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How to Stain Wooden Furniture

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2011

Spruce up old furniture and give unfinished pieces a unique, timeless look by staining them yourself with this simple how-to from craftsman Bruce Johnson.

When buying unfinished furniture to stain, be sure to select hardwoods, such as maple and oak, that absorb stains and finishes evenly. Avoid pieces with scratches, gouges filled with wood filler, and knots, which can turn blotchy when stained and finished.

Tools and Materials

  • Unfinished wood furniture
  • #180-grit sandpaper
  • Vacuum
  • Minwax Express Color wiping stain and finish in desired color
  • Soft, lint-free cloths
  • Dish
  • Foam brush
  • Minwax Polycrylic protective finish (optional)
  • Stirrer (optional)
  • Synthetic or natural bristle brush (optional)

Wooden Furniture Staining How-To
1. Prepare the wood by sanding lightly with #180-grit sandpaper to remove all shallow scratches and open pores. Use a vacuum to remove dust from wood; wiping will only push the dust deeper into the wooden pores.

2. Knead tube of combination stain and finish to gently mix the colorants. Squeeze a small amount onto one section of furniture piece. With a soft, lint-free cloth, work stain into the pores of the wood. Use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess stain, moving in the direction of the grain. For a lighter version of any color, wipe the stain off immediately; for a richer version, leave it on longer, but do not allow it to dry before wiping off the excess stain. A second coat can also help to achieve a richer color, if desired.

3. For corner crevices or a turning, squirt some of the stain onto a dish or other flat surface. Dip foam brush into color, and work into wood crevices. Use a clean cloth to wipe off excess stain, moving in the direction of the grain.

4. If furniture will get a lot of heavy use, apply a protective finish. (Use a synthetic bristle brush for a water-based product and a natural brush for an oil-based product.) Stir clear polycrylic protective finish in can. Dip brush only 1/2-inch into can to avoid collecting too much product, and brush a thin layer on furniture in the direction of the wood grain. Do not go back and dab touchups. Let dry, and apply a second thin coat.

Resources
Minwax Express Color wiping stain and finish available on Amazon. All other tools and materials available at home improvement and hardware stores.