s not like wood paint.
You’re not painting over the wood. With staining, the wood absorbs the stain changing the wood color beyond the surface of the wood. The wood absorbs it like a sponge absorbs water.
So, you can’t just sand off the stain. It’s permanent and there’s no turning back once you’ve stained it.
With that said, here are 10 wood staining tips you need to know if you want to stain wood the right way and achieve the best result or the result you want.
1. Wood stain is different from wood finish
You don’t have to stain wood to finish your project. A wood stain is different from a wood finish. A wood finish protects the surface of the wood from scratches, spills, UV damage etc.
On the other hand, a stain does not protect the wood it’s applied on. It only changes the color. Nothing more.
So, even after staining any wood, you still have to apply an appropriate protective wood finish to protect the surface of your wood project from damage.
2. Stain wood if you want to highlight the wood grain
Once you’re ready to finish your project, you’ll have to decide whether you want to paint it or stain it. Painting hides the grain and natural color of the wood.
On the other hand, staining wood highlights the grain of the wood and does not hide it. So, if you have a project that you don’t want the grain to get covered up after changing the color, then you should stain it.
Painting it will hide the beautiful grains that you still want to see even after changing the color. Staining the wood will not hide the natural grains, instead it will highlight them and make them stand out.
3. Wood stain is permanent
I’ve mentioned this before. Unlike a wood paint which you can easily sand off, a stain penetrates the surface of the wood. So, you can’t undo it.
Once you’ve committed to a certain stain color, that’s it. You can’t go back. Hence, you have to be very sure of the color before applying it on your project.
A little tip is to apply that stain on rough piece of the wood you want to stain. If you’re okay with the color and result, then you can go ahead and stain the whole piece.
4. Sand the wood thoroughly before staining
Without thorough sanding of the wood, the stain will distribute unevenly throughout the wood with some part taking more stain than other part.
The stain will enhance any scratch left on the wood. So use make sure to sand the wood so that the surface is perfectly smooth.
After sanding, remove any dust from it using a vacuum, as dust can also make the stain not to distribute evenly in the wood.
5. Don’t apply excess stain
Any stain left unabsorbed usually takes a lot of time to dry off. So if you don’t want to wait a few days for it to get dry, always try to use the right amount of stain that can be absorbed easily.
Use a foam brush or a rag which will help you to apply just the right amount of stain while wiping off any excess stain from the surface of the wood.
If there’s any excess stain left on the wood, don’t wait for it to dry. Always wipe it off with a clean dry cloth, else you’ll likely wait for a long time.
6. Apply a wood conditioner first
It’s important to apply a conditional first before applying the stain, especially when you’re working with softwood.
With softwood, the stain can end up getting unevenly distributed on the wood, even though you’ve sanded it thoroughly.
The solution to this is to apply a conditioner first before applying the stain. The wood conditioner will help prepare the wood surface to help the stain penetrate evenly and get your desired finish.
7. Allow the stain to dry
Don’t start applying a topcoat on the wood immediately you finished applying the stain. Allow the stain to dry first, even though it takes a couple of days.
Then you can apply your top coat to finish your project. Note that, once the stain is completely dry, you can use any type of finish on it, whether it’s an oil-based finish or a water-based finish.
Both will work if the stain is completely dry before you applied the finish. However, it’s always better to apply an oil-base finish over an oil based stain and a water-based finish over a water-based stain. That way, you can leave little chance for mistakes.