Wood Stain Types

dark staining oak floorsWood stains change the color and appearance of unfinished wood. They can accentuate the wood’s natural grain pattern to bring out its inherent beauty, or let you match the wood more closely to the other woods in your home interior scheme in order to blend better. Here is a rundown of the different types of wood stain.

Wood stains fall into one of two different basic categories; Penetrating and Pigmented. Pigmented stains deposit a thin layer of color on the surface of the wood, and tone down instead of accentuate the grain of the wood. Penetrating stains absorb into the wood and it’s fibers to give it a deep hued transparent finish. Gel stains combine dyes and pigments and have the best of both types of stain. Gels give deep coloration but go on with the ease of pigment stains to save time.

Aniline Dye Stain

These are a penetrating type. They are water-based or alcohol based and dry quick, although can leaves blotches, streaks or overlap if they dry too fast. Aniline dyes are often dark or bright colors and work well for hard to stain woods such as maple. They will raise the grain nicely to create a textured finish.

To apply aniline dye stain, the dye powder is dissolved into a base of alcohol or hot water, and then brushed on using long, even strokes along the grain, or lightly sprayed on with an HVLP gravity cup type paint gun. Prior to application, the surface to be finished should be sanded lightly with 180-grit sandpaper and the grain raised by soaking with a damp sponge.

Non-Grain Raising Stain

Another type of wood penetrating stain, non-grain raising (NGR) stains result in a transparent but brightly colored finish. They come in premixed liquid form. As per their name, they do not raise the grain and leave a smooth finish.

To apply, mix as required with NGR liquid thinner and brush on in long strokes or spray on lightly. In order to avoid lap marks when using a brush, NGR retarder can be used, which slows drying time.

Oil Based Pigmented Wiping Stain

This comes premixed and is easy to use as it has a prolonged drying time, leaving almost no blotches, streaks or overlap. It’s semi-transparent color can obscure the grain, which is useful for lower quality or plain woods. It is applied by wiping on with a clean cotton rag or foam pad.

Apply with the grain, then in both directions on a diagonal to the grain, and finish off with a coat along the grain again, stirring the stain often during the process. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for length of time to leave on the wood surface, then wipe off excess.

Water Based Pigmented Wiping Stain

This version of pigmented stain is like the oil based, except it results in less intense colors. It dries quicker, and cleans up easily with soap and water. Because it does dry faster, it is more prone to leaving blotches, streaks or overlap. Before applying, sand wood lightly with 180-grit sandpaper and raise grain by soaking with a damp sponge. Wipe away any excess color immediately with damp rag.

Gel Stain

As mentioned above, this type contains dyes and pigments to produce deep uniform coloring, and is easy to apply. Simply rub it along the grain with a cloth until you have achieved the evenness and hue you desire. By rubbing harder for light color and rubbing lighter for dark color, the intensity can be controlled. If more intensity of color is desired, a repeat coat can be applied.

Staining Tips

- When using oil based products, always work in a well ventilated area, and with any stain type, rubber gloves and goggles should be used to protect you from splashes and overspray.

- Remember to match the stain with the type of wood finish that will be used over it; water-based finishes are not compatible with oil based stains and will not bind to them. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure compatibility.

- When staining unfinished or stripped furniture, work in small areas, starting with the top surface, then the bottom and sides. To avoid dripping or splatters, try to orient the furnitiure piece so that you always work on a horizontal surface as you work your way around it.

Photo by ninahale, Creative Commons Attribution License

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