Enhance the natural grain of unfinished furniture with stain. Staining adds color while letting the wood grain show through. It is an easy way to give brand new, unfinished pieces of furniture a professionally-finished look.
Preparing new wood wear gloves while unwrapping furniture to prevent transferring oil from your skin to unprotected raw wood. Remove any grease spots with a dab of mineral spirits. Lightly dampen untreated wood to raise the grain. Sand to a smooth finish. If this process in not done first, the moisture in the stain will cause an uneven surface. Color stains come in a limited range of shades. Try out the stain on an inconspicuous part of the furniture first. Let dry and check the effect. Color will be affected by the type of wood. The more coats applied the stronger the color. Stain soaks into the wood rather than coating it like paint, quickly wipe up spills or drips before they are absorbed and create unattractive splotches of color. If necessary, disguise them with another coat of stain.
After dampening the wood, rub down with fine quality sandpaper for a smooth finish. Always work in the direction of the grain; crossing it will leave scratches. Sand again between each layer of stain. Apply a small amount of stain to a soft cotton cloth and rub in along the grain. Working across it will create patchy areas of color. If using a brush, have a cloth handy to remove stray bristles and drips. Be careful not to overlap the stain, which darkens the color. Work in sections, masking areas where overlaps may occur. Let the first section dry, then mask that before staining the area next to it. Stained wood is porous and may absorb water or show marks from spills or sticky fingers. Finish the furniture with two coats of clear varnish to seal and protect it. Matte varnish suits a country style, while high gloss is more compatible with formal or modern settings.
Instead of using natural wood stains, experiment with colors to customize furniture and give it an individual style. Use different colors on shelves or drawer fronts for bright furniture for the kids. This is also a good way to use various stains left over from other projects. Stain ready-to-assemble pieces and let them dry before putting together. For ready-made items, mask off areas next to those where the first color will go. Apply the first color. Let it dry, then remove the tape. Mask first color and apply the second one. Repeat with each consecutive color. Turn a simple headboard into a piece of folk art. Using a muted color, apply one or two coats of stain depending on the depth of color desired. When dry, rub with white wax to enhance the wood grain.