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Applying Wood Stains

Applying Wood Stains Staining wood is a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, it brings out a more dramatic look from the wood's natural grain. Lighter woods look darker. Darker woods tend to look richer and more refined. And your room becomes more inviting as a result. Second, stains penetrate deep into wood and provide long-lasting protection. You'll find that your floors, walls and furniture all benefit from using stains.

There are two types of top coat stains: those that use a pigment and those that use a dye. While dye stains are more powerful and penetrate wood deeply, pigment stains are more commonly available. You'll also find that stains are divided between oil- and water-bases. Water-based stains clean up and dry easier, but you may need to raise the grain of the surface you're working with and sand it down before application.





Step 1: Sand thoroughly

Sand thoroughly Whether you work with refinished wood or new wood, sanding is essential. Sand with the grain, starting with 120-grit on refinished pieces. (Start with 80-grit on new wood, and then treat the wood as if you're refinishing it.) When you have removed imperfections and sanded the entire surface thoroughly, wipe off the dust and all loose sandpaper grit. Sand with 180-grit until you've removed all the marks left by the 120-grit. Brush clean.

Step 2: Wet the wood to raise the grain

Wet the wood raise the grain If you don't raise the grain now, the stain will raise it later. Resanding to get the wood smooth again removes much of the stain. To avoid this vicious cycle, wipe down the piece with a wet rag before staining, let it dry and sand with 180-220 grit paper. Remove dust with a tack cloth.

Step 3: Apply conditioner and stain

Apply conditioner and stain Some woods, such as cherry and pine, turn blotchy when stained. Others, such as oak, maple and walnut, don't. If you work with cherry or pine and aren't using a gel stain, apply a commercially available stain conditioner. It seals the wood, preventing the uneven absorption that causes blotching. If you use a gel stain, you can apply it without applying a conditioner. Whatever wood you work with, it's less important how you get the stain onto the wood—cross grain or with the grain—than getting on plenty of it.

Step 4: Wipe away excess stain

Wipe away excess stain Wipe off the stain with a cotton cloth—old T-shirts work well. Again, it doesn't matter how you wipe off most of the stain, but do wipe the last strokes with the grain. If the stain has dried too much, it will be difficult to remove. Loosen it by applying more stain and rubbing vigorously. If it dries hard, paint thinner will loosen it.