Woodworking Stain & Finishes
Tips & How to Use


Woodworking Finishing Use a high quality woodworking stain. I like Minwax® Wood Finish™ penetrating stain. You can mix stain to get your desired color. The stain acts as a sealer as well.

Tip: I took a sample of wood from another piece of furniture to a paint store. They mixed the woodworking stain to match that piece. They applied it to a piece of bare oak that was a cut-off from the project. It came out to the desired result. The mix is one-half Golden Oak and one-half Ipswich Pine. I saved a can poured one-half Golden Oak into it, and one-half Ipswich Pine. Then I took the Ipswich Pine that was left over (one-half) and poured it into the left over Golden Oak. Now I have two cans of mixed woodworking stain. This mix gives a light-medium finish to oak, as you can see in the pictures. Stain needs thorough stirring. Do NOT vigorously stir polyurethane.
Woodworking Finishing

Staining End Grain

When applying woodworking stain, the stain soaks more deeply into the pores of the end grain than the face grain. The ends darken more than the faces.

To even out the stain color, sand the end grain with higher-grit sandpaper than the face grain. In the photo, the face is sanded with 120-grit and the end grain with 220-grit, resulting in a better color match.

FAQ for woodworking stain:

Q. How long should Minwax® Wood Finish™ be left on the wood?
Anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes. The longer the woodworking stain is left on the wood, the deeper it will penetrate. For a light tint, wipe the excess stain off after a few minutes; for deeper, richer color, wait as long as 30 minutes. Apply two or three coats for vibrant color.

Q. Why is it important to wipe off the excess woodworking stain?
Minwax® Wood Finish™ is designed to deposit colorants in the wood pores, not on the surface of the wood. Any pigments allowed to remain on top of the wood will impair topcoat adhesion - causing the finish to peel.

Q. Is it necessary to sand after the Minwax® Wood Finish™ has dried?
No. In fact, Minwax advises against it. Sanding removes some of the dyes and pigments in the stained wood. Since Minwax® Wood Finish™ does not raise the grain, no sanding is necessary before top coating.

Q. Does Minwax® Wood Finish™ need to be top-coated?
For added beauty and protection, I recommend top coating all projects with a protective clear finish such as Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane. This helps protect the woodworking stain as well as the wood.

Q. Can the Minwax® Wood Finish™ Stain colors be used on exterior doors and patio furniture?
Yes, provided they are protected with Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane. Minwax® formulates Spar Urethane to protect wood from sunlight, rain and temperature changes.


Be sure to read and follow the safety precautions listed on the product container.

Pro: Durable and easy to apply.
Con: Requires two to three coats for a good finish.

Polyurethane is a film finish. Lightly stir the can, using your stir stick slowly from bottom to top.
To apply, use a Foam Brush to eliminate bubbles.
A wipe-on polyurethane is a thinned product. It will require more coats to get the same durable finish.

Woodworking Finishing
Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane
Among the most durable of protective coatings, Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane offers exceptionally long-lasting beauty on both finished and unfinished wood.

1. Apply a wet, uniform coat with a foam brush. After the finish has dried, sand with 220-grit sandpaper. Repeat this step for two to three coats.

2. After each coat has dried, sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper with a block. Just smooth out any bumps. Take care not to sand through the finish into the stain. Use a Tack Cloth to eliminate any dust caused by sanding. After the final coat, let dry thoroughly.

3. If you are applying this finish to unsealed wood the first coat of finish will act as the sealer, apply it liberally, wipe up any "ponds". Do not allow them to cure. If you used woodworking stain, it acts like a sealer and the poly will not soak in as much.

4. This final step gives professional results. Rub out the finish using 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper with a block. Squirt on Formby's Lemon Treatment. Smooth out the surface.

For outdoor protection try Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane

A protective clear finish for interior or exterior wood that is exposed to sunlight, water or temperature changes. Now with stronger UV protection and 25% faster recoat time.

Danish Oil

Pro: Easy to repair.
Con: Not as durable as film finishes.
Finish may require periodic maintenance.
Procedure requires lots of hard work.
Do NOT apply over pigment or gel stains.

