Best stains

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New User
OK, now that I'm a homeowner I've got alot of projects planned. Entertainment center, bookcase(s), endtables, coffee table, etc. I'd like to go into these projects with a plan as to how I'm going to finish them.
What are some good brands of stain to use? I realize that the type of stain best suited to a given project will vary based on the materials and desired finish, but I'm wondering what if there are some brands that you all particularly recommend or others to explicitly stay away from. All input welcome and appreciated.


New User
Brandon Johnson

I like most of General Finishes stuff. It will depend on the type of wood you are using though.

If splotching is a problem (will depend on the type of wood) use a gel stain. They are a little weird and intimidating at first. At least they were for me. Its just something different to get used to.

If you want more of the natural look of the wood you can't go wrong with Waterlox Original. I have had great luck out of Waterlox Original, but using Waterlox gloss has not been as great of results.

Hope this helps

Travis Porter

Corporate Member
Can't say what is the best. I have used Minwax oil and it does pretty good. I have not had much success with water based stains. Everytime I have tried one it ends up splotchy. I am doing my next project with Dye so we will see how that goes.

William Bender

New User
William Bender
I would try and stay away from the water based stains, they are more of a water paint basically, well at least I never enjoyed using them. Water based poly from minwax isn't too bad though, have to get used to the milky nature going on and the drying time, which is significantly less than the oil based. For small projects Minwax and Olympic oil based stains are easy to come by and not too bad to use. They take a few days to dry depending on climate and ventilation. I use Campbell's from RHC, Greg Donnally is an expert on it and can field any question too. I look for color consistancy, drying time, and finish.

For basic starter job, just get some oil based stain and some oil based poly and some 320 and 420 wet sand paper and some pig haired brushes, oil brushes that is, and you will have a nice looking piece, although you will see yellowing, but only after alot of sun damage.


Steve D

Steve DeWeese
I prefer dyes to stain and use transtint liquid. I typically mix with water and I spray most of my finishes. I prefer lacquer and shellac to poly but early on I turned out some pretty good finishes with minwax oil stain and poly.


New User
The type of finish you use is often heavily influenced by the style of the piece and the type of wood. For the style and wood I use, almost everything gets Watco and lacquer. This simple (and fast) finish enhances the natural beauty of the wood and does not obscure the grain, etc. I also do ammonia fuming for a lot of these mission pieces, but that's purely for the effect and authenticity for those style of pieces and it's not quick or easy and is a lot of trouble. I use natural Watco for most things, but have started using medium walnut and dark walnut Watco on walnut pieces some in the past years to even out the color of the wood.

I've never had good success with any of the water based stains or dyes. I don't like poly for anything except wood floors. In the past, I've used tung oil and various oil base varnishes and liked the results, but abandoned those for lacquer, the biggest reasons being drying time and the forgiving nature of lacquer. (By the time tung oil or varnish was dry, it would often be marred with dust and flying varmints). Another good virtue of oil & lacquer is that in the future, any scratches or "messed up" places in the finish can easily be repaired and become invisible. Just my $0.02.

Joe Scharle

New User
Finishing is the hardest part of woodworking for me. Since your projects will need a lot of protection "Entertainment center, bookcase(s), end tables, coffee table, etc", I would stick with the Minwax system available anywhere.
Wipe-on poly

Good luck


New User
Christopher Cain
I prefer to use stains/finishes that I can get locally. There's nothing more fustrating than to be at the end of a project and run out of a stain or finish.

I have use Sherwin-Williams brand oil stains for years, and use them if at all possible. They are thicker than a regular oil satin and thinner than a gel stain, very easy to work with. I have never gotten good results with Minwax stains. I wouldn't use water based stains, they are just a pain to use.

For furniture/projects, I like lacquar. For construction(mouldings and doors, etc. inside the house) I like Sherwin-Williams quick dry varnish. Now I have used Benjaman-Moore Stays Clear, it is a waterbased clear finish, and find it easyto use, with good end results. One thing to remember with WB finishes, is that they don't have the amber tone of oil finish, and will be "clear", unless you tone it yourself. You can use an oil based stain with a WB finish, just let the stain dry completely. Most of the time the oil satin, seals the wood, and you don't have the "fuzz" from the WB finish.

For outdoor use, I like Deft brand Defthane.

Hope this helps.
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