Can You Stain Basswood? — Furniture, Guitar, Table, Etc.

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Basswood has grown in popularity since it’s easy to work with and a good and solid choice for different wooden pieces. 

However, if you are a beginner and have wondered if staining is okay, then fret not. Here, I will discuss if you can stain basswood or not. 

Is It Difficult to Stain Basswood?

Staining basswood can be difficult, especially if the stain is applied to bare wood. In my years of woodworking, I’ve found that basswood’s soft texture loves to drink up stain like it’s going out of style. 

The porous surface of the wood tends to soak up the stain. Now, here’s a piece of advice: don’t let that stain sit too long on the surface. Use a wood conditioner first. This will slow the absorption rate of the stain.

The application of a wood conditioner will greatly benefit this process. The wood conditioner will aid in the absorption process more evenly throughout the wood’s surface. The conditioner will also help minimize mistakes which include streaks and blotches.  


In addition, Basswood has a pore-tight grain pattern and structure, which leads to uneven stain absorption. Uneven stain absorption of the wood can lead to several problems. One of these problems includes poor surface protection.

So, take it from me, using a wood conditioner is not a step you want to skip. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself using more stain than you need to, wasting both your time and your hard-earned cash.

Ideal Stain for Basswood

Basswood can be difficult to stain, and thus, you should think it over and decide on the ideal stain for Basswood. So, here are the ideal stains that I recommend on Basswood: 

1. General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain

General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain

Due to the gel property of the General Finishes oil-based gel stain, it is recognized as one of the best products for Basswood. The gel product adheres to the surface without it penetrating the wood. 

By sitting on the surface, the gel can be uniformly spread across it, ensuring an even application. This helps prevent any blotches or unevenness on the wood.

This creates a beautiful finish on the wood surface, and it does not penetrate deep into the wood. You’ll need only a minimal amount which is easy to apply and wipe off. Also, it can easily protect the wood from outdoor elements such as UV light, insect attacks, and moisture. 

2. Minwax Penetrating Wood Stain

Minwax Penetrating Gel Stain

If you’re a Basswood enthusiast like me, chances are you’ve come across Minwax Penetrating Wood Stain. It is known to be a deep penetrating stain that can easily work well with a Basswood. It can enhance the natural beauty of wood, and it comes with different color options. 

This Minwax Penetrating wood stain easily protects the wood through its deep penetrating property. So, it improves and further reinforces the basswood. But make sure to apply a pre-stain wood conditioner before applying the product to prevent blotches on the wood. 

3. Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer

Ready Seal Stain and Sealer for Wood

Look, if you’re like me, you don’t want to spend all day fiddling with primers and multiple coats. Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer is my go-to for these situations. You get both a stain and sealer in one—talk about a time saver. It can penetrate well into the wood and result in a protective coat. The resulting coat not only protects the wood but also enhances its beauty. 

The ready-seal exterior stain and sealer are formulated to have special ingredients that help protect the wood from outdoor elements. It can be used for indoor and outdoor wooden pieces. 

When using this, the application of a primer is no longer needed. I was able to slap it on and get superb UV protection and waterproofing with zero fuss.

4. Rust-Oleum Varathane Premium Wood Stain

Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain

The Rust-Oleum Varathane Premium wood stain is a premium product for Basswood. I’ve used it in high-traffic areas like kitchens and bedrooms, and let me tell you, it holds up.

It has translucent pigments, which will help give the wood any color that you prefer. In addition, it dries at a shorter period and is very easy to apply. So, this stain can result in a beautiful finish, enhancing the beauty of the wood. 

5. SamaN Water-Based Wood Stain

SamaN Interior Water-Based Wood Stain

The SamaN water-based wood stain does not emit any odor and does not turn yellow with time like the oil-based ones. It’s environmentally friendly, as it’s non-toxic. You can use this wood stain best on kitchen pieces and kids’ toys [1]. 

Is Wood Conditioning Necessary Before Staining Basswood?

Look, if you’ve ever tried staining basswood without conditioning it first, you know it’s like trying to color a sponge with a marker; that wood just soaks up everything. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of using a wood conditioner. This will also allow even distribution of the product on the wood surface. 

It is common knowledge that Basswood is difficult to stain because it easily absorbs stains. Thus, at times you may need to use more products for the wood. Especially if the wood is bare and without conditioning.  

The wood conditioner will penetrate the fibers, which limits the rate of absorption of the stain. When the wood conditioner has settled, the wood fibers tend to absorb the stain not as deep as the bare wood. 

wood conditioner

Aside from this, applying the wood conditioner will also prevent blotching on the wood surface. This is prevented since the wood conditioner promotes uniform and even staining. Wipe off the excess wood conditioner on the surface.

So how long should you wait after conditioning? In my experience, about 15 minutes is a good window before you bring in the stain. And a pro tip: try to get your wood conditioner and stain from the same brand. They’re formulated to play well together, saving you more headaches down the road.

