How to Apply Wood Stain

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Stains are designed to enhance the natural color of wood. The key is to put a stain on evenly and to keep your work area free of dust and other contaminants.

  • Set out a layer of newspapers to protect the work area.

  • Set the temperature in the room between 70 and 75 degrees F. If it's too cold or too hot, the stain's drying time will be affected.

  • Sand the wood smooth and vacuum or brush off debris. Oil-based stains in particular will look patchy if the wood isn't smooth.

  • Wet the wood slightly with a wide, clean paintbrush. This helps the stain spread more evenly.

  • Make sure that you have enough stain on hand for the job. If you have to buy more, it may come from a slightly different color lot.

  • Apply stain with a clean rag or paintbrush. Brushes are better for staining ornate carvings, molding and other irregularly shaped areas. Rags hold more stain and are easier to use on flat surfaces.

  • Use a spray gun to apply quick-drying alcohol-based stains (or dip the object in a stain bath for 5 minutes if a sprayer is too big or unable to reach fine details).

  • Wipe off excess stain with a paper towel.

  • Let the stain dry and then apply another coat if there are patchy areas.

  • Finish the project with varnish, shellac or wood polish to preserve the stain (see 'eHow to Apply Varnish').

  • Dispose of rags per instructions on the stain can.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the stain liberally. Don't pour it onto the wood's surface, but don't be stingy with it.
  • Be cautious with stains - they can be flammable. Use them in well-ventilated areas, and wear gloves and a face mask when applying them.

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