How to Stain Wood Furniture

Applying stain to a properly prepared surface will result in a professional looking job rather than a do-it-yourself job. It may sound rude, but I have seen so many projects that people have done and you can tell they did it themselves, when taking a little more time would've resulted in a project they could be extra proud of and make people ask more than once, "You did that? No, really? You did it yourself?"

If you are staining something new or bare wood, then see how to properly sand and prep your wood project. If you are about to stain a wood project that you are refinishing see furniture refinishing tips. You can also see woodworking articles.

Here are some projects I've done with pictures to help show how I did them. How to stain a picture frame Staining a refinished buffet

Stains are generally applied with a brush or a rag and then wiped off with a dry rag. The longer you leave the stain on before wiping it off the more the wood soaks it in and the darker it will be.
I generally stain an area, leave the stain on for a couple minutes, then wipe it off. If I want it darker I reapply another coat. It's easier to do two or more coats to get the color you desire rather than to leave the stain on too long and have it too dark and have to strip the stain and start over.

Let's say you are about to stain a dresser. You would have the drawers set out on a table (or I sometimes use two saw horses with plywood on top to make a staining table).
With your dresser properly prepped, you are ready to stain. Start by brushing the stain on, covering the entire top, being careful not to drip any on the side or front. (if you do just quickly wipe off the drip)

Only leave the stain on the top for a minute and wipe the top off with a clean cloth. If it needs to be darker, repeat this process. Now move to one side stain and wipe off like you did the top. Do the front and then do the other side.
If you ever end up with a spot where you have to overlap the stain, use a rag dipped in stain and work over the area trying to blend the overlap. This can be tricky.

Never try to stain the whole project at once. Try to figure the best way to stain it in stages so you don't have to overlap the stain. Top, sides, front, etc.

There are gel stains that reduce blotching and may be a little easier if it's a soft wood verses a hard wood. Oak, birch, ash and walnut are hardwoods that usually take a stain well. Pine, fir, and spruce are soft woods that can be tricky when staining; Because they soak up the stain quicker and sometimes one area may soak up the the stain more readily than other areas of the wood leaving you with splotchy areas.

Staining Cherry
Cherry falls into a category all it's own when it comes to staining. The resin pockets in the wood make it hard to get a blotch-free finish on cherry. It's possible to get cherry without these resin pockets if you choose your board carefully. If you wet the boards you can see the resin pockets get darker and you can use them where they will less conspicuous.

Good luck with your staining project.

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