Steps for Staining Basswood

Now you know that you can stain basswood, you also need to learn the proper steps to do it. But before that, here is the list of materials you need for this task:

tools for painting

Before applying the stain, make sure to try the stain on scrap material to see if it applies well. Follow these steps to successfully stain the basswood:

Step #1: Prep the surface

Before applying the stain, make sure to prepare the surface by cleaning it. Using a rag, you can wipe away the grease, dust, and dirt on the Basswood surface. If you find it difficult to use a rag, I find that using warm water and soap works just as well. 

The cleaning process will prevent a blotchy surface. This process will also refrain the dust from blocking the grain and preventing the stain from penetrating the wood. Allow the surface to dry before moving to the next step.

Step #2: Sand the surface and eliminate sawdust

Once you have successfully cleaned the surface, you can now proceed to sand the surface. I recommend using 220 grit sandpaper to remove any surface flaws. Sanding the surface will result in a smooth and even surface. 

Sand along the Basswood grain to prevent any dents and scratches to the surface. Furthermore, the sanding process will open the pores up and allow them to absorb the stain upon application. 

sanding block

It is best to sand the surface by applying even pressure to it. Once you are done with this step, you can proceed with the next one. 

Step #3: Apply Wood Conditioner

It is best to apply wood conditioner to the wood before applying the stain. The wood conditioner will effectively slow down the absorption rate of the material. Furthermore, the wood conditioner will also allow an even distribution of the stain. 

Apply the wood conditioner to the surface by adding some water to the surface. A wet surface will allow you to examine any areas with uneven application and rectify it to become even. Uneven surfaces can easily be detected since they turn dark once the stain is applied. 

Step #4: Let it dry

Once you have applied the wood conditioner, allow it to dry. The drying period is anything between 1 to 2 hours. Make sure to let the wood dry completely before applying the wood stain. If you fail to do so, this can lead to a tacky or blotchy surface.

apply wood conditioner

The majority of the wood conditioners can settle on the wood in under 15 minutes. However, it is best to allow it to dry completely before moving to the next step. 

Step #5: Apply the Wood Stain

Once you have conditioned the wood surface, you can now apply the stain on the surface of the Basswood. You can do this with the use of a paintbrush. Make sure to stain along the grain direction. This will be absorbed more readily by the wood without resulting in blotches. 

The Basswood will become dark once you apply the stain to it. If, however, you do not like this color, you can easily add a coat of stain that has the color you like. Since you have applied the wood conditioner beforehand, then the wood will not absorb the stain as much.

The wood conditioner does allow the stain to sit on the surface. This will result in a protective coating. 

apply wood stain

The resulting coating protects the surface. It protects it from UV light, moisture, insect, and fungal attack. This product not only protects the wood but also enhances its beauty. You can apply up to 3 coats of the product. 

There is one disadvantage if you apply more than three coats of stain. More coats can lead to a tacky surface and more time for drying.  

Step #6: Let it dry completely

When you have decided on the stain and have applied it on the surface as well, make sure to allow the coat to dry for at least 24 hours in between coats. Make sure that the surface is also completely dry before applying the stain.

Once you have applied the third and final coat, allow the surface to completely dry for 24 hours. Allow 3 to 4 days of curing time up until the surface becomes its actual color. 

How to Stain Basswood Carving

You can stain basswood carving simply by applying a wood conditioner before the application of the stain. Then, you just need to follow the usual staining technique, and you’re done!

basswood with stains

Basswood Stain Colors

There is a variety of basswood stain colors for you to choose from. I highly recommend choosing one that is the same brand as the wood conditioner.

Is Staining Basswood Similar to Staining Pine?

Staining basswood is similar to staining pine wood. Despite the differences in wood type, pine wood is considered a softwood, whereas Basswood is considered a hardwood.

Both kinds of wood easily absorb the stain. Furthermore, the stain becomes uneven when applied to bare wood. 

It is best to apply a wood conditioner to both wood types before applying the stain. This step will allow even application of the stain on the surface. 

Is Staining Basswood Similar to Staining Cedar?

Cedarwood stains differently than Basswood. Cedarwood is better since this wood accepts stain better compared to Basswood, even without the application of wood conditioner. The stain can spread evenly across the surface. 

cedar wood staining gray

Is Staining Basswood Similar to Staining Teak?

Teak stains differently than basswood. Teak can easily be stained compared to Basswood. However, staining Teak is also not necessary since this wood makes its teak oil which protects it from the outdoor elements. This will also enhance its appearance. 

Thus, the majority of the woodworkers do not need to apply a coat of stain on Teak. This is one of the reasons why Teak is popular in the woodworking business. 


Does basswood need to be sealed?

Yes, Basswood needs to be sealed. It’s one of those wood types that easily absorb more stain than recommended. 


You can stain basswood, but make sure to use the best stain as well as the best wood conditioner compatible with the wood. 

Wood conditioners help for even application, reducing the absorption of stains by the wood. Just follow the steps indicated as detailed above, and you’re good to go!

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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