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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys and gals. I'm making a bookshelf out of sanded pine plywood and I wanted to stain, and polyurethane it. I've never done either. I've seen lots of videos on it. What do you recommend for applying the stain? Rag? Or brush? If brush, what type?
 

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Normally, I use terry cloth staining pads I get at Harbor Freight. If I am out, I use a foam brush or a cotton rag. The surgical gloves come in handy to keep hands fairly clean.

Wipe the stain off with cotton rags.
 

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Before you start staining be sure to practice the finish on scrap wood before you apply it to your project. Pine is a type of wood prone to blotching. If you are staining medium to dark color you probably should use a wood conditioner prior to staining. A wood conditioner is a type of sealer so you will need a darker stain than you think to achieve the color you want. What happens is the wood has spots that are more porous than others and absorbs more of the stain. The conditioner evens the wood out so the stain is absorbed more uniform.

As far as applying stain, personally I prefer to spray stain. It's a lot quicker and easier then brushing. If that isn't an option I use a brush on smaller projects and rags on larger surfaces. If you are working with an oil based stain, I would let it dry overnight this time of year and seal it with Zinsser Sealcoat if you are topcoating it with a water base finish. If you are working with a oil based finish it can be applied directly over the stained wood. One thing to keep in mind if the color is light you might use the water based finish. Oil based finishes tend to yellow as they age and show up on light wood.
 

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Thanks everyone. I was aware of the blotching issue and did purchase some conditioner. I have minwax stain (oil), and minwax polyurethane (oil) (not the combination oil + stain stuff). I guess I'll use a foam brush for applying the stain. And a natural brush for the poly. And wouldn't it be better to stain and coat the pieces after I've assembled them? I'm building a bookcase btw.
 

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In my opinion it's always best to assemble a project, sand it and then stain it. If you get stain and or the polyurethane in the pores of the wood it will cause adhesion problems with the glue. I used to assemble chairs made in Taiwan that came prefinished packed in a box. Because of the finish I had to use two part epoxy to assemble them. Even though, the chairs would have been stronger if they had been assembled with wood glue prior to finishing.
 

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How fine should I sand everything before I stain it? I've read several differing opinions. Some say 150. Some say 220. 3xx, 4xx. There is a big difference between 150 and 440....
 

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I like powdered dyes for pine. They saturate much better (less blotching) and because they can be mixed in hot water, they are much more user-friendly and you can re-apply additional coats in a fraction of the time. Test scraps is essential. Dyes are very concentrated and you may have to adjust your powder/water ratio to achieve the richness you want. Do not be fooled by the samples hanging next to the stain in your box stores...they're laughable at best for pine, not oak.

I sand up to 180 then mist with water. Wait for it to dry and run your hand over the board. It should feel like a cat's tongue in some spots. Cut that down again with the 180 and repeat. Apply stain (oil or dyes) let dry completely and feel for jagged fibers standing up again. Knock those down gently with 220 along the grain. At this point you have to be careful not to put scratches in your color/finish. Remember, it's Pine so it's soft.

With practice and repetition you can make pine look pretty incredible. I've done a lot of "make it look old" for me pieces with new Pine and even though sometimes my methods are a bit unorthodox (usually out of frustration) the end results can be quite nice. Good luck!
 

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In my opinion it's always best to assemble a project, sand it and then stain it. If you get stain and or the polyurethane in the pores of the wood it will cause adhesion problems with the glue.
Sure, but needless to say, you've got to be sure you clean up every drip of squeezed-out glue or it'll cause real problems when staining.
 
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