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Working with wood stains is easy but achieving the desired shade can be tricky. Not getting the wood stain color of your choice on your finished piece of furniture, cabinet, floor, or trim can be a bit of a disappointment. Plus, it can ruin your coordinating decor. Applying thick stains can not only make your work difficult but lead to unevenness, ridges, and unsightly bumps. So, what’s next? The ideal thing to do is to thin down the wood stain. In this article see how to dilute how to thin wood stain.
Before diving into the process of how to thin wood stain, take a quick look at the benefits of staining a finished project. It will give you a clear idea about why you should consider diluting thick stains.
Thinning down wood stains gives you better control over the color. It is possible to apply multiple coats until the desired darkness is achieved. With a thick coat, the outcome may be different than you envisioned. Multiple coats allow you to darken the wood gradually, stopping at the shade of your choice. However, it works well with smaller projects and may get out of hand when working on large areas like wooden decks.
If you have a lighter color of wood stain in mind, purchasing a darker shade and diluting it to a lighter one can save you a lot of money. In case you are planning to use a spray can, knowing how to thin wood stain will help you get it ready to be sprayed.
All wood stains cannot be diluted in the same way as they are made with different substances. It is important to know the different types of wood stains before you consider thinning one. The process will depend upon which type you are using for your project.
Types of wood stains
- Oil-based wood stain
- Water-based wood stain
- Lacquer wood stain
- Gel wood stain
- Water-soluble dye stain
- Metalized dye stain
- Varnish wood stain
Tools you will require to dilute wood stains
No matter which kind of wood stain you choose, the tools that you need are more or less the same for each one.
- Thinning agent (that will depend on the type of wood stain)
- Mixing bucket
- Mixing stick
- Cloth rags
- Gloves/ Respirator
How to thin water-based wood stains
As the name suggests, water-based stains can be thinned with water. Water-based wood stains tend to produce lighter colors and may require multiple coats before you can achieve the desired results.
The first step is to pour the stain into the bucket where you intend to dilute it. It is always better to use a separate container so that you can only thin out the amount you require. Additionally, it helps you to adjust the satin, in case you accidentally dilute it too much with excess water. If you are working on a small project, about half a cup can be good to start with.
The next step is to add the thinner to the stain, in this it is water. Start by mixing as little as one tablespoon, or use a dropper, and mix it thoroughly with a mixing stick. Remember excessively thinned down water-based wood stains can produce a chalky feel after drying.
To see if the stain has gained the right consistency and color of your choice, test it on a piece of scrap wood. If you feel it requires to be thinned down further, add a little more water and test it again. Repeat this till you get the desired result.
How to thin lacquer-based stains
Lacquer-based stains are not the most common kinds of wood stains but they exist. They are mostly used in commercial and production jobs. These stains dry quickly and are faster to work with when you need to apply multiple coats in quick succession. That is one reason why lacquer-based wood stains are popular with professionals who take up contract jobs. However, these kinds of paint stains require special equipment like a high-volume, low-pressure sprayer. Here’s how to thin wood stain of this kind.
Wear your safety equipment including a pair of gloves and a respirator before starting to work with lacquer-based stains.
In a bucket mix wood stain with appropriate thinner that is specially made for lacquer-based stains. These stains cannot be thinned with water or mineral oils.
Dilute the stain by adding an ounce or two of thinner, for big projects pour the thinner in a gallon can and add thinner accordingly. Stir and mix the stain with a mixing stick for about twenty seconds. If you plan to apply the lacquer-based stain with a spray gun, shake the spray bottle well. It is advisable to use a lacquer thinner that’s recommended by the particular wood stain manufacturer.
When the stain and thinner mix thoroughly, test it on a small scrap piece of wood to check consistency, evenness, and color. It should be smooth but not excessively runny.
How to thin oil-based stains
Oil-based wood stains are traditional wood stains and are diluted with mineral spirits. For all kinds of stains, the amount of thinner always depends on how much wood stain you want to thin down. Remember, oil-based stains and mineral spirits emit toxic fumes which can be hazardous for health. So, while thinning such stains wear protective gears and work in a well-ventilated area.
Stir the wood stain in its container to mix any clump or sunken pigment and create a consistent fluid. Pour out the appropriate amount of stain into a separate bucket or container. Make a note of the amount of stain you are diluting to recreate the same shade later if required.
Add a small amount of mineral spirit to it, around a tablespoon at a time to a cup of stain. Keep a tab on how much you are mixing to be able to create the same shade later. Mix the stain and mineral spirit well.
Before applying the stain to the finished project, try it on a scrap piece of wood to see if it is producing the desired color. If you need a lighter shade, add more mineral spirit to it. Remember, over-diluting the stain may make it extremely light, runny, and difficult to work with.
It is best not to thin gel stains. However, if you are tempted to add some glaze to it, do not add more than 10% mineral spirits, or else it will become too thin. The color intensity will also reduce drastically.
Knowing how to thin wood stain comes in handy when you want to preserve the aesthetics of wood, intensify natural tones, and add color of your choice to finished projects. Choose what suits you most and apply stain with a brush or a rag as you wish!