A couple of months ago, I got lucky and found an old Mango wood chair at a local market. The only problem was that the weathered color of the chair didn’t quite match the other furniture in the room. Perhaps, you’ve also bought a chair and then been in this same situation too?
So that is why I decided to write down this simple guide on how to stain wooden furniture. Besides, the old chair was still in good shape and I knew that I was only a few steps away from a good color match.
How do you stain old wooden furniture? It’s a simple process:
- Lightly sand the wooden surfaces to remove any old finish.
- Remove any surface dust by wiping the newly-sanded wood with a clean tack cloth.
- Apply your chosen colored stain evenly and wait for the stain to seep into the wood.
- Then wipe off any unabsorbed stain.
- Allow the wooden surfaces to dry.
Seeing the increasing popularity of Mango wood furniture in Hilo, this idea of staining Mango wood may seem like blasphemy to some. But I think it could be a good option if you ever wanted to revitalize and reuse a “well-loved” piece of furniture instead of getting another piece to replace it.
How Do You Stain Wooden Furniture?
In my case, I used the following steps to stain my old Mango wood chair.
Lightly sand the mango wood.
Sanding the surfaces accomplishes a few things. Lightly sanding smooths over any imperfections, removes any old finish, prepares the wood to accept the stain, and helps to mitigate uneven looking results.
Luckily, this was not the case for me because my old chair didn’t really have a finish, but if you need to strip the old varnish, finish, or paint off please remember to wear proper protection. And just a note on using chemicals to remove old finishes, I find them messy, but they definitely have a use for areas that are intricately carved or where sanding could damage the furniture.
I also thought this part was worth expanding upon, but another reason why you should sand the wood before you stain it is that sanding will “open” the pores of the wood and this helps the stain to penetrate easily and evenly. Aside from this action, sanding will also leave tiny scratches on the surface, and this will help non-penetrating finishes and stains to bond with the wood.
Now what kind of sandpaper should you use when you’re sanding? This choice depends on what color you want to achieve. When you use fine sandpaper, you will get a lighter color than when you use a coarse one.
Remember, however, that using a coarser grit will result in a stained finish that might look less “refined.” So if you are looking for that smooth refined look, progressing from a coarse to a finer grit of sandpaper should get you there. Typically, you will perform three rounds of sanding, starting from a coarse grit sandpaper, to a medium grit, and then graduating to a fine-grit sandpaper.
Common Sandpaper Grit Sizes
- 40 to 80 Grit Sandpaper. Coarse-grit sandpaper is made to remove wood material very quickly and is ideal for rough sanding jobs. Use this if your surface has a very rough texture, perhaps with many splinters raised.
- 100 to 150 Grit Sandpaper: Medium-grit sandpaper might be a good starting point for most wood projects. You can use this when you’re working with new wood or removing varnish from an old piece of furniture. This is what I started with for my old Mango wood chair.
- 180 to 220 Grit Sandpaper: Finer grit sandpaper is what you use to remove the scratches left behind from the previous rounds of sanding.
Wipe the newly-sanded mango wood with a tack cloth.
Sanding will leave behind fine sawdust on the wood. So a clean tack cloth, or shop towel in my case, is helpful if you want the staining or finishing to look perfect.
Like me, some people might use cotton rags or shop vacuum, but probably the most effective way to get the dust off the wooded surface is a tack cloth. If you’ve never used a tack cloth before, it is basically a cheesecloth treated with beeswax. Even the finest particles of dust will cling to the beeswax, actually removing it from the surface instead of pushing the dust around.
Apply the stain.
After you’ve sanded and cleaned the wood, it’s time to apply the stain. You will need an applicator, which can be a foam brush, bristle brush, or cloth. Please be sure to wear gloves for this