Different Types Of Wood Stain

  • Learn about the different types of wood stain, including oil-based, water-based, gel-based, lacquer-based, and more.
  • Understand the importance of selecting the right stain for your wood’s hardness and undertones to achieve the perfect colour.
  • Follow step-by-step guidance on preparing, applying, and finishing wood stain for a professional-quality finish.
  • Discover why using an expert craftsman, like those at Stevens Furniture Restoration, ensures the best results for your wood staining projects.

When it comes to enhancing the beauty and longevity of your wooden furniture, choosing the right wood stain is crucial. Wood stains not only provide a rich colour to the wood but also offer protection against the elements, ensuring your pieces remain beautiful for years to come. At Stevens Furniture Restoration, we specialise in restoring antique furniture with meticulous attention to detail, using the best-suited stains to bring out the natural elegance of each piece. In this guide, we will explore the different types of wood stains, their applications, and the best practices for achieving a flawless finish.

What Is Wood Stain?

Wood stain is a type of finish that enhances the natural grain of wood while adding colour and protection. Unlike paint, which sits on the surface, wood stain penetrates the wood fibres, allowing the texture and patterns of the wood to show through. This makes wood stain an ideal choice for highlighting the unique characteristics of different wood types. Wood stains can be used on various wooden items, from furniture to floors, providing both aesthetic and protective benefits. In the next section, we will delve into the various types of wood stains available and their specific applications.

Types of Wood Stain

Understanding the different types of wood stains is essential for selecting the right one for your project. Each type has unique properties that can affect the finish and durability of the wood. In this section, we will explore the characteristics and applications of various wood stains to help you make an informed decision.

Oil-Based Wood Stain

Oil-based wood stains are known for their deep penetration into the wood fibres, which results in a rich, long-lasting finish. These stains are particularly effective at highlighting the natural grain and texture of the wood. They are durable and resistant to wear, making them an excellent choice for high-traffic areas or furniture that will be subjected to frequent use. However, oil-based stains take longer to dry and require good ventilation during application. 

Water-Based Wood Stain

Water-based wood stains are popular for their quick drying times and easy clean-up with soap and water. These stains produce a more transparent finish, allowing the wood’s natural colour to shine through while adding a subtle tint. They are less odorous than oil-based stains and are considered more environmentally friendly. Water-based stains are ideal for interior projects where a less intense colour is desired. 

Gel-Based Wood Stain

Gel-based wood stains have a thicker consistency compared to traditional liquid stains, making them easier to control during application. This type of stain is less likely to drip or run, which is particularly useful when working on vertical surfaces or intricate details. Gel stains sit on the surface of the wood, providing a uniform colour that can cover imperfections effectively.

Lacquer-Based Wood Stain

Lacquer-based wood stains are prized for their ability to create a smooth, glossy finish that enhances the wood’s natural beauty. These stains dry quickly and are highly durable, making them suitable for furniture that requires a high level of protection. Lacquer-based stains can be more challenging to apply due to their fast drying time, necessitating a careful and experienced hand. 

Varnish Wood Stain

Varnish wood stains combine the colouring properties of stain with the protective qualities of varnish. This dual-purpose product can save time and effort, providing both colour and a hard, protective finish in one application. Varnish stains are durable and water-resistant, making them a good choice for outdoor furniture or items exposed to moisture. 

Water-Soluble Dye Stain

Water-soluble dye stains are known for their vibrant and intense colours. These stains penetrate deeply into the wood, providing a clear, vivid finish that accentuates the wood grain. They are available in a wide range of colours, offering more flexibility in achieving the desired look. However, they can be more challenging to apply evenly and may require additional steps to seal the colour. 

Spirit-Based Wood Stain

Spirit-based wood stains are alcohol-based, allowing for quick drying times and easy application. These stains penetrate deeply into the wood, providing a durable and long-lasting finish. They are effective in highlighting the wood grain and are less likely to raise the wood grain compared to water-based stains. 

How to Apply Wood Stain

Applying wood stain correctly is crucial for achieving a beautiful and long-lasting finish. In this section, we will guide you through the essential steps to prepare the wood, apply the stain, and finish the process for the best results.

Prep Wood for Staining

Proper preparation is key to a successful staining project. Start by sanding the wood to create a smooth surface, removing any existing finish and imperfections. Use progressively finer grits of sandpaper, finishing with a fine grit to ensure the wood is smooth to the touch. After sanding, clean the wood thoroughly to remove any dust or debris, as these can interfere with the stain’s adhesion. At Stevens Furniture Restoration, we emphasise meticulous preparation to ensure the best possible outcome for each piece.

Apply Wood Stain

Once the wood is prepared, you can begin applying the stain. Stir the stain thoroughly to ensure even colour distribution. Using a brush, cloth, or sponge, apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain. Work in small sections to ensure an even application, and wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth to avoid blotches. Allow the stain to penetrate the wood for the recommended time on the product label. Multiple coats can be applied to achieve a deeper colour, with light sanding between coats for the best finish. 

Finishing Wood After Staining

After the stain has dried completely, it’s important to apply a protective finish. This can be a clear varnish, lacquer, or polyurethane, depending on the desired look and level of protection. A protective finish not only enhances the wood’s appearance but also shields it from moisture, scratches, and UV damage. Apply the finish in thin, even coats, allowing each layer to dry thoroughly before applying the next. This step ensures your wood retains its beauty and durability for years to come.

Why Use An Expert Craftsman?

Opting for an expert craftsman for your wood staining projects can make a significant difference in the quality and longevity of the finished product. At Stevens Furniture Restoration, we bring a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of traditional and modern staining techniques to each project, ensuring your furniture receives the best possible care.

Our team has a keen eye for detail and an in-depth knowledge of various wood types and stains. This expertise allows them to select the most suitable stain for each piece, considering factors like the wood’s grain, texture, and natural colour. This careful selection process ensures that the stain enhances the wood’s inherent beauty rather than obscuring it.

Another advantage of using a professional is their ability to prepare the wood meticulously. Proper sanding and cleaning are essential for a flawless finish, and our experts know precisely how to execute these steps to perfection. This preparation ensures that the stain adheres evenly, preventing common issues like blotching or uneven colouring.

Applying wood stain is an art that requires precision and patience. Our expert craftsmen have the skill to apply the stain evenly, control the depth of colour, and create a uniform finish. They are also adept at using advanced techniques, such as layering different stains or combining staining with other finishes to achieve unique effects.

Moreover, professionals have access to high-quality materials and tools that are not typically available to DIY enthusiasts. This access means they can achieve superior results that are both aesthetically pleasing and durable. They also know how to apply protective finishes correctly, ensuring your stained wood is well-protected against wear and environmental factors.


In this guide, we have explored the various types of wood stains, including oil-based, water-based, gel-based, lacquer-based, varnish, water-soluble dye, spirit-based, and non-grain raising wood stains. Each type offers unique characteristics and benefits, making it essential to choose the right stain for your specific project.

We have also outlined the proper steps for applying wood stain, from preparing the wood through to finishing it after staining. Proper preparation and application are crucial for achieving a beautiful, durable finish that enhances the natural beauty of your wood furniture.

Trusting the expert team at Stevens Furniture Restoration with your furniture ensures that your wood staining project is handled with the utmost care and precision. Our expertise and dedication to quality guarantee that your furniture will look stunning and stand the test of time.

If you have any antique furniture in need of restoration or are considering a wood staining project, trust the professionals at Stevens Furniture Restoration to deliver exceptional results. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and how we can help preserve the beauty of your treasured pieces.