If you’ve got a stack of pine wood waiting for a makeover, you might be pondering whether to give it a stain or a paint job. Pine, being a dense wood, demands some careful handling, and selecting the correct staining materials is key to achieving that perfect finish.
To make sure your pine looks stunning when stained, let me walk you through the essential steps and introduce you to the top-notch stains.
What Is Pine Wood?
Pine is a softwood with an excellent natural grain pattern and shades, making it the best wood for staining. You can distinguish a pinewood when its sapwood is creamy yellow and the heartwood is brownish.
So, staining enhances the wood’s natural patterns while adding protection from UV rays, water, and insects to maintain its natural beauty.
What is more exciting about pine wood is that you can choose among the 112 species worldwide, where it thrives in temperate climates. But let us focus on the pine types commonly found in the United States.
Eastern White Pine
The first pine wood is the Eastern White pine, a popular softwood in the US markets today. Mostly, clear wood of white pine is ideal for millwork, furniture, and cabinets, but you can still utilize it for structural lumber.
White pine’s heartwood comes in a light brown with a hint of a reddish hue. Then the sapwood has shades of yellow-white. Like other softwood, the color of white pine transforms to dark shades after being dried, and the knot becomes black if the branch is already cut.
The grain pattern is straight with prominent rings, but the latter is not too evident on the surface, making a unique pattern.
And if you tried applying or sticking something to white pine, you can use any wood adhesive, and it won’t fall after you glued it, so staining white pine won’t be a problem.
Southern Yellow Pine
The Southern Yellow Pine wood is an excellent choice for exterior wood projects. Your outdoor constructions using Yellow pine will be high quality and resistant to decay.
Like the Eastern White pine, the Southern Yellow pine wood is readily available and affordable in the US market today. In fact, DIYers and homeowners also prefer using Yellow pine for building a wooden deck and used as ground contact for house construction.
Yellow pine, despite being a type of softwood, packs a surprising punch with its high-density lumber. This means it’s up to the task of bearing some serious weight without breaking a sweat.
And when you give it the right treatment, like a good staining, yellow pine can become a versatile wood that’s ready for a variety of projects. It’s all about knowing how to make the most of its hidden strength.
Like Yellow Pine, the Ponderosa pine is widely available and affordable as construction lumber in the US. You can look for the “PP/LP” label to purchase Ponderosa pine.
From a technical perspective, the Ponderosa pine is classified as a type of Yellow or Hard pine, which makes it well-suited for outdoor wood projects. Its properties and characteristics make it a suitable choice for various outdoor applications.
But you can also use it for interior wood projects or any light and medium indoor construction, given that Ponderosa pine has a lower density than hard pine. For the knotty parts, you can use them for paneling, cabinet shelving, and door moldings.
I opt for this type of wood in various woodworking projects, be it crafting furniture, cabinets, or intricate wood carvings. The reasons behind my choice are rooted in a solid foundation of tried-and-tested benefits that I can vouch for from firsthand experience.
Time is precious for woodworkers, so finding the ideal pine for your wood project won’t be a problem because it is widely available in the US. As mentioned earlier, among the 112 species, you can easily find Ponderosa pine anytime you need it.
When it comes to workability, this pine is easy to work with any hand tools and machines. So, it won’t be a problem if you prefer both methods in woodworking, and the best part is – this wood has a pleasant smell, so you will enjoy working with Pordesan pine wood.
How about finishing? Based on what I’ve experienced, staining is the ideal finish for pinewood, but depending on your desired results, you can apply either shellac or urethane.
Pinewood can be a bit unpredictable in terms of how it behaves, how easy it is to work with, and how long it takes to staining.
Although pinewood is widely available, you can’t use it immediately. Therefore, after you purchase it, I recommend giving it more time to adapt to your environment’s climate before using it.
Despite the fact that you can efficiently work with this wood using machines and hand tools, you must still look after your cutter heads and saw blades.
While working with your pine wood, practice to avoid leaving resin on your tools. In any case, use soap and a bristle brush to clean your tools.
Too much denseness of wood makes it difficult to stain, which most woodworkers experience in staining pine wood. So, before staining pine wood, use a pre-stain conditioner to prevent uneven stain patterns or blotchiness.
Once you have conditioned the pine wood, you can achieve your desired result.
Advantages of Staining Pine
Then why staining pine wood is better than any wood finish? Here are the gains of using stain products manufactured especially for dense woods such as pine wood.
