I shared a post a few weeks ago about how to prepare wood for stain. I would like to share the next step today--how to stain your wood project. I use CeCe Caldwell's Stain & Finish for most of my wood projects and furniture flips but these instructions can be applied loosely to any brand of water-based stain you choose to use. Please be sure to read the directions on your product, though, since there may be differences for your particular brand. Oil-based or gel stains might have some very different directions for use.
When I find a particularly beautiful piece of fine furniture like this one, I strive to preserve as much of it's inherent beauty as possible while updating the look. This particular piece is amazing. It is Ethan Allen and it used to reside in the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, a prestigious resort in a beautiful part of town which has hosted some of the most important historical figures in our country as well as some fairly high profile celebrities.
The problem with this piece is the 80's cherry stain and dated hardware. When I bought it I wanted to restain the top and paint the bottom. So I started sanding. I sanded and sanded and sanded. I used my palm sander, mini-mouse sander and profile sander and I ended up with this...GORGEOUS! It is amazing cherry wood in beautiful condition and I couldn't be happier.
I got out my favorite brush for staining. Some people like to use staining pads and occasionally I use staining pads but for the most part I use brushes to stain. I feel like I have more control with brushes and I like the painting/staining experience--the brush is a very large part of that. I chose Kukui Stain & Finish by CeCe Caldwell's Chalk + Clay Paints products. It is a dark, dark, dark ashy brown--almost black and I love love love it. I have used this color several times and if I had to choose a favorite stain of all time it would be Kukui. Once I was down to raw wood I finished it off with some fine grit sandpaper then I dusted it off with my hand broom and wiped it down very thoroughly with tack cloth. I was finally ready to stain.
Try some different brushes and styles and find your favorite. If you want to try my favorite get a Wooster Short Cut. They are inexpensive and work great. I also really like the Glaze, Stain, Poly Brush by Chalk Supply. When choosing a brush for staining be sure to get a good quality brush I prefer synthetic brushes for both stain and paint and natural brushes for waxing but everyone has their own favorite way. The key to a beautiful stain finish is a clean, even coating of stain for the wood to soak up and using the right brush ensures you accomplish this.
After transferring some Kukui Stain & Finish to a temporary container (I like the ziploc or hefty brand disposable food storage containers with the twist on lids) I diluted it by 25-30%. I do this almost every time I use Stain & Finish. I prefer many thin, diluted coats over fewer heavy coats. Staining vintage furniture is a great option because you can still see the wood grain show through the color. I dilute the stain so I am able to more gradually reach that perfect amount of color where the wood is saturated and stained as dark as possible while still showing off the natural beauty of the wood grain in all its glory. Also the stain is a little easier to work with when it is diluted. I am less likely to end up with dark overlapping brush strokes or odd places.
After applying my first coat I examine the piece to ensure I haven't left any drip marks or pools of stain and allow the stain to completely dry. CeCe Caldwell's Stain & Finish dries in about 2 hours in mild weather. The warmer it is, the faster it will dry and likewise; the colder it is the longer it will take to dry. When it is completely dry I use a small piece of 220 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the piece with the grain of the wood. This takes off spots of stain and leaves the project looking kind of splotchy. Clean it with the tack cloth again and then add another coat of Kukui Stain & Finish. This coat deepens the color even more.
I then take a finishing sponge to the piece and lightly 'sand' it again. I wipe it clean with the tack cloth again. Sometimes I dilute the stain a little more. I do this if I want even more control over the depth of color. I could tell I was getting close to completely covering the grain with this particular piece and I wanted to ensure I could still see the details so I diluted it more (the beauty of water-based stain!) so I could get in another coat or two without going too far.
I applied another coat of diluted Stain & Finish and waited overnight. I was pretty happy with the color saturation the next morning.
I finished it with a finishing sponge and taped it off so I could begin working on painting the cabinets, drawers and legs of the buffet which will be the next post in the series!
What color do you think I should paint the body of this gorgeous buffet? I am thinking either Seattle Mist or Vintage White. Many major paint companies have announced their colors of the year and WHITE seems to be the big hit. I might have to custom mix a 'whisper gray' out of Seattle Mist and Simply White. Maybe I'll call it Misty White!