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Choosing Stain

8 December, 2022

How do you decide what type of stain to use on a project? 

Carina MacDonald 
C-Mac Painting 
Flint, MI 

In this project, we used Old Masters Spanish Oak wiping stain and Benjamin Moore clear waterborne poly; the previous finished played a big role in how we approached this project and product selection. We started with raw oak and with previously painted spindles, walls and newel posts. Fixing up the painted trim and walls after staining took a couple of hours. Thankfully the spindles and millwork had already been stripped prior to being sprayed.
Being a bit grimy, I TSP’d and thoroughly sanded the surfaces. Initially I was going to use gel stain, but as we were matching it to some new dining room furniture, the wiping stain gave a better match. Plus gel stain, in my experience, is slower-drying, and odor was a concern. I just did these this past month when we were lucky enough to have two near-70° days here in Michigan and we could open windows! 

Chris Bott 
Chris the Painter 
Slave Lake, Alberta

My way of determining what stain to use is based on what type of wood it is and how dark it is going to be. For light/natural colors I use an oil-based penetrating stain such as Minwax or Old Masters. For darker/bolder colors on hardwoods (like maple), I use General Finishes water-based stain. For darker/bolder colors on softwoods (like poplar), I use General Finishes gel stain. For wood that is previously finished, I use gel stain also. 
I may or may not use a sanding sealer as a conditioner, depending on how rough/porous the wood is. Personally, I don’t ever spray stain, and I avoid wiping stains. 

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