How to Put Wood Stain Over Wood Stain

Stain is forgiving, and is compatible with different varieties and colors. Two issues are relative when applying stain over stain: the removal of a previous top coat, and placing lighter stain over darker stain.

Top Coat Removal

If the wood has a top coat, it must becompletely removedbefore stain is applied. There are two options: Sand it off or remove it with chemicalstrippers. Sanding is labor intensive. Chemical strippers are caustic but the convenience, time saved and the ability to remove the finish from small details makes it worthwhile.

Step 1: Apply the Stripper

Apply the stripper to the wood with a brush. Allow it to remain and soften the finish, between five and 10 minutes.

  • Wear breathing and eye protection. Strippers can blister skin, so wear gloves. Use strippers in well-ventilated areas only, preferably outdoors.

Step 2: Scrape It

Scrape the gelled finish off using a flat stick, workingfrom the centerof the wood, allowing the gel to drop off the edge onto drop cloth. Use pointed sticks to scrape it out of cracks, tight corners and details.

Step 3: Sand It

Allow the wood to dry overnight. Sand the wood lightly with 120-grit sandpaper tosmooth the grain.

After Stripping

Some of the stain will beremoved with the finish. At this point, you can choose to sand off all of the stain with 100-grit sandpaper or apply stain over stain.

  • If the stain on the wood is darker than the desired stain, you don't have a choice -- you'll need to sand off all of the stain. If light stain is applied over dark stain, the wood will remain dark.

Apply the Stain

There are three types ofstain: oil-based, solvent and water-based. Drying times vary per manufacturer and stain type. Read and follow the directions printed on individual cans of stain.

Oil-Based Traits
  • Requires 72 hours to dry.
  • Penetrates deeper than water or solvent-based.
  • Highlights grain better than solvent or water-based.
  • Color darkens according to how long it remains on the wood.
Solvent and Water-Based Traits
  • Cleans up easier and faster than oil-based.
  • Uses water to clean up water-based.

  • Uses lacquer thinner to clean up solvent-based.
  • Dries within 15 to 30 minutes.
  • More colors than oil-based.
  • Can require multiple applications if not dark enough.
  • There's always been controversy over the use ofsealerwhen staining or finishing wood. The truth is that you don't need it. Sealer can prevent stain from penetrating and even cause subsequent top coats to fail to bond properly. Use sealers at your own discretion.

Wood Preparation

If wood already has been stained, it's been sanded as well. To ensure it's smooth, lightly sand the wood with 120-grit sandpaper. Sand parallel with the grain. Sanding it with finer-grit paper is not necessary. Over-sanding can polish wood and cause subsequent top coats to fail to adhere properly.

Things You'll Need
  • Brush, staining sponge or clean cotton cloth such as an old T-shirt
  • 120-grit sandpaper

Apply The Stain

Step 1: Wipe It

Use a staining sponge, brush or soft cloth to apply an even coat of stain to the wood. Stain the entire project if possible before it begins to dry. If it does begin to dry,work faster,in manageable sections, immediately wiping the stain off each section with a soft cloth.

Step 2: Air Time

Allow solvent and water-based stain to remain on the wood no longer than five minutes. Wipe it off with a soft cloth. For deeper colors on oil-based stain, allow it to remain on the wood as long as desired. If it begins to dry, wipe it off.

Step 3: More Air Time

Allow oil-based stain to dry for at least 72 hours. Allow solvent and water-based stain to dry for 30 to 60 minutes.

  • If the wood is not dark enough or dries blotchy, apply another coat of the appropriate stain. Uneven drying often results in blotches. Work consistently, keeping the stain wet to prevent blotches.

The Finish

Old-school woodworkers used polyurethane, varnish and shellac to finish wood. Contemporary woodworkers typicallyrely on lacquer. Lacquer is tough, dries fasts and is user-friendly.

Step 1: Apply It

Apply a light coat of lacquer with a brush or air gun. Allow it to dry for 20 minutes.

Step 2: Sand It

Sand the dried finish by hand with a folded piece of 180-grit sandpaper. It should feel smooth to the touch and produce a fine, white powder. Leave the powder on the wood. It thickens the next coat.

Step 3: Finish the Job

Apply one or two more coats of lacquer. One coat is sufficient, but two coats adds more depth. Allow it to dry overnight.

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