Accentuates Your Wood’s Grain, Color, & Texture
How would you like your pine wood to be more vibrant and appealing without altering its natural beauty? Should you prefer this, you can just use stain on your pine wood, and it’s recommended to use a solid and semi-transparent to clear shades with tint variations.
As mentioned earlier, staining pine wood is far better than painting it because the paint does not penetrate dense wood grains. It could peel anytime, but it takes more effort to remove it than stain.
If you want to change the stain of your pine wood, sand the surface and apply your preferred shades (just a quick tip).
Penetrates the Wood Grain
Stain has better penetration to pine wood grain than other finishes as long as you condition the wood surface. Good preparation of pine wood includes conditioning which seals the wood surface just enough to absorb the stain.
If you follow my basic steps for staining pine wood in this article, there will be no blotchiness, and it gives water resistance to the wood preventing quick decay.
More so, there’s no need for extensive maintenance, but ensure to maintain the top coat.
Highlights Pine’s Natural Beauty
You can keep the natural beauty of your pine wood furniture, tables, chairs, and other indoor surfaces by staining them. As long as you’ve done the wood preparation correctly, you need not worry about the peeling or failing of stain from wood surfaces.
Staining pinewood may look simple and easy. But if you accidentally skip or omit a few essential procedures on wood preparation and maintaining stained wood surfaces, here are the drawbacks you can encounter.
Lasts A Few Years
After staining your pine wood surfaces, you can only enjoy at least five years of zero extensive maintenance. If it’s over five years, you must re-stained the pine wood, which can be tedious and could cause you a hefty price for supplies and materials.
Skipping the pine wood’s re-staining could be pricey and involve intensive work.
Less Predictable than Paint
Staining is different from painting because you cannot foresee the outcome of your stained wood surface. When painting, you can predict the shades of your wood project, but you need to follow the procedure for your desired result for your stain.
You may want to test your preferred stain on a hidden area of your wood project because the stain is unpredictable, especially for a DIYer.
Is Pine a Good Wood to Stain?
After gaining good arguments on staining pine wood, you should learn about wood preparation and staining pine using the top choices of stain products. Indeed, pine is an excellent wood to stain, but there are a few reasons why it’s challenging.
As mentioned a few times, the uneven and dense wood grain hinders the consistent absorption of stain, and the random pockets cause the blotchiness of your pine wood surface.
Therefore, at this point, you already get complete insights if pine does stain well despite its dense wood grain.
Preparing Your Pine Wood for Staining: 5 Steps
Step #1: Level the Pine’s Surface Using 80-Grit or 120-Grit Sandpaper
The lower the grit, the coarser the sandpaper – this is our approach to leveling the pine’s surface, including a sanding block for consistent pressure. You must ensure to sand in the direction of the wood grain and not in a circular motion.
Then, use 80 grit to remove the dirt, oils, and other foreign objects on the wood surface. You better use a 120-grit sandpaper to remove paint from the painted surfaces.
Depending on your desired finish, you can use an orbital sander for a modern look. Otherwise, keep using sandpaper for more classic and antique-looking pine wood.
Step #2: Smooth Out the Wood Using 150-Grit Sandpaper
Once you eliminate the rough objects on the surface, wet the surface area to raise the wood grain, then use 150-grit sandpaper for your final sanding.
Refrain from overdoing it because it will reduce the denseness of the wood grain and prevent blotchiness while increasing stain absorption. You must not use lower-grit sandpaper during this procedure.
Just ensure that end grains are sanded which are usually the bare part of the wood where it has been cut. These areas absorb the stain quickly.
Step #3: Clean the Sawdust from the Wood Surface
After sanding, remove the sawdust from the wood surface. You can use a vacuum cleaner or a tack cloth. Wear gloves before cleaning the surface with a tack cloth so the adhesive won’t stick to your hands.
Step #4: Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner Using a Sponge Brush
If you are satisfied with your sanding, apply two coats of pre-stain conditioner using a sponge brush or paintbrush. If you use a clean, lint-free cloth for applying wood conditioner, it’s recommended having a thin application for cloth wiping.
In choosing your pre-stain conditioner, use a wood conditioner and stain products from the same manufacturer to prevent issues with incompatibility.
Step #5: Wipe off the Remaining Conditioner and Leave it to Set for Around Two Hours
Let the conditioner soak into your wood within 15 minutes before wiping off the excess conditioner. It will enable it to penetrate the wood grain to seal the wood for a more even stain application partially. So better not skip this one!
Leave the conditioned pine wood for 2 hours before staining.
