wood staining techniques

Can someone describe the basic pros/cons between minwax regular wood stain and then applying polyurethane...stain with polyurethane included (poly...and the new water based minwax stains ? I'll be staining some wood veneer and also casing/baseboard moldings.
Thanks TR
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Polyurethane is essentially paint without any pigment. When you add pigment regular old pigmented paint. It is pretty thin, so some grain shows through; like a semitranparent deck stain.
It depends on the look you are going for. If the wood surface is nice and you want it to look like wood, then stain and poly. If the wood isn't so great, then stain/poly. I found some nice chairs that were too light. I started to sand them down and realized it would take much longer than they were worth, so I stain/polyed them. They look fine, just not like if I had sanded them down and handled them properly.
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Hi Tim, The piece of wood gets darker with each coat of poly with stain mixed in. This can be a problem in keeping all the pieces of a job the same colour. One advantage however, is that for woods that tend to blotch (adsorb stain unevenly) the premixed can do a decent job. However, if there are any stores that service the trade / commercial outlets, they generally sell better quality stains. ( Not Minwax). Or go on line and buy a good waterbased product like Fuhr 105 or 155 if you want to spray it.
Cheers, JG

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Tim, The basic question is, "How 'anal' are you?, or want to be for THIS project?". I don't do ANYTHING in the way of 'home projects' without a level . . . and it drives Joanne nuts !!
The CONCEPT of a stain & poly mix is great . . . the execution & application is a little more dicey. I happen to like the look of a 'traditional' Mahogany . . . that 'mile-deep' reddish-brownish look. The first time I used the stuff, I carefully brushed it on, like the label said, and when dry it was almost black . . . like some old Duncan Fife furniture my parents gave us. 'Add additional coats' . . . you've got to be kidding!!
Since then I've used it MANY times . . . MY way.{ I later found out that there is only a minimal darkening anyway, and I've used 'colors' as light as 'Fruitwood' - to imitate Teak}. In fact I just finished some replacement trim. Sand lightly {220 or finer}and dust off & vacuum clean. Apply stain/poly . . .I prefer a cheap foam brush. {Here you have to experiment - brushing out well gives a thin, even, rapid drying, coat. However, the color tends to be light }. Because the result will NOT become 'deeper & richer' with a clearcoat - 'what you see is what you get'. When dry, give a couple of coats of clearcoats - I use their water-based Poly. VERY quick drying, and VERY hard. AFTER two coats, lightly sand to remove any nibs, and flow on a third coat. Total time . . . 48 hours - half of which was waiting for the oil-based stain/poly to dry. To ME . . . THIS is the advantage.
As far as Stain . . . and Poly . . . it allows more CONTROL. I prefer the water-based stains. They go deeper into the wood and ARE 'additive' in color depth. I mix my own from aniline dyes if it will be used under epoxy. I've used the Minwax stuff and my only complaint is that some of the deeper colors DO NOT in ANY WAY 'match' the colors of the wood they are supposed to be. Also, with these type of stains, the 'true look' does NOT occur until the finish {clear or 'Varnish Amber'} coats are applied.
Regards & Good Luck, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop

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In addition to what others have said, most Minwax stains are a mixture if pigment and dye... Pigment is suspended in the solvent. When you apply stain the raw wood, solvent is absorbed into the wood at differing rates. Generally, more solvent is sucked into the pores of the wood. This leaves more pigment trapped at the surface of the wood in these areas of greater absorption. This can accentuate the grain in a beautiful way (oak, if you like that look), or leave you with a blotchy mess (pine/maple). Additional applications will not change the color much.
By contrast a toner (pigment in the top coat) will cover more evenly but occlude more than accentuate the grain. Additional coats will build additional (darker) color.
Always test on scrap.
-Steve

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