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I'm a novice woodworker (calling me a woodworker at all is generous - I've made a few pieces of furniture out of cheap pine inside my Seattle apartment), and I decided to try something a bit adventurous for my latest piece, but it didn't go quite as planned.

My question is this: What is the best way to mask wood (before and after staining) so that you can achieve a 2-color stained piece?

Keep reading if you want to hear my experience.

I made a wine cabinet using pine trim and plywood for the shelves and sides, but instead of staining it all one color, I decided it would look great with dark trim and light shelves. I masked the plywood using regular masking tape, and applied the dark stain to the trim. Then after a couple days I removed the tape and masked the already-stained trim, then applied the lighter color to the plywood.

This mostly worked ok, but when I removed the masking tape, it took some of the stain with it in certain parts! I had to go back and touch up the dark color.

A few more details:
  • I didn't sand as finely as recommended because I like a more rustic look (and I'm lazy)
  • I'm using Minwax Wood Finish (oil-based), although in the past I used their water-based stain and found it easier to work with, in part because of the fumes in my apartment.
 

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That takes a different technique. I usually mask off one area with just yellow tape and lightly spray the wood with a dye stain, the lighter of the two colors. It's important not to spray it wet as the dye will soak under the tape. Then once I get the color I need for that area I go ahead and put a coat or two of sealer on it. Then I remove the tape and mask off the area I sealed and stain the other area with a different color dye. Once I get the color I want I remove the tape and seal that area and go on with the finishing as though as it was a single color.
 

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The best thing you can do is use green Frog tape. It doesnt really matter if you stain the dark or lighter color first or second at all.

The first thing you should do is sand the wood really well with 180 grit sand paper. Next, before you apply the tape, tear off some tape and "pat" it against your clothing a couple of times, etc. I know this sounds crazy, but by doing that it lessens the adhesion of the tape and it will lesson the chance of it removing any of the stain color when you pull the tape off the wood.

I do this with step panels every day. But even when you use a wipe stain, the wipe stain will seep in under the tape somewhat and theres not much you can do about it. With dye stains, you will be ok. The deeper the grain, the more chance of a wiping stain or any other penetrating stain seeping in under the tape. Its extremely hard to get a perfect straight line edge when staining wood.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Steve, putting sealer on it definitely came to my mind, but I wanted to be able to touch things up and I didn't want to have some unevenness by doing the sealer. I suppose that would help with the stain peeling off on the tape.

EpicFail48, I think I might try doing that next time. I might need to do some touchup after assembly in case any stain gets damaged in the process, but at least there would be very little masking involved if I stain the pieces before assembly.

Thanks for your responses!
 

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Unless you let the stain dry for days tape won't stick to stained wood very good. It's also possible the tape might leave a mark on the stain too. If you need to touch up the color you can still put an alcohol based dye over the sealer.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks Steve. What kind of dye stains do you use? The options at my local Lowes are pretty lackluster - basically three brands of traditional wood stains. I had been hoping to find something water-based and more environmentally friendly, but that didn't work out.
 

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