Normal procedure for staining wood is like this, according to all
1. Buy stain grade wood
2. Apply wood conditioner
3. Apply stain
4. Apply varnish
If I want to preserve the natural color of the wood (rather than make
it darker), then they tell you to apply Natural Stain (#209 at Home
Depot) at step 3.
But could I, instead, buy paint grade wood (which is much cheaper than
stain grade), and just apply varnish alone, without stain ?
Sure, if that is the look you want. IMO, "natural" stain is a rip off. If
it does not change the appearance, why do it? With some woods, tung oil or
Danish oil brings out the natural grain. On pine, it seems to make no
Right now I'm building a set of drawers to go under my workbench. I'm using
some pine boards (free!) and when they are done I'll give it a couple of
coats of shellac. The shellac will protect them from dust and give a little
shine. The wood will remain natural.
For some reason, people have been conditioned that they must apply stain to
wood to improve its appearance. In some cases, that is correct. In most
cases, I prefer the natural wood. After all, if I'm paying the price for
cherry, I want the look of cherry. Over time it takes on a very nice
reddish, darker patina. If you put cherry stain on pine boards, you have
the look of cherry stain on pine boards. If you like that, fine, if not,
use something else or use nothing.
Take a look at my web page under Woodworking. the items at the top are made
from pine and have been stained. All the others (starting with the oak desk)
are natural with either an oil finish or shellac. The oak desk top is made
from pallet wood that I planed.
What is stain grade wood? Are you referring to select pine?
Conditioner helps make a stain uniform. If you will not be staining,
conditioner is silly.
Okay, but natural stain is not a stain at all; it is just oil. There is no
point to putting oil on something and then putting varnish over it. (well,
some highly absorbant woods (butternut, spalted maple) respond well to that,
but it is a waste on pine)
Sure. It will look like paint grade wood (whatever that is) with varnish on
it. If you are satisfied with that, then you are all set.
This would be a great question to also post at rec.woodworking. It is an
active group, and has keen interest from those who regularly finish wood
projects of various kinds. Also, you need to be more specific about what
wood you are using, and for what function. That determines your approach.
Wood conditioner needs only to be used if darker stain is used on
certain woods like pine or birch to even the absorption of stain.
Nat stain is not realy a stain unless it is pigmented
If you like the nat finish color just finish it without any treatment.
Depending on product usage and look desired you have many options of
finishes to pick from
There is not anything called "stain-grade wood." Any wood can be
stained or painted, although typically unfinished wood is stained. A
wood conditioner is used where blotching is a problem (such as pine or
cherry). Applying stain is optional, but it will cause the wood grain
lines to show if that's what you want. Applying stain will not
"preserve the natural color of the wood." You can apply just a
varnish. Most importantly, read the label carefully about preparation
before you buy any finishing product. Whatever you do, buy a little
extra wood and experiment (that's what experienced woodworkers do).
1. There really isn't such a thing as "stain grade". Well, some talk
about it to mean wood free of knots and the like that would show up with
a clear finish. If the wood were to be painted, knots and the like
would be hidden so that is "paint grade". Neither has anything to do
with the actual hardwood grades (FAS, select, #1 common, #2 common,
2. The only reasons to use stain are...
(a) to try to make cheap wood look like something it isn't
(b) to color it (duh)
(c) to decrease light/dark contrast integral in the wood; sapwood vs
heartwood for example.
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