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Wood Staining Techniques

Priya Johnson Jul 14, 2019
Wood staining is a slightly complex technique, however, once you get a hang of it, the task doesn't seem to be so intimidating. Let's take a look at how it's done.
Most people prefer to leave wood as it is, simply because wood is naturally beautiful and elegant. However, if you are setting up your house and want the furniture to match the rest of the décor, wood staining is a good option.
With this technique you can customize the wood color to suit your taste and preference. Professionals charge a high amount to stain wood, which can be easily avoided if you do it yourself. However, staining wood isn't that simple and calls for a complex technique that must be carried out skillfully. Let's take a look at how it's done.

How to Stain Wood

Material Required

  • Wood or any piece of furniture that requires to be polished
  • Damp cloth
  • Sandpaper (coarse and fine)
  • Stain (color of your choice)
  • Brush/ rag/ pad
  • Wood conditioner
There are three types of stains to choose from: oil-based, water-based, and gel-based stains. The oil-based stains penetrate well and protect the wood from future damage, however, these stains take almost 24 hours or more to dry. Thus, they are mostly reserved for larger projects.
For smaller projects one can go for the water-based stains that dry in less than a day. Then again, if the wooden item you are dealing with is of troublesome nature, then the gel-based stains are appropriate. So depending on your situation, choose the stain. Now, it is this stain choice that determines the kind of staining technique to be carried out.


Step 1: Wood Type Determination
The first step is to determine the type of wood you will stain. If you are having soft wood with an uneven grain, apply a wood conditioner to it before staining. This will prevent the formation of a blotchy pattern on the surface. Moreover, the conditioner will help spread the stain evenly. Thus, type determination is crucial.
Step 2: Sanding the Wood
Never stain dirty wood. Use sandpaper to free the wood from dirt and grease. Start off by using coarse sandpaper, and then finish off by sanding it with fine sandpaper. Your wood is now clean and ready to be stained.
Step 3: Choosing the Technique
Depending on the type of wood and the type of furniture in consideration, the wood staining technique will vary. The three different techniques are rag, brush, or spraying technique. Let's take a closer look at them.
Rag Wood Staining: This technique is suited for small projects. Just take a rag and dip it into the stain. Rub the stain onto the wood such that you move along the grain. After liberal application, let the stain seep into the inner layers of the wood and then wipe off the excess with another clean rag. This technique is mostly used to stain flat surfaces.
Brush Wood Staining: Nylon brushes are required to apply water-based stains, while oil-based ones call for bristled-brushes. Depending on your stain, get the brush. The application method is the same as that of the rag one. Just paint in the direction of the grain and wipe away the excess with a clean rag.
Spraying Wood Staining: If you're a beginner, it's best to avoid this technique until you're more familiar with wood staining. This is because this method calls for specific skills. The drawback of this technique is that one tends to spray too much stain than required. If you still want to opt for this method, then, get a spray that has a very small nozzle.
Step 4: Drying and Finishing
Allow the stain to dry completely. The time required for drying will depend on the kind of stain used. For a good finish, coat the dried stain with polyurethane.
Wood staining is a useful skill to master, especially if you're interested in wood-related work. Don't expect success in the first try, however, with practice you're sure to master this art.