Staining Pine: Tools and Steps
Materials to Stain Pine
Before staining, prepare the following materials and tools:
Step #1: Brush a Thin Coat of Stain onto the Pine Surface
Use a lint-free cloth or sponge to blot the stain and brush it toward the wood grain. Work at a time on small sections or areas hard to reach to prevent excess stains from sitting on the surface longer than they need to.
Step #2: Wait for About 2-5 minutes, then Wipe off the Excess Stains
Wait at least 2 minutes to 5 minutes for the pine wood to absorb the stain before wiping the excess stains in a long sweeping stroke. Use a cloth, preferably clean and lint-free, to continue wiping until no stain accumulates on your cloth.
Step #3: Leave the Stain to Dry for About Two Hours
Let it dry after the first coat of your stain. If there’s no humidity  in your workspace, the wood will dry for about two hours, depending on the weather.
Otherwise, you have to wait longer. If you touch a little of the pine wood and it’s tacky and wet, it’s not dry yet. So you should work on a well-ventilated area and covering your stained pine wood with a plastic sheet.
Step #4: Apply Additional Coats (If You Want a Darket Tone)
After the first coat is completely dry, check the shades of the stain and the surface to see if there is dust or dirt that you need to sand. For this part, you should use 150-grit sandpaper.
If you want darker shades, apply three coats using a darker stain. Each layer should be thin enough to prevent an uneven finish.
Step #5: Let Your Pine Wood Dry for At least 24 Hours (After the Last Coat)
Then, let the pine wood dry for at least 24 hours after the last coat to ensure proper stain absorption. After you complete the curing time, you will see if you achieved the desired result.
Step #6: Wipe Down the Stained Surface Using a Clean Shop Cloth
Once satisfied with the shades of your stain, get a cloth and wipe down dirt from the surface. Ensure you don’t smudge the stain, so just wipe off the surface lightly.
Step #7: Coat the Surface With at Least Two Polyurethane Layers
To seal your stain, use three layers of polyurethane clear top coat. Use a bristle paintbrush to apply the coat and begin brushing a thin layer on the surface. Let it dry for 24 hours before applying the next coat.
Step #8: Sand the Clear-Coated Surface Using 180-Grit Sandpaper
Using 180-grit sandpaper, remove imperfections after the last coat of poly is completely dried. Ensure you work with the wood grain’s direction and ensure that you just lightly sand. Otherwise, too much sanding can remove the stain and sealant from the wood surface.
How to Stain Pine to Not Look Yellow
Pine turns yellow after staining it, and you probably saw it in your pine wood project. So I’m going to give you the stain combinations to minimize the yellowing.
Here are my recommended stain combinations to diminish unwanted yellow tones for your pine wood project, depending on your desired result.
Best Stains for Pine Wood
Does pine stain well if you use oil- or water-based? Yes, pine wood can be stained using either type of finish. So, let us cut to the chase and give you our best stains for pine wood.
1. Minwax Gel Stain for Interior Wood Surfaces
Use Minwax Gel Stain because of its non-drip formula that you can rely especially on vertical surfaces. Although it lacks sheerness, it protects the pine wood furniture, tables, and doors from scratches, heat, and moisture.
Unlike some other gel stains on the market, Minwax offers a stain that’s a breeze to use. In fact, it’s surprisingly simple. Just wait a few minutes after applying it, and then wipe it away the excess gel stain.
For the look I wanted, it only needs two coats of Minwax Gel Stain. However, if you’re aiming for a darker shade, you can opt for three layers of Minwax Gel Stain. Just keep in mind that with more coats, you’ll need to be patient and wait a bit longer for it to fully cure.
2. Minwax PolyShades Wood Stain + Polyurethane Finish, Satin
The Minwax Polyshades Wood Stain with Polyurethane Finish is one of my favorite pine wood stains. It enhances the wood grain of my pine wood surface while giving it lasting protection.
I know that woodworking takes time and effort, so use this 2-in-1 product of Minwax. It provides a rich finish with a satin sheen, and it matches the interior elements, given the classic, light color that looks great on various projects.
You’ll never regret using this stain for many wood projects, and it will save you from extensive maintenance of your stained pine wood.
3. Varathane 262012 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain
If time is not on your side, I’d recommend using the Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain to give pine wood the ultimate color quality and the exceptional highlight of the wood grain.
Using this wood stain allows you to skip the wood conditioner by deeply penetrating and sealing wood pores as it stains.
