Tips for Adding Stain to Your Workpiece

Wood Pieces with Stain

You’ve cut your wood piece, sanded it to perfection, and you’re ready to stain it to your color and finish. But what else do you need to do to ensure it comes out exactly how you want it? Here are a few tips, tricks, and things to keep in mind when staining your work piece. 

Stain, Where to Begin

Look at the cuts of your piece, the direction of the grain on each side. Both of these aspects will determine how well the stain is absorbed by the workpiece. See our main photo for this blog to look at what poorly done stain jobs with issues caused by the difference in wood grains and improper prep would look like. As you can see on the piece from picture number 3, the end is darker in color than the edges due in part to being a crosscut which helps to open the pores of the wood. The stain is able to then better penetrate those areas compared to the faces of the piece that go with the grain. There are ways to avoid this, mostly having to do with how you prep the workpiece for the staining process. 

Wood conditioner is a great way to minimize issues such as this when it comes to staining softwoods specifically. See our blog post about different types of wood for more information on the differences between hardwoods and softwoods.  When a wood conditioner is applied to a workpiece it soaks into the wood and fills the pores. In doing so this reduces the amount of stain that can be absorbed by the wood at any one time. This allows the stain to be applied more evenly with less blotches and visual texture. See the darker piece, it was not prepped with conditioner so the different types of grain on the side accepted the stain in significantly different amounts. 

Be Aware!

While staining your piece be sure to keep an eye on everywhere the product is going. If the product is laid on the workpiece thicker in some areas than others then those areas will likely turn out visibly darker. As soon as the product has been brushed on, check the sides for stain that may have gone over the edges and would need to be spread out. Depending on the directions for the stain, be sure to wipe it off within the specified time frame. Do your best to not be distracted until the stain is properly applied and drying as the color may end up deeper than intended as well as splotchy. See the provided photo of an end where the built up stain on the edges was not wiped away quickly. Photo number 3.

Plan out your staining and take your time. If the workpiece is larger and would take some time to cover in stain at once work it in parts. This will take longer, but it will ensure even coverage and color throughout the piece. Even if the piece is small, it may be best to only cover half at a time. This will allow it to dry completely before flipping to stain the other side and will prevent issues caused by setting wet stain onto another surface. Depending on the shape of the piece, it may be useful to enlist the help of a friend or co-worker. This will ensure every part is evenly coated and no stain sits in one place for longer than others.

At the Shop

Here at Oregon Woodworks, we use many of these tips in our day to day process when staining products. When you choose a stained version of our shelf kits we take all possible steps to ensure they look perfect. We hope you can use some of these tips to help ensure a smooth stain application on your next project!

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