Staining Wood Furniture

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Hello everybody. One of my favorite experiences about being a home owner is going to thrift stores and yard sales to look for old furniture that I could make use for. Most wooden furniture can be restored and given a new shine when properly sanded and stained. This is exactly what I attempted to do with an old bedside desk I found at my parents house.

Staining Wood Furniture

It wasn’t particularly ugly when I found it. It had some scratches and dents that could use some work and some of its original color was starting to peel off. I also wanted to get a lighter color on it if I had the patience to sand it enough.

I don’t own a belt sander so I’d be doing this one by hand. Here’s a list of what I used:

If you’re going to be working indoors or an enclosed space I highly recommend a dust mask since the fumes on oil based stains like the ones I used can be quite strong. I had the fortune of working outside and still became bothered by the fumes so please make sure you have good ventilation.

If you’re new to staining wood furniture like myself, chances are you’re going to make a mess. I recommend you place something on the floor if you don’t want to stain it. I worked in my front yard which has these half-completed tiles and I plan on removing them so it didn’t bother me to get them stained.


Before sanding make sure that the wood is absolutely clean and dry. Afterwards begin sanding in the same motion of the grain of the wood. Be sure you get a medium grit sandpaper. This ensures you get a nice deep sanding on the wood and remove the initial layers. If you’re like me you’ll also avoid getting chills and goosebumps from the high pitched scraping noises it can make.

It’s best to cut the sandpaper into small pieces that are easier to grab and work with. It might also help to use gloves if you’re sanding aggressively and your hands start to feel the heat.

Take your time and do a good job with the sanding, making sure that you get through the layers of paint and oils that were used to treat the wood. The table I worked with was previously deeply stained, so I wasn’t going to worry too much about being able to see the actual color of the wood. I worked until the pigments started to come off, and cleaned the colored dust with a cloth.


Staining Wood Furniture

Once you’ve sufficiently sanded the piece of furniture, it’s time to apply the stain. Word of caution: this stuff is more watery than it seems and can easily make a mess. I used a small paint brush started to apply it all over the wood.

Be sure to follow any directions or advice on the stain you choose to use, mine was pretty straight forward and required no primers or additional steps.


Take your time and try to get an even layer of the stain on the wood. Apply it in the direction of the grain so that it really sinks in and sets. The longer you let the stain sit on the furniture, the deeper and richer the color it will produce. Since I wanted to maintain a lighter color I only let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Removing the Stain

This was my favorite part of the project. It’s best to use a clean rag to wipe off the stain in the direction of the grain. You’ll be removing most of the liquid stain off of the furniture, but you’ll notice a lot of the pigmentation and colors already set into the wood.

Cleaning up the stain can get messy and any rag/cloth that you use will have to be disposed of along with the brush. I’d also recommend wearing clothes you don’t want to keep just in case you get some on yourself.

Creating the Finish

The furniture won’t be protected with only a stain. After applying your stain and having it dry/set completely (I waited a full 24 hours) you need to add a finish to ensure your hard work will last for many years to come. Ensure the wood is completely clean, dry, and dust free once again.

The most common finish used is Polyurethane. This stuff is even more runny than the stain and leaves weird marks on your skin. Be sure to cover up completely before working with it. Apply it with a second brush which will also be disposed of and let it set for 24 hours or the recommended time shown on the finish you use. Some times it’s advised to use more than one layer of your finish if you’re working with furniture that will get lots of wear and tear. I plan on using this table to rest my new printer (which is awesome!) on, so I decided it would do fine with just one.

Staining Wood Furniture

I’m happy with the end result. This was my first time staining wood furniture and I’m satisfied with my production. I think I’ll keep repeating this process as I find more furniture for our home. It’s definitely cheaper to scavenge for old wooden furniture and invest the time and products it takes to restore it. Plus, I had a great time and didn’t mind any of the work. The only downside was the screeching sounds I heard while sanding the wood.

I hope this chronicle servers you as a guide or at least gives you the courage to try it if you don’t have the experience. If I’m doing this all wrong or have any questions please feel free to leave a comment. Cheers!

Finished Furniture

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