Staining and Varnishing Trim

This story shows how to stain and varnish trim.

Staining and Varnishing Trim

Staining and varnishing require different techniques than painting. To start with, you can apply most stains with either a brush or a cloth. First lay a coat of stain on the wood in the direction of the grain. If the stain is not working its way into the grain, brush it across the grain and finish with brushstrokes parallel to the grain. It may look muddy at first -- but that will clear up when you wipe off the excess. If it's too light, repeat the steps. For a light tone, first seal the wood with a prepared wood conditioner.

When you apply any clear finish to wood, start at one edge of the piece and work in the direction of the grain. Smooth out any ridges and pools in the finish while it's still wet. Finishes such as shellac and water-base varnish dry quickly, so you have to work quickly.

For greater visual appeal and durability, apply several coats of clear finish, rubbing with #0000 steel wool or very fine finishing sandpaper between each coat.

Applying stain: Step 1

Mix stain thoroughly before using. With either a brush or lint-free cloth, apply it in the direction of the grain. Overlap your strokes slightly so you don't miss any spots.

Applying stain: Step 2

Let the stain set up according to the manufacturer's directions, but before it begins to dry, wipe the entire surface to remove excess. This also forces the stain's pigment into the grain, enhancing contrast.

Applying a clear polyurethane finish: Step 1

Stir, don't shake, the polyurethane (or any varnish). For the smoothest application, use a disposable foam brush and work across the grain to fill the pores.

Applying a clear polyurethane finish: Step 2

For the second coat, brush with the grain so any ridges won't be as visible. To avoid runs, don't load the brush when working near edges.

Applying a clear polyurethane finish: Step 3

When the finish has thoroughly dried, go over it with #0000 steel wool or fine (320-grit) sandpaper. Repeat between coats.

Applying a clear polyurethane finish: Step 4

Small flaws such as nicks and nail holes can be filled with a tinted filler stick of matching color after the finish has completely dried.

Applying penetrating oil: Step 1

When using any type of penetrating oil finish, pour a liberal amount onto the wood, then spread it with a lint-free cloth.

Applying penetrating oil: Step 2

Let the oil soak in for about 10 minutes (read label directions). Wipe to remove excess oil. Allow the finish to dry before applying a second coat. Reapply until the wood will not absorb any more oil.

Applying penetrating oil: Step 3

For a satin-smooth oil finish, rub the dry surface between coats with extra-fine (#0000) steel wool. Wipe off the entire surface after rubbing. When the oil has cured, apply paste wax for protection.


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