What is the wood stain? A beginner guide

What is the wood stain A beginner guide

Adding a wood stain to a piece of wood can change its overall look, will protect it, and make it more appealing to people. There are types of wood stains available in different colors and also have multiple usages. Also, there’s an alternative to wood stain- a varnish. That needs to understand if you’re about to tackle a finishing job as a novice.

To choose which one is right for your wants: for this, you need a sufficient amount of guidance- that’s what you will get from this blog. 

So first talk about what wood stain exactly is?

What is the Wood stain?

In its general sense, it can be defined as a coating that changes the appearance of wood by changing its color as well as adding a thick-protective coat that goes deeper, so that a block of wood can recover from damage, and also ensure longevity. There are four basic ingredients found in every wood stain: pigments, resins, and additives. Not to mention, these products are thick so also used to redecorate defective areas in an item of wood furniture.

Usually, it’s applied during the finishing process and the color variations it offers mostly resemble a block of natural wood, something like oak, a pecan, and dark brown to light brown are colors used mostly.

If we talk about the types of wood stains available these days, there are oil-based, gel stains, water-based, and could be more depending upon the condition these types are often combined to create a unique product. Because in general, not all woods soak up one type of stain entirely.

There are pigments that differ their the process of soaking. Some wood readily absorbs while others do not. And there are woods that only require a coat of varnish instead: Varnish usually are less viscous and tend to lay on the top layer of a wooden piece

Well, now the term varnish is something that confuses many beginner woodworkers. Let’s figure it out.

Wood stain vs Varnish- the uppermost difference.

Varnish is different from a stain, like a protective transparent oiled layer that is used for protecting the top layer of wood. Molecules or ingredients are less dense than stains. That’s why it does not penetrate the wood layer nor the color is thick. Mostly it’s used to top layer an already stain-coated layer in order to extra durability, outdoors furniture usually is the subject that needs this coat the most. 

Is wood stain the same as paint?

NO, they are not the same products. Paint color is used to add a layer of preferred color onto a piece of wood and it does not penetrate the wood layers. Wood stains, on the other hand, they’re specifically designed to protect wood: a thicker and dense liquid. While also adding texture mostly are similar to natural wood color.

Safety tips for staining wood

You should know that the stains are toxic and can cause serious harm. So before you get into it, learning a few tips can lead you to a safer journey.

  • Scrape the wood to make its surface balanced, removed all hardware and screws.
  • If you are applying any finish, use rubber gloves to ensure the hands don’t touch the product.
  • Be sure to cover your arms and legs with unwanted clothing so you don’t mind getting them stained.
  • Your application tools should be cleaned with water, mineral spirits, or after you use them.
  • If you’re applying a wood stain that isn’t water-based, be sure to ventilate your workspace.
  • Read and comply with specific stain product instructions. Cleaning instructions and application techniques differ.

Types of Wood Stain

The stain and varnish both are broad terms: below mentioned are the types of stains.

Oil-based stains

If your project is indoor, and your intention is to make it look appealing also to last it longer by preventing it from bugs and other damages. Oil-based is the best fit for this job.

It’s easy to be applied with a brush or use a rag if you want- for beginners it is convenient and allows them to refine the applied marks since it takes a little longer to be dried completely. This property helps to get a smooth and even finish.

The coat is thicker and ingredients go deeper into a wood layer ensuring extra protection, and the color scheme has 14 different options available- all resembling natural wood.

Water-based stains

If you want to stain a wood quickly just to make it look outstanding awesome- a water based-stain is the perfect product for you that also comes in a variety of colors. 

Since it evaporates quickly, it’s less dense than an oil-based stain which is completely made of linseed oil. Although it almost goes as deeper in wood as oil-based, they lack in the shine apartment.

For beginners, using water-based stains can be difficult because of their property of being dried soon, you cannot correct the uneven parts like oil-based paints. However, if the main intention is to finish the task sooner no other can match with this product.

To be applied, it’s recommended to use a brush- a rag also works fine yet requires some expertise.

Gel-based stains

If you want to hide some defective parts in wood while giving them a fresh and shiny look. These gel-based stains are something you would need. They’re thicker than oil-based stains thus requiring a longer amount of time to penetrate all wood layers.

Beginners can find it easy to use this stain, using a brush made of nylon is the best tool. 

Moreover, on old furniture which has lost their appeal. First, you need to scratch the top layer to ensure the surface is equally balanced. Then applying it will result in giving you the most out of it.


Varnish isn’t a stain but a clear film-forming finish. Varnish is a broad term, referring to any wood finish that’s clear and forms a film. Polyurethane, lacquer, and shellac are all considered varnishes. The solvent used to clean varnish depends on the particular product being applied.

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