How to Stain Wood Darker: Effective Ways to Darken Wood

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Having wooden pieces in the comfort of your home adds elegance and a certain flair. To enhance the beauty of your pieces, you can restain the wood to make it darker and look new. 

However staining can be a daunting and challenging task, but with the right techniques, you can make the job easier. So, our woodworkers outlined effective ways how to stain wood darker.

Staining Wood Darker: 7 Easy Ways

Method #1: Coarse-Sanding the Wood

Use sandpaper with a coarser grit to sand out the wood’s surface. A 120-grit or 150-grit will do the job perfectly, allowing the wood to absorb more stains. This method results in a rougher texture on the wood’s surface. 

sanding wooden surface

Make sure to prevent scratches on the wood with light sanding. Furthermore, sand along the wood grain direction. 

Method #2: Adding More Pigment to the Wood Stain

Another method is adding more pigment to the stain, allowing more colorant per unit. Increasing the pigment-to-vehicle ratio ensures a darker stain on the wood’s surface.

Make sure to use the same types of stains and pigments. Oil-based stains perform well with an oil-based pigment. So, we recommend using Japanese color pigments for your oil-based stain. 

Similarly, a water-based stain performs well with the same water-based pigment. Test the stain first on a block of scrap wood before you proceed with the process. Opt to use a universal color pigment for water-based stains.  

Method #3: How to Test the Stain on a Wood Scrap

Test it on a wood scrap before performing any step. Apply a small amount of the product on a scrap material similar to the wood you wish to darken. 

staining a piece of wood

Make sure to let the wood dry completely to see accurate results. Once you are happy with the resulting color, you can proceed to the main wooden piece. 

Method #4: Applying Glaze After the Wood Stain and Sealer

You can stain wood darker by applying glaze after the stain and sealer. A glaze or a gel stain is known to contain a higher pigment-to-vehicle ratio. A layer of gel stain is enough to darken the wood’s surface. 

A glaze can either be oil-based or water-based. So ensure to use the same types of gel stain and glaze. Its notable thick consistency allows ease of control and can be left on the surface for longer.

Method #5: Spraying a Toner

You can spray some toner to stain wood darker. Toners create a translucent coat resulting in a lightly colored wood surface. Apply the toner in between coats after staining the wood. 

Method #6: Utilizing Dye Rather Than Oil Stain

To achieve a darker wood you can opt for ready-to-use dyes rather than oil stains to achieve a darker wood. 

applying dye to wood

Dyes come in either powder or liquid forms, and a liquid stain is known as TransTint liquid dye or non-grain raising (NGR). Powdered dyes are compatible with either alcohol or water. 

Dye stains are an effective way to darken pieces. So, applying multiple coats on the wood will ensure you achieve a darker color. 

Method #7: Wiping the Excess Wood Stain

Wiping the excess stain can result in an evenly stained surface, so wipe it off gently. This way, the wood will cure longer and become darker.

How to Choose the Right Wood Stain

Once applied, the stain soaks into the pores of the wood’s surface. Bearing this in mind, the wood can be stained dark based on the amount of stain it can absorb. This can become challenging since some wood species might be more porous than others. 

brushing finish on the wood

Recommended Dark Stain For Wood

Our woodworkers highly recommend the Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain for various projects that entail staining.

The Varathane Premium fast dry stain effectively brings out the beauty of natural wood with one coat. It has excellent coverage and dries approximately in an hour. 

Using Gel Stain for Less Rough Woods

You can use a dark-colored gel stain for less rough woods and less porous ones. It can stain darker even if it is not absorbed into its pores.  

How to Use Gel Stain to Make Wood Darker

For staining wood finishing using a gel stain, refer to the following steps: 

Tip: More gel stain coats can be used on dense woods. 

Tools and Materials Needed

Step #1: Ready Your Work Area

Before proceeding with this process, make sure to prepare your workstation. You will need to sand the area and use certain chemicals. Thus, make sure to choose a well-ventilated space for this reason. For good measure, cover the area with a drop cloth to catch any drips and spills.

staining tools and material- Behr Solid Color Waterproofing Stain and Sealer

Step #2: Ensure the Wood is Clean (For Old Woods)

If you are working on old wood, ensure it’s clean, and remove contaminants found on the surface. Also, eliminate oil and grease before staining. However, you can skip this step if you are working on new and bare wood.

