Making Pine Shine: How To Stain a Pine Desk Black

The Art of Furniture Restoration

Pine is an inexpensive and solid wood to work with. From staining to painting, there are many ways to make pine look gorgeous beyond its unfinished state. A couple of years ago, I purchased a desk from a local unfinished wood store in Boston that works exclusively with pine, but it wasn't until this past weekend that I did something to make this pine shine.

For my pine desk from Bostonwood, I wanted to stain it black and finish it with a high-gloss polyurethane. My inspiration came from seeing several black hardwood floors that I LOVE, like in this picture from an article in the New York Times.

What you'll need to stain unfinished pine to a black and shiny finish:

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I begin by sanding the desk with 120-grit sandpaper. (I love that this winter weather is fading, especially because I get to work outside.) The stain's instructions suggest to sand with a 220-grit before staining, but in my experience with pine, it is better to start with 120-grit, because the rougher paper really helps open up the wood to allow the stain to fully absorb.

After sanding with the 120-grit paper, I apply a pre-stain conditioner, which is designed to help stains absorb evenly in soft and porous woods like pine. I let this pre-stain absorb in the desk for at least 15 minutes before I start staining.

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After allowing the pre-stain to absorb, I stir the ebony Minwax stain I am using for this project and apply it with a brush to all parts of the desk. I am using a generous amount of stain with each application and will let the stain sit on the wood for a good 15 minutes before I buff.

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The more time the stain sits on the wood, the richer the color gets. Once I allow a proper amount of time for the stain to absorb, I cut a piece of an old shirt to buff the stain in the wood and to wipe off any excess stain that wasn't absorbed. I'm going to let this dry for about 3-4 hours.

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The wood is still a bit streaky and could obviously use a few more coats of stain. I lightly sand the desk again with 120-grit sand paper, and repeating the same steps as before, (minus the pre-stain), I stain the desk again. After the second stain dries, I then use the 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out the desk and then I apply one last coat of stain.

Now I have achieved the stain consistency I desire, so it's time to apply the polyurethane. One must make sure that the stain is completely dry and the piece is free of dirt and dust before applying the poly. I coat a generous amount of a high-gloss polyurethane with a cheap brush on all surfaces of the desk. Watch out for drips on the edges and vertical surfaces of your piece! Once these drips dry they're there for good.

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The can of polyurethane's directions suggests that I put on two coats, but I was absolutely satisfied after one generous coat. I allowed this to dry for a full 24 hours before placing anything on the desk's surface.

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Whoa, why didn't I do this sooner!? Trust me Apartment Therapy readers / fellow DIYers - you can do this with your unfinished pine piece, too. Follow these steps and come out with an amazingly shiny, black-stained piece!