Which first: Assembly or stain?

I'm working on a set of bookcases as one of my first projects. I am not sure if I should assemble first (dado & biscuit joints, mostly) and then stain/finish, or if I should stain and finish each piece first and then do my assembly steps.
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It really boils down to personal preference. However it tends to be much easier to stain interior parts before assembly. Take care to keep as much stain as possible off of the areas that will receive glue. I normally do all of the outside last.
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If staining or finishing before assembly, make sure you do a "dry" assembly first. If you later have to re-sand and restain some areas, they may not blend well. As he mentioned, some projects are much easier either before or after assembly, while other are purely personal preference. Of course, this also depends on the materials and tools you're using, plus the type of joinery. In a few projects I've taped the glue areas, stained, assembled, then spray finished. In your case you could tape around the dados to prevent glue issues, or apply both the stain and the first finish coat, so any later glue will wipe off easily. GerryG
wrote:

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What Leon said. Try to stain whatever you can first - leave the glue areas clean. It makes life a lot simpler later (hate those glue blemishes).
Lou

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If you use waterbased dye stains, there is no need to remove any stain before gluing.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com Wrote:

I just finished a sofa table, and dealt with the same. Through tenons upper and lower panels, and spindles. It was MUCH easier to stain i all up on the assembly table, and simply wipe away the squeeze-ou without worrying about "getting it all off" before staining. 'Course, still had to wipe on the poly...probably should've done that befor glue-up also?... To
-- tomeshew
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On Fri, 4 Mar 2005 02:51:37 +0000, tomeshew

You might bear in mind that stains are not equal, so that can be misleading. All pigment stains have some kind of binder, and many of these will seal the wood sufficiently to prevent or reduce glue adhesion. However, some won't seal as well as others. OTOH, as tomeshew noted in his post, dye stains, especially water base ones, are different.
To prevent issues with oil based stain curing or wb stain binder compatability with the finish, I often put a coat of shellac on after the stain. Applying that here I'd tape the joints, stain then shellac. Remove tape, glue, then finish. While you could try the finish coat before the glue-up, you'll often find small areas that need a touch-up, and it can be difficult to blend that in. GerryG
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