(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Wood stain can dramatically transform the look of furniture. Whether it's an old valuable beauty you're giving attention to, or a newer inexpensive piece, wood stain is completely worth the while.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

This old Heywood Wakefield table was rescued from a yard sale recently. It had wobbly legs and the surface was covered with scratches and water rings —let's just say eyebrows were raised when I purchased it and brought it in the house. It's a great example of how old, neglected furniture can really be given new life with a simple staining process.

Don't get too excited yet, there is still much to do before opening up that can of stain! First on the list: sand off all the bad stuff. Working with the wood grain, sand the piece back to its original naked state.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

What You Need

Materials

  • Stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Sandpaper
  • Rag
  • Stir stick
  • Drop cloth
  • Latex gloves
  • Safety glasses

Tools

  • Stain brush

Instructions

Once you've sanded and wiped down the surface, prepare your work area by laying out a drop cloth under the piece you'll be working on. If you'd rather not have dark walnut hands, you should probably put your gloves on too!

If you are working with a really old piece that was neglected and weathered, you should think about applying a pre-stain wood conditioner. This will make the wood more uniform and reduce the chance of streaks and blotches later.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

1. Open your can of stain and give it a good stir. Brush it on to the wood surface, going with the grain when possible and being mindful of drops.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

2. Allow the stain to sit for 5-15 minutes, depending on the desired darkness you want to achieve.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

3. Wipe off the excess stain with a rag.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

4. Check color for uniformity. You can usually even out color by going back over it and re-wiping, but don't wait too long.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

5. Apply additional coats until you have your desired depth of color, keeping in mind your topcoat will slightly darken the appearance of the stain.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

6. Stir the polyurethane, do not shake it (shaking will create bubbles and bubbles at this stage are bad!).

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

7. Apply the poly with your brush. Try to avoid excessive brushing because this will cause air bubbles.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

8. Allow to dry for about an hour. The first coat will act like a filler, so be prepared to do at least one additional coat.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

9. Lightly sand between coats using 180 of finer grit sandpaper. Sanding will remove dust, air bubbles, or raised wood-grain texture.

10. Add a second coat and repeat the process until the topcoat is to your liking. For dining tables it is recommended you apply 4-6 coats to best protect your surface.

Edited from an original post by Kimber Watson published on February 11, 2010

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