Many woodworkers use cheesecloth at some point in their work. Some use it to wipe away sawdust, others use it during staining. Cheesecloth is inexpensive and comes in many different lengths, thicknesses and grades. Cheesecloth is a natural-fiber, loosely-woven cloth also used to strain liquids in cooking and in industrial work. Woodworkers like it because it doesn’t streak surfaces like paintbrushes and sponges and it doesn’t scratch the wood like some dust brushes.
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Use fluffy cheesecloth to stain wood. Paint oil-based stains on the wood with a brush, then wipe away excess in long, parallel strokes with the cheesecloth. Fluffy cheesecloth is a square cheesecloth folded over and stuffed with more cheesecloth. It’s super-absorbent and easy to grip.
Pick flat cheesecloth to apply water-based stains. Fold the flat cheesecloth into quarters and dip it into the stain. Draw the cloth across the wood, with the grain, in long smooth strokes. Wipe away color if desired with a clean cloth. Water-based stains dry faster and lighter in color than oil-based ones.
Choose sticky cheesecloth, called tack cloth, to wipe away sawdust after sanding. Tack cloth is cheesecloth treated with a mild adhesive, making it slightly yellow in color. Wipe the tack cloth along the surface of the wood, refold it so you have a fresh surface and go over the wood again. Place the tack cloth in a plastic bag to use again later.