The Five-Step Guide to Staining Reclaimed Wood

If you are using reclaimed wood for furniture or a similar DIY project, staining the wood is an efficient means of achieving the appearance that you want your reclaimed wood to have. The process of staining reclaimed wood involves a number of steps, of which the actual staining itself is likely the easiest. The staining happens at about the midpoint of this project, while the bulk of the work is in the preparation. To make things as simple as possible, use this step-by-step staining guide and make your reclaimed wood project a success.

Step One: Sand Down the Wood

Reclaimed wood often has more nicks, protrusions, and scratches than the typical lumber you would find at the hardware store. Before staining the wood, it is crucial to sand down any imperfections to create a surface that is completely smooth to the touch. 

You can use sandpaper to sand down small blemishes. If your reclaimed wood has several large blemishes, however, a belt sander will allow you to sand the wood faster and more effectively. For detail work, a random orbit sander is ideal. It is also a good idea to keep spare scraps of sandpaper of varying grit sizes around for any spot touch up work you might have to do. 

Step Two: Choose a Stain You Like

There are a number of stains to choose from, and they range from darker, more pigmented hues like cherry wood to lighter, less pigmented stains like oak. While a lighter stain might suffice if the goal is to leave the color of the wood more or less unaltered, for darker colors like red or grey tones you may need to supplement the stain with a dye. Perfecting the stain’s shading may involve a few days of experimentation with different dyes and stains, but the extra effort will be well worth it. 

Step 3: Gather Rags and Fine Brushes

Depend on the pigment of the stain and the grain of the wood, the utensil you use to apply the stain can have a large impact on how it sits on the wood. Fine-tipped brushes and rags are a popular choice for staining, as they are less likely to make an impression. Avoid coarse brushes, as they tend to leave glaring marks. 

Step 4: Begin Testing and Staining

Before you can begin staining your furniture, you will need to apply your brushes and the stain blend you have chosen to a small test piece. A test piece is a scrap of extra wood of the exact same variety as the furniture you would like to stain. It should be sanded down in the same manner as your furniture in order to act as an accurate vehicle for testing. Use this piece of wood to perfect staining blends, practice brush stroke techniques and discern how many coats of the stain you will need to apply in order to get the look you want. Once you are confident in your staining abilities, you can get to work on the main event! 

Step 5: Apply a Finish or Sealant

After the stain has dried and you are happy with how it looks, it is time to apply the sealant. If you are creating a kitchen table or other eating surface, it might be beneficial to consider a food-safe finish. Investing in a food-safe sealant like beeswax, mineral oil, walnut oil, or carnauba wax will protect your furniture against food spills that are likely to stain the wood. 

Reclaimed wood furniture is a wonderful way to add rustic warmth and charm to your home. It is also a stylish and environmentally conscious home furnishing method. Staining your own reclaimed wood pieces can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but with this simple five-step guide you’ll soon have a unique piece of reclaimed wood furniture of which you can be proud.

Megan Risdon

CEO EcoChic

Megan Risdon is the CEO of EcoChic Lifestyles. She was inspired to found the company when she discovered the possibilities for crafting art furniture from colorful fishing boat wood.