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DIY Staining Wooden Crate


First attempt at staining this week. I bought two wooden (Pine) crates that I wanted to stain and possibly use as a nightstand. I am in need of help in selecting the right type of stain and protector. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

After doing some research it looks like I should use a Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, then I planned on using Minwax Dark Walnut Stain. Should I use an oil-based stain or water-based? I am assuming if I used oil-based, both the conditioner and protector would have to be oil based?

If I don't use a protector after staining the crates will the stain transfer to something I put in the crate?

Sorry if these are all basic questions (complete newbie).

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Posted 2015-12-28T18:19:14+0000  by Homeowner1234 Homeowner1234
First and foremost do not be tempted to use one of the all-in-one finish products like Minwax's Polyshades (Varathane makes one too).  In short, they are incredibly difficult to apply evenly, even more so with a project like a crate that has lots of slats.

With any staining project it's a good idea to test first, either on the bottom or back of the project where it won't be seen or on scrap pieces.

Pine naturally takes stain unevenly resulting in what's called blotching and the key to a good job is to use a sealer of some sort.  They're sold as sanding sealers or conditioners but they all do the same thing, to lightly seal the wood.

I would suggest sanding the piece to 220 grit.  Depending on how rough the surface is you may need work you way up, starting at 100 grit, then 150, and finally 220 grit.  Vacuum the surface and then go over it with a tack rag to remove any dust created by sanding.  Apply the sanding sealer according to the directions on the package.  After the sealer is dry, lightly sand the surface with 220 grit and vacuum/tack rag.

Then apply you stain using a rag.  Let the stain sit for a few minutes (the longer it sits the darker it will be) and then wipe off any excess with a clean, dry rag.  You can also use a gel stain, which will also help with any blotching.  Allow to dry at least overnight and again very lightly sand, vacuum, tack.

For a top coat, I might suggest either a wiping finish or a in a spray can because of all the spaces between the slats and corners of a crate.  Wiping finishes are just thinned versions of regular finishes but are very easy to apply with a rag.  Because they are thinned, you will need to apply more coats.

I would also suggest using oil based finishes.  They have a stronger odor and require mineral spirits for clean up but dry more slowly.  For stains, that allows you more time to adjust the evenness of the stain.

Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions.

Posted 2015-12-29T15:17:56+0000  by Adam444
Hi Homeowner1234,

Wooden crates are typically finished wood ... smooth to the touch.

These typically finish easily using Dark Walnut MinWax oil-based stain.

Should the wood feel rough to the touch, 220-grit sandpaper will smooth these imperfections.

MinWax Wood Conditioner fills deeper pockets in soft wood to promote even absorption of stain.

Be cautious to only apply one thin coat of conditioner ... you can apply so much that the stain will hardly absorb or add color to your wood.

Allow the thin coat of conditioner to absorb for three-minutes and wipe off the excess.

Once the conditioner dries, apply a thin coat of stain with either a lint-free (T-shirt) rag or a natural bristle brush ... I also like to apply stain with a chip brush.

Create consistent stain color by wiping off excess stain in three-minutes ... staining one face of each crate at a time will allow you to hit a consistent wipe off timeline.

Should you prefer a darker, more saturated color, apply additional three-minute coats.

Once satisfied with the color, wipe excess from last coat and allow the crate to dry for eight-hours.

I like Adam's suggestion to use a spray clear coat, however, I would use MinWax Spray Lacquer.

Lacquer does not require sanding between coats, polyurethane does.

Lacquer can be re-coated in thirty-minutes, polyurethane requires six-hours between coats.

Like your stain, do not over apply lacquer ... several thin coats thirty-minutes apart are preferable.


Although you describe this as your "first attempt," your description indicates that you've researched the topic and have a reasonable handle on the process.

If I recommended anything else, it would be to use an inconspicuous spot on one crate to test your technique before completing the entire project.

Try stain without conditioner as well as conditioner followed by stain.

You might also try several coats to establish how dark your final color will be.

Often these small first steps are the difference between first-attempt success or redoing a project.

Measure twice, Cut once!

Be certain to come back and share your success with The Community.
Posted 2015-12-29T17:39:23+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL
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