Many years ago, staining and varnishing wood was extremely difficult because of inconsistencies in col­ors. Today, most stains are premixed and come in a wide range of tones and colors. Making the decision about what color to use is really the hardest challenge for most do-it-yourselfers.

The two most com­mon types of stains found in home centers, such as City Mill. are penetrating stains and pigmented stains.

Penetrating stains, because of less pigment and a slight difference in make-up, penetrate into the wood with very little pigment residue. In general, a pigmented stain will tend to hide any grain or imperfections in the wood, while the penetrating stain will tend to highlight the wood's grain and character.

If the piece you are staining has excellent graining, and is an expensive wood, such as cherry or walnut, the best choice would be a penetrating stain.

Regardless of the type of stain you select, the procedures for preparing the project are basically the same.

Step 1

Clean the surface to be stained. If the old finish is in bad condition, it should be removed. Use paint and varnish remover, giving the remover at least 20 minutes working time.

Step 2

Fill any cracks, dents, and dings in the wood surface. Wood loughs and fillers come in colors to match the stain being applied. Sand the surface, using a sanding block so the abrasive doesn`t dig into the wood. Start with a medium-grit paper, and finish with a fine-grit paper. The dust from sanding should be removed with a tack cloth.

The stain can be applied with a brush or a lint-free cloth. To lighten the stain and bring out the grain of the wood, excess stain can be wiped off with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Step 3

Once dry, the stain may raise the grain of the wood. Smooth the surface with fine sandpaper before applying the finish coat of varnish.

Varnishes provide a protective film that prevents warping and splitting of wood surfaces, usually caused by moisture problems.

Step 4

After removing all dust, brush on the varnish in the direction of the wood grain. Don't overlap strokes if possible. When the finish has been applied in one direction, crisscross the surface with another coat of finish to fill in any bare spots. Your final strokes should be in one direction, following the grain of the wood

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