How To Stain Wood

Being the dedicated DIYer that I am, I know how you feel, DIY buddies! The art of DIY gives you the opportunity to open up your mind, the sparkle that creative flair in your head, unleash your imagination, recover from the stress of daily life, and that’s just to name a very few of the reasons why doing things yourself is simply addictive.

I adore working with wood because this is my way to bring nature closer to my heart. What’s more, I don’t think wood can ever get out-of-date in exterior and interior design. You can make wood look is exquisite, rustic or modern –the choices are quite versatile.

Meanwhile, staining wood is my top favorite way to accentuate the natural, authentic beauty of the grain. But how to stain wood the best way? Do you want to know the smart, little-known, magnificent secrets for staining wood like a pro?

Not only are there many clever tips which can help you master the technique for staining wood; there are also multiple different ways to achieve different effects using stain. And as we have so many awesome hacks to share below, we don’t want to waste any more time. Let’s dig in straight away!

What You Will Need To Follow This Tutorial

Staining Wood Naturally Tutorial

  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • Black tea
  • Blackberries
  • Steel wool
  • White vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Glass jar (with a lid)
  • Paintbrush/ Foam brush
  • Polyurethane/ Polycrylic finish
  • Sandpaper (coarse-grit, medium-grit, fine-grit)
  • Sanding block or an electric sander
  • Tack cloth (and/or a vacuum cleaner)
  • Safety gear (face mask, protection gloves, and glasses)
  • Liquid sander (optional)

Pro Tips

1 – Choose the natural wood stain accurately

If you are trying to stain naturally any type of wood which is too dark to benefit from the stain, then there’s no point wasting your time. Coffee stain can work great on light colors of wood, such as oak, for example.

Steel wool and vinegar staining are super versatile, though, and it can work on just about any type of wood.

2 – Don’t throw away the steel wool and vinegar wood staining solution left behind

Once you are done staining your wood project with the steel and vinegar solution, don’t hurry to throw away the leftovers. This particular solution stores wonderfully for up to a whole year! Meanwhile, the longer you keep it, the more saturated the stain becomes.

In fact, you can reach a point when you will need to dilute the mature stain with some extra vinegar or water, or you may simply enjoy the deep dark nuances of the stain.

3 – You can also finish wood naturally

If you are looking for ways to stain wood naturally, then we bet you’d love to try out finishing wood naturally. But how come is that even possible?

With the magical help of the well-known superhero – coconut oil. Of course, this type of natural finish will not provide the extremely durable protection of a professional finish, such as polyurethane.

However, as far as indoors DIY wood projects are concerned, this natural wood finish can work out fantastic.

Staining Wood with Conventional Wood Stains Tutorial

  • Wood stain
  • Linen-free rag/ Paintbrush
  • Finisher’s wheel
  • Several plastic cups
  • Eyedropper
  • Pencil and a notebook
  • Scrap pieces of wood
  • Polyurethane/ Polycrylic finish
  • Shellac (optional)
  • Sandpaper (coarse-grit, medium-grit, fine-grit)
  • Sanding block or an electric sander
  • Tack cloth (and/or a vacuum cleaner)
  • Safety gear (protection gloves and glasses, breathing mask)
  • Liquid sander (optional)

Pro Tips

1 – Always test and match the wood stain on scrap pieces of wood

One of the most delicate parts when it comes to staining wood is picking the most suitable color which will match your taste. The task gets even more complicated if you are trying to make wood stain match with already existing wood furniture. For best results, always test the wood stain on scrap pieces of wood and wait until the stain is fully dry before you make any decision.

2 – Don’t be afraid to combine natural wood stains and conventional wood stains

The more, the merrier, do you agree? Well, at least when it comes to experimenting with wood stains, that logic is 100% applicable. Experiment with the effect of natural wood stains followed up by store-bought wood stains on pieces of scrap wood.

Compare the effect you achieve and pick the one you like the most. When mixing store-bought stains in order to get a particular nuance, always label each combination so that you can repeat it later on if you like it. For this purpose, write up a note with the quantity and type of stain you use and put it on the test scrap piece of wood.

3 – Don’t underestimate the importance of choosing a suitable finish

Finishes come in matte, satin, low-sheen, or high-gloss variations. There are also categories depending on the base used for the preparation of the finish, such as water-based, and oil-based, among others. Choose the one you like the most but also pay attention to check the label and see if the finish is compatible with the stain you are about to apply.

Step by Step Instructions for Staining Wood

How to Stain Wood Naturally

Step 1 – Prep the surface of the wood before applying the stain

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Make sure the surface of the wood is clean, dry, and smooth. Sand it carefully if it has not been sanded in advance. Switch from coarse-grit to medium-grit sandpaper and always finish with fine-grit sandpaper.

Don’t forget to remove the dust left behind after each sanding with a tack cloth and/or a vacuum cleaner.

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If you are using a coffee stain, there’s little place to worry about oversaturating the wood due to applying too much of the stain. The effect of coffee is more delicate and requires several coats to build up.

If you are opting for the steel wool and vinegar solution, though, it’s best to apply the mixture with a light hand. Otherwise, you may accidentally make the wood darker than what you actually wanted. On the contrary, if you want to deepen the color, try adding coffee grounds to the solution and/or stain the wood with concentrated black tea first.

Step 2 – Work your way with the natural wood stain following the grain

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Did you know that there are so many awesome (and weird, and crazy, and brilliant) natural wood stain options out there? Whatever type of natural wood stain you choose to apply, don’t forget the golden rule: always go with the grain. Following the direction of the grain ensures that there are no blotchy, uneven patches and/or strokes which can ruin the appearance of your masterpiece. Keep in mind that it’s essential to let enough time for each layer of natural stain to dry before you start applying another one.

How to Apply Wood Stain

Step 1 – Clean the wood thoroughly and smooth the surface

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Just like working with natural wood stain, before you apply a store-bought wood stain, it’s crucial that the surface of the wood is prepped perfectly. In the case you don’t want to sand the wood due to intolerance to dust, you can use a liquid sander.

A liquid sander will strip off any varnish, previous paint, or finish from the surface of the wood. However, liquid sanders do stink awfully much so make sure you wear a breathing mask and work in a well-ventilated environment.

You can apply the wood stain using the rag technique or a paintbrush technique. Each of these will provide a slightly different final result. The rag technique is better suited in the case you wish to put an accent on the grain of the wood.

Step 2 – Stir the wood stain carefully and start by applying it with nice, even strokes

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Whether you go for applying the wood stain with a rag or a paintbrush, it’s important to start off by stirring the stain carefully. In order to avoid bubbles forming and ending up with an uneven application, stir the wood stain gently. Don’t stir vigorously but only swirl the stirrer in with slow, circular movements.

Pour a small amount of the wood stain in a suitable container instead of dipping the brush straight in the can. That can also lead to bubbles forming. Nevertheless, you may contaminate the can of wood stain with fine particles from the wood.

Always allow enough time for each coat of wood stain to dry before you apply another. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results as the drying time can vary from one brand to another.

Did you know that you can achieve spectacular results by staining wood and applying the Shou Sugi Ban Yakisugi technique?

Which of these methods for staining wood have you tried so far? Do you have a favorite option among the ones we listed in this tutorial? If you have any extra tips, personal experience, questions, or any other suggestions, we’d be happy to hear from you.

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  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY