Staining Furniture 101 Quick Tips

This article follows a three part series explaining the use of different furniture stains and explains some basics and has excellent quick tips for reference.

~Temperature and humidity levels definitely impact a staining project. Warmer and dryer environments will speed dry/cure times while cooler, more moist environment will lengthen the dry/cure times.

~It's good to learn your woods even the common furniture woods such as Oak, Birch, Fruit, Mahogany, Pine, Walnut .... knowing the typical graining patterns, characteristics and quirks can be a huge benefit to your business!

~So what about the stain and poly all in ones? I’m not going to knock them by any means and I do use them occasionally but I like to have a bit more control in case the coloring or depth is not to my liking prior to applying my finish coat.

~Stir don’t shake; this has been debated ad-nauseum but air bubbles are very slow to release from stain. By stirring you will create less bubbles. Period.

~Sanding your piece is essential…removing any surface dings, dents and then followed up with a finer grit such as 240-400 prior to staining. Be sure to tack cloth and give it a good cleaning with TSP or Mineral Spirits (allow to dry). HINT: I use an old cut pair of panty hose over my palm…lightly wipe across. You’ll feel the fibers catch and know you need a bit more fine sanding. For sanding between coats, I use only 400-600, depending on the wood species. This knocks back any wood fibers that have raised during the staining process.

~Naptha speeds drying time, Mineral Spirits adds time. You can use either one for both stains and oil based top coats.

~Cheap $1.99 car wash sponges work perfectly for staining and applying top coats with no brush strokes.

~Wood will only absorb so much stain. If you have a sticky situation (too much stain or didn’t wipe back quick enough), use mineral spirits and steel wool. HINT: This will lighten the color of your stain but once it completely dries, you can reapply a light coat and immediately wipe back.

~Condition your wood. It penetrates layers, depending on the species of wood, and seals for even coloring as well as opens fibers to accept the stain. I can’t stress this one tip enough…. its 90% of why people are afraid of “the splotch.”

~Lint free rags are a must – cut up old t-shirts, wash in borax, double rinse, no fabric softner. Yes, you can wash and reuse your rags that were used on water based stains and paints, but NOT oil based stains and paints or gel stains. HINT: I wouldn’t recommend tossing rags used with chalk or mineral based paints in your washer…soak, rinse, repeat…. very well…then you can toss those chalky rags in the washing machine!)

~To stain or paint first? I see this question float around…a lot, so the best way to answer is this; you can paint over stain. Stain first!

~There are a few times that you may want to restore a piece, rather than clean, sand, stain, top coat….and here are my favorite go to products: Kramers Best, Howard’s Restore-a-Finish, Danish Oil. Each has specific uses and delivers specific results so read up on each.

~Safety! Glove and goggle up at a minimum. Some of the stains and chemicals I reference in the series will require you to use a respirator as well.

~Last but not least – be sure and read your products instructions. Some pre-conditioners/sealers, stains, and top coats have very specific information to make your staining work a success, my above information is meant as a general guide and you can easily ask specific questions on many wood working sites.

A bit of me…

“You did what?!?” That’s usually what I hear when running into long missed friends, former business associates and acquaintances and explain that I actually did it; I left behind the success of the corporate world of finance to pursue my passion for antiques and have not looked back since.

The restoration of antique furniture has been a love of mine for decades now, and over the years, it has grown from a word of mouth hobby to an exciting and growing business! I’ve ventured into other areas of furniture of design and construction, wood working and painting. By no means am I the artist some are when it comes to decorative painting but there are so many who have graciously shared their talents and because of that, I’ve been able to add another medium of restoration. Like those wonderful finish artists, I’m an avid teacher and believe that knowledge is meant to be shared freely and by empowering others, you receive gifts that are immeasurable!

I now offer a full range of design and upholstery as well as custom surface and decorative finishes such as painting and European plaster techniques for homes and furniture and of course, my passion for the restoration of all things historic!

On a personal note, I’m wife to a beautiful and supportive husband (and should probably add very patient!), mom of three who are grown and of three fur-babies and they are all where my heart is made whole.

Peace and Joy,


Baciato Refinishing


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