After watching a tutorial on shading wood with stain, I decided that I still had a bit of my own homework to do first, before I even attempt to make an image on wood. I guess the reason for this was to essentially set myself up for success. If I simply jumped into creating a picture using any old stain and wood I have at hand, there is a much greater chance that I would be disappointed in the end. Not the first emotion I want to feel when when starting a new project/learning process!

So, I decided that I needed to talk to Ken, one of my face to face resources for this project. The first thing he said, before even getting any of the supplies, was to do more research. I have done some other woodworking projects with him in the past, and EVERY time its all about the research, planning, and prep. I always go in with these high expectations and great excitement to do a project and just want to get at it, but then he says, “Whoa. Hold on just a sec. Lets think about this.” It drives me insane sometimes, but he couldn’t be any more right! Things will go so much smoother and be a heck of a lot more enjoyable if you do the planning first. And, that is what I did.

The first thing I started to do was read more about different types of wood and how they accept stain and also, the different types of stains (oil based or water based) and how they work. Probably the best place I found for information about this was the Minwax – How to Stain Interior Wood page. It was kind of an all in one deal. I got all my  initial questions answered on this page. What I ended up learning here was that white oak is probably the best for getting a uniform stain because it has large, open pores which is better for stain absorption. In terms of stain and how I will be using it, it really won’t make a difference, but it would be beneficial to use a pre-stain wood conditioner.

16295375_1892102664367397_802066020_nThe next part of my project was to actually get the supplies I needed. So, off to Ken’s workshop I went! I was able to get some 360, 500, 1000 grit sandpaper and some scrap pieces of white oak, maple, and spruce/pine. Although white oak was supposed to be the best for an even stain, I thought I might as well play around with a couple other wood types too. As for the stain, I picked up a can of red chestnut oil based stain and some wood conditioner from Home Depot. As a part of experimenting with these supplies, I put together some different combinations of wood, wood conditioner, stain, and sandpaper. Then, I started actually testing the different combinations out!

Just for the sake of keeping things simple, I only did small test patches and did each test once. I’ll break down the results and what I learned into three sections.

Wood: Although slightly different, the results for the white oak and maple were for the most part the same, being that they are hardwoods. They were both, more so the white oak, darkened by the wood conditioner. This meant that there was less of a contrast between the stain and wood. For the wood that didn’t have any conditioner, it accepted the stain too quick and I was unable to create an even shading effect. You could still see the line from the initial application. The spruce/pine accepted the stain quickly, but shading was easy to do. I found that the wood grain and how it was sanded affected how the stain looked. There were a couple spots that were blotchy around the grain of this wood if it wasn’t sanded completely.

16251069_1892051354372528_1658024499_oWood Conditioner: Again, it darkened both the white oak and maple enough to lessen the contrast between the wood and stain. The point of the conditioner is to get an even stain on the the wood, and it did just that. Therefore, it made it harder to create a shade effect, especially on the two hardwoods. However, it kept the ugly blotchy look from appearing around the grain on the spruce/pine.

Sandpaper: I found that the 360 grit worked best. Because it is coarser, it feels slightly rougher but the wood took the stain better when sanded with it.

After playing around with all of this and taking a closer look at how each one worked, I found that the spruce/pine, sanded with 360 grit paper, and some wood conditioner (P9 in the photo) worked the best for what I will be doing! And now that I know that, I think I can finally attempt my first design!