After the first trial, I have no regrets because it creates the perfect color with a single coat. I don’t struggle to brush it on wood surfaces, and the curing time is less than an hour.
4. Howard Products RF2016 RF3016 Restor-A-Finish
The Howard Products Restor-A-Finish is an oil-based stain I recommend for restoring your antique furniture. This stain can remove watermarks, white heat rings, and other surface damage.
After trying this with old pine wood furniture without removing its old stain, the Restore-A-Finish of Howard Products returned the wood’s original color and luster, including the furniture’s original ‘patina.’
You can apply this product with a simple wipe-on and wipe-off on the surface.
5. Furniture Clinic Wood Stain | Multiple Finishes
If you have some restrictions on using oil-based products, you try this water-based stain product for your expectations, the Furniture Clinic Wood Stain. This stain product offers multiple indoor and outdoor furniture, polyurethane, and sealer finishes.
Unlike oil-based, you better use a water-based stain for your interior wood furniture, tables, and chairs in the kitchen and dining areas because it has a low odor and is toxic-free. Also, you can manage to use this stain to achieve your desired result.
Although it is a water-based stain, it can dry quickly into a natural matte finish, and for best results, I recommend using it with Furniture Clinic Wood products.
Can You Stain Pine Wood to Look Similar to Oak?
Oak wood has many similarities with pine wood, but most woodworkers’ dilemmas in using oak are the weight and affordability.
But oak’s distinct features are its classy and timeless appearance, which pine lacks. I can give your pine wood an oak transformation staining by following these steps:
Step 1: Lay Down Your Drop Cloth
Get a drop cloth or plastic sheets to cover the floorings and the surfaces you don’t want to get stained with. Placing these on the floor also saves you more time from cleaning after your woodworking.
Step 2: Prep the Pine Wood
Then get your pine wood and see if some knots need to be fixed and whole on the surface that must be filled using a wood filler. For cracks, you can use epoxy to fill in the gaps.
Next, sand the surface to remove impurities like accumulated dirt and old paint and make the wood pores visible. Use 100 grit to 280 grit sandpaper until your wood grain is even.
Step 3: Using Pieces of Scrap Wood, Practice the Strokes First
Remember that I’m trying to achieve the oak’s shades to the pine wood, so the best way to make this happen is to practice the strokes on some pieces of scrap wood.
While practicing the strokes, combinations of color are essential since oak varies from red-brown to beige. So get various coats and stain colors to identify your preferred shade. Once you got it, set aside the combinations for your oak-looking pine wood.
Step 4: Prime the Pine Wood and Apply the Wood Stain
Next is to prime your pine wood using a pre-stain conditioner. Do not skip this step for this procedure because conditioning the pine wood prevent blotchiness.
To do this, get a lint-free rag and rub it on the wood surface. Ensure you cover every surface corner and let it dry before adding another coat. Follow the direction of the wood grain and observe if the wood grain is even.
Then you can apply the stain on the surface. Remember to work with the wood grain and start with a thin layer for your first coat.
Step 5: Examine the Wood Surface, then Apply the Second Coat (If Needed)
The second coat is optional if you are not satisfied with the result of your first coat. Depending on your desired result and preferred stain, you can darken or brighten the shades of your wood stain by the number of layers you will apply.
Step 6: Apply a Final Coat or Topcoat
If you are satisfied with the stains, apply your final coat or topcoat. Ensure that your final coat has non-yellowing properties, or choose water-based polyurethane. Then lightly sand the surface if you desire thinly textured.
Can You Stain Pine Like Birch?
Aside from Oakwood, you can stain pine-like birch wood by following the basic steps on staining wood surfaces. Birchwood is soft, so its wood grains can easily absorb stains well.
Can You Stain Pine Like Spruce?
Unlike other wood, spruce is made of an open cell, allowing easy absorption of stains. Therefore, if you are trying to apply how you stain spruce with your pine wood, it would be easier because spruce does not require a wood conditioner.
Can You Stain Pine Like Alder?
Pine is not the only wood that is hard to stain well, but still, you can stain it. Alder is difficult to stain like pine, so you must follow the same steps in staining your pine wood. Including pre-stain conditioner, you must apply this to alder wood to make your stain even.
Absolutely, staining pine wood can yield excellent results, much like staining other types of wood. It’s a straightforward process that you can tackle on your own without the need for a professional.
Just follow the simple steps outlined above and make sure to use the right type of stain for your project. With a little care and the proper technique, you can achieve a beautifully finished surface.