Procedure: (paraphrased from a fellow woodworker)
Danish oil is considered a penetrating oil-type finish. In actuality, the oil does not penetrate very deeply. There is no need to sand the wood surface with anything higher than 180-grit sandpaper prior to finishing. In order for this finish to work properly, it must penetrate into the wood. Do NOT use pigment or gel stains. If you wish to stain the surface, you can use tinted Danish oil.

This finish requires a lot of time. The following is a simple procedure using quality Danish Oil.

1. Even if you wish to use this product as a woodworking stain as well as a finish, apply the "natural" color of the product to end grain first then the colored version. This will keep the end grain from looking darker than the rest of the surfaces. Apply a very wet coat to all surfaces, allow the oil to stand on the surface for about 30 minutes, apply more to any areas that become dry during this time period. After 30 minutes or if the oil starts to become a little "tacky", wipe it all off.

2. Immediately apply another wet coat of oil to the surface, allow to stand for about 15 minutes or until it starts to become tacky. Wipe all oil off of the surface. The surface will "bleed", or seep oil onto the surface for a few hours after application. You do not want this bleeding oil to harden so wipe the surface down every half hour or so. Open pore woods like oak will bleed more than woods such as maple. Note, the more vigorously you wipe the oil off, the more it will bleed.

3. From now on, you should apply the finish every other day. You may continue to use the tinted version of the product or switch to the natural colored oil at this point. From this point onwards, you apply the oil with sandpaper. Start with 320 or 400 grit black sandpaper and wet sand the surface using the oil as a lubricant, This will work the oil into the surface and smooth the surface as well. You must wipe all of the excess oil from the surface before it becomes tacky. Continue this operation every other day, switching to a finer grit of sandpaper each time. You can keep this up a long time but the benefits start to diminish after 600 grit.

4. After you have applied all of the oil you want, you may now apply either a coat of lemon oil or solvent wax (Watco) using the sandpaper method. This will become the final finish. As an alternative, you could use a paste wax wiped on with a rag and buffed out. The preferred wax to use will be colored to avoid any white spots.

5. About every year or two, you may wish to apply a coat of the natural finish oil and / or wax to the surface to restore its sheen.

Wiping Polyurethane

A wipe-on gel which combines oil stain with a soft lustre top-coat.

Pro: Durable and easy to apply.
Con: Cross grain scratches between coats may occur.


1.Sand surface smooth. Remove all sanding dust.

2.Pre-treat soft or porous woods, such as pine and alder, with a pre-stain wood conditioner. This helps the wood absorb stain color more evenly. Apply woodworking stain within two hours of pre-treatment.

3. SHAKE BOTTLE WELL FOR 15 SECONDS and test color on a hidden area of the wood to assure desired results.

4. Apply liberally with clean, soft cloth or foam brush.

5. Allow 5-15 minutes for penetration. Then remove excess by wiping lightly with a clean, soft cloth.

6. You will need more than three coats. After two hours, apply additional coats in same manner.

7. You may apply extra coats, if you desire increased sheen and deeper color.

FAQ: (from Minwax)

Q. What is the advantage of WoodSheen® over other woodworking stain and finishes?
WoodSheen® provides a one-step woodworking stain and finish which duplicates the rich, hand-rubbed lustre woodworkers favor. In addition, the unique squeeze bottle makes application neat and easy.

Q. Can WoodSheen® Natural be applied over any of the Minwax® Wood Finish™ Stains?
Yes, as always, make sure the Woodworking Stain is thoroughly dry.

Q. Do I need to apply a protective clear finish on top of WoodSheen®?
Generally speaking, no. But if the project is going to receive heavy use, as a tabletop might, a topcoat of WoodSheen® Natural will provide more protection without affecting the color. For even greater protection, without added color, Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane.

In other words, you may spend more time using this type of finish than the Woodworking Stain & Poly method.

Water Based
I do not recommend a water-based product for finishing your quality projects.

There are several names for this product. Anything labeled varnish, polyurethane, or Crylic, appears "whiteish" in liquid form, and is cleaned up with water is an acrylic.

A label for Acrylics may say "water white". The manufacturers say that the product will impart no additional color to the surface. This may or may not be true. Acrylic applied directly over raw walnut or cherry will have a VERY different appearance that any oil based product.

Even though this product has many good qualities, it is controversial in use on fine furniture. You may use this product on interior furniture components, house trim, and shop furniture.

However, why bother with another product?


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