Wood stains get bit of a bad rap in the woodworking world. However, I think this is largely because many people use wood stains to hide the imperfections of poorer quality wood. But, when you think about how this particular use of wood stain improves the appearance of cheap wood, I think we ought to admit that wood stain deserves more respect.
Moreover, wood stain is not only used to prettify ugly wood. It is also used to protect wood, which is often times very expensive and beautiful. Think about wood decks, they would deteriorate very quickly sans stain. Without wood stain, exterior wood would quickly fall victim to the sun, rain, and insects. Also, wood stains are very effectively used when they subtly alter the tone of a wood rather than change its color.
Of course, not a single type of wood stain is able to color wood, subtly alter a wood’s tone, and protect wood. No, when the time comes for you to stain wood, you have got to make sure you get the right stain for the job.
The most popularly used wood stain is oil-based stain. Made up of an oil, color pigment, and some type of binder that keeps the color in the wood after the oil has dried. To keep an oil stain from becoming a de facto varnish, you should only apply a single coating of it. Otherwise the color pigment will build up into a thick layer, which is not what a stain ought to be. Wood stain needs to be in the wood, not on it.
Water-based stains have grown in popularity because, in part, they are fast drying. If you are considering going with a water-based wood stain, make sure the wood is sanded. Wood that has not been sanded may be very thirsty and drink up the stain, which will result in an uneven result.
Finally, if you need to protect your wood, you need to go with a wood stain that also has a varnishing agent or polyurethane.