Wood Staining Techniques & Tips

Wood Staining Techniques & Tips

Applying stain to a wood carving is a great way to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. Here are some wood staining tips to avoid some common staining pitfalls.


Sanding is an important part of creating a nice finish. When sanding always start with an 80-grit sand paper and work up to a 120-grit. You can create an easy-to-hold sanding block by taking a palm-size scrap of wood and wrapping it with sanding paper. This allows a better hold and control. Place the block flat against the wood and use even pressure sanding along the grain. Once you have sanded, it is important to remove all of the dust from the wood surface. Use a tack cloth to clean the wood.


Some woods like birch and maple can absorb stain unevenly and can make the finish look blotchy. Make sure to test the stain and see if conditioning is needed. A conditioner will also reduce the amount of stain the wood will soak up.


Make sure to test the stain on a scrap to see the real color. Pick the right brush for the stain. For oil based stains use a natural hairbrush. For water-based stains use a synthetic bristle brush. For projects with intricate details, you can use a cloth with an oil-based polyurethane to get stain into all of the details. 


Between coats of stain you can sand out imperfections using 400-grit wet/dry sand paper. Using a small amount of water allows the sandpaper to stay unclogged. Roughing the surface in between coats allows the stain to adhere better to the last layer. When the last coat of stain has dried, use a damp rag to wipe the surface.