Step #3: Sand the Wood Using Coarse Sandpaper

Wear a protective pair of goggles and a mask to protect and prevent yourself from inhaling the wood powder. We also recommend you wear gloves to prevent the stain from coming in contact with your skin. Lastly, sand the wood using 120-grit of sandpaper. 

sanding dresser top

Step #4: Sand the Wood Using a Fine-grit Sandpaper

Now, sand the wood using a coarse sandpaper or sanding block. This will result in a rough surface, so work in the direction of the wood grain to prevent from making any marks and scratches. 

Step #5: Apply Gel Stain, then Wipe

Apply a generous and even coat of gel stain using a natural bristled chip brush, but be careful about making brush marks. Allow the gel to sit for some time before you wipe off the excess stains using a cloth. 

Here are some tips to help you:

Step #6: Dry it for 24 Hours

Allow the gel stain to dry for 24 hours. You can add multiple thin coats of the gel stain once it has completely dried off. 

staining table top

Step #7: Re-stain if Needed

You can opt to re-stain if you are unsatisfied with the color. 

Step #8: Protect the Wood Surface by Applying Polyurethane Wood Finish

Protect the wood surface by applying a thin coat of polyurethane [1] wood finish. This clear coat keeps the dark color for a longer time. 

Applying a coat of polyurethane wood finish also reinforces the wood furniture against water and discoloration. 

Using Coffee to Intensify Wood Stain

You can use coffee to darken the wood stains. Coffee is a natural stain and is an effective method to darken the wood. 

Materials Needed

coffee

Step #1: Get Dark Coffee

Brew yourself a strong cup of coffee. Pour the coffee into a bowl and allow it to cool down. 

Step #2: Sand the Wood

Sand and scuff-sand the entire wood’s surface using 120-grit sandpaper. Then, wipe off the wood dust using a lint-free rag. 

Step #3: Stain the Wood

Stain the wood with the coffee-darken stain using a rag or a paintbrush. Apply the first coat slightly to avoid spills, and cover the entire area with the stain. 

staining wood with coffee

Allow the wood to set for approximately 15 minutes before you can apply the second coat of the same stain when necessary.  

Using Tea and Vinegar to Intensify Wood Stain

You can also use tea and vinegar to darken the wood stains. Follow these easy steps: 

What You Need

Step #1: Get the Wood Stain

You will need to make iron acetate. Steel wool soaked in a jar of vinegar and water solution for two to three days will do the trick. 

DIY tea and vinegar wood stain materials

Once it is ready, pour 2 cups of boiling water into a heat-resistant container. Add three or more tea bags and allow the mixture to soak for approximately two hours. 

Step #2: Scuff-sand the Wood

Using 220-grit sandpaper, proceed to sand the surface to clean and prepare it. Then proceed to use a rag to clean off the wood dust. 

Step #3: Apply the Stain on Wood

Apply the stain onto the entire surface of the wood and allow it to set for an hour. Using a chip brush, apply the iron acetate evenly along the grain. The iron acetate will react to the tannins resulting in darker colors. 

Step #4: Dry the Wood and Stain More if Needed

Allow the finished wood to dry for approximately an hour. You can opt to make reapplications until you have achieved your desired darkness. 

drying wood stain on wooden drawer

Step #5: Apply a Protective Wood Finish

Wipe off debris once the stain is completely dried on the wood surface. You can apply a protective finish on the stained wood or use oil or wax to seal it.

Can all Stains Make Wood Darker?

All stains are formulated to darken any wood. But it may require several coats to achieve your desired color. 

Extra Tips to Go from Medium to Dark Wood Stain

Here are additional steps to go from medium to dark wood stain.

Double Coat the Stain

Double-coat the stain until you have achieved your desired stain color. 

sealing the stained wood

Allow the Wood to Absorb the Stain for a Certain Amount of Time

Allow the stain to be absorbed by the wood grain. This will allow the stain and resulting color to last longer.

Staining Old Wooden Furniture Darker

When staining old wooden furniture darker, lightly sand it first to remove oil and grease on the surface.

Conclusion

Enhancing the beauty of wood furniture or hardwood floors need not be difficult. A simple wood staining job will result in a darker coloring of your wooden pieces. We hope this article has helped you find ways how to stain wood darker in time for your next home and wood project.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson

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