When you finish a woodworking project, you should try to stain your wood as soon as possible to get the best finish you can. If you wait, your piece has a larger chance to become damaged by scratches or stains, and it may accumulate dirt and oils. If you find that you do need to wait before applying a stain, re-sand your piece with some fine-grit sandpaper before you apply your finish. No matter whether your project is a frame or a chest of drawers, you use the same steps to apply the stain.
Make sure the surface of your piece is clean and free of dust before you apply any stain. If you choose to finish the gluing after you finish the piece, be sure to use masking tape to cover all glue surfaces. When using any type of stain or finish, always do so in an area that is well ventilated, has plenty of light and space, and is clean.
There are several different techniques you can use to apply stain to your project. You can use a brush or a rag with most stains on the market. Some even are packaged so you can spray them on. Absorbent rags made of natural fibers like cotton work really well to apply stain. Use a cut up old T-shirt or other piece of fabric. Alternatively, you can also use a heavy-duty paper towel. If you prefer to use a brush, it doesn't matter if you use a synthetic or a natural bristle brush. Foam brushes may not be your best choice... they can sometimes disintegrate from the solvents used in some stains. If you are spraying your stain onto your project, set the paint gun up for a light viscosity. If the stain you have chosen is a thick pigment type, you'll also need to thin it before putting it in the paint gun so it will spray properly.
If you choose to use a pigment stain, make sure it is mixed thoroughly before you use it by shaking it vigorously or stirring it. Pigments tend to settle at the bottom of the container. If you are using a dye stain, while they don't need to be stirred, you may want to strain it first to remove any lumps of dye that did not fully dissolve. If you need a lot of stain, and you have several small cans of the same color, you may want to put them into one larger container and mix them up to make sure your color is uniform and not streaked.
You may want to start by taking your project apart, so the stain covers every bit of the wood and doesn't gather around the hardware. Plan what pieces you're going to do first... and if you have a large piece, figure out ahead of time how you're going to approach it. You want to create small workable areas. Once this has been figured out, use your brush, your spray gun or your rag and apply the stain in the direction you want. If you have trouble getting the stain into small crevices, it pays to have a small brush handy to help force the stain in. If you are working on a piece of wood that is already installed in a high place over your head, say, like a piece of crown molding, you may have a more pleasant experience if you use a gel stain that won't drip on top of you. Apply the stain to small areas, allowing the stain to dry for a few moments before wiping the excess off with a clean rag. Be sure to wipe off the excess in the same direction as the grain of the wood.
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