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How to Stain Wood Furniture

January 30, 2018


I love to stain furniture! I am definitely not abandoning my love for painted pieces but it’s important to have a good mix throughout your home.


Whether you are adding subtle color to your wood furniture, refreshing the original look, or choosing a completely new color palette, stained furniture adds a natural element to your space. And, as we discussed in the last post, get ready to see more natural elements and traditional/antique wood pieces in homes.


How to Stain Wood Furniture


You might choose to stain a piece of furniture that has beautiful wood grains. When I am gathering a plan for a piece I always consider what wood I am working with and if it’s worth showcasing. And if I am lacking the element of wood in the space that the piece will be used.



What you’ll need:


  • Stripper

  • Plastic scraper 

  • Orbital Sander

  • Sand paper

  • Dusting cloths

  • Pre Conditioner

  • Stain

  • Shop towels

  • Top Coat


What you’ll do:


1. Strip the wood. Apply stripper with a chip brush will work. Allow it to set for the recommended time and then scrape with plastic scraper.


2. Clean. I like using Klean Strip After Wash. This prepares the surface for refinishing by removing any residue from the stripping process.



 Completely clean and ready for sanding.


3. Sand with an orbital sander. Start with 80-grit sandpaper, then 100-grit, then 120. Clean the surface with dusting cloths in between sandings to reduce swirl marks.


4. Hand-sand with 150-grit sandpaper to remove any marks made by your orbital sander.


5. Clean with dusting cloth.

6. Apply pre-stain conditioner to reduce streaking and blotching, and ensure uniform absorption of stain and even coverage. Remember, pre-stain conditioner is not recommended for Dye Stains. Always read and follow your prep instructions on your stain.


 Pre stain conditioner applied. Look how gorgeous the wood is conditioned.


7. Wipe off excess conditioner after allowing the conditioner to absorb for 15 minutes. Note: Water based conditioners are not wiped back allow conditioner to dry per instructions.


8. Apply stain with a foam applicator. Inexpensive foam applicators are great for oil-based stains. No loose bristles to worry about, and you can dispose when finished (since clean up can be messy.) They also work great for water-based stains and can be reused after washing.


9. Wipe back excess stain with shop towel.


10. Allow to dry per instructions. All stains are different but it is important to follow company recommended dry times.

 One coat of General Finishes Nutmeg Gel Stained completely dried. Isn't it a beautiful color!


11. Re-apply if applicable. Adding additional coats of stain will darken the color. Re-apply to achieve desired color.


12. Seal with chosen top coat. Unless you are using a stain with built-in finish (i.e. Cece Caldwell’s Stain and Finish or Fusion Stain and Finishing Oil), you will need to seal your stain to protect it. The top coat also enhances the color and grain. 


Choosing the right seal can be overwhelming with the numerous options on the market. Intended use and sheen will be important factors in choosing the right top coat for your project. Waxes and oils provide beautiful soft, matte sheen finishes for low to moderate use surfaces. For high use and/or higher sheens, finishes like satin or gloss (although they too come in lower sheens intended for higher use surfaces), urethanes and polyurethanes provide good choices for finishes. My favorites are General Finishes Arm R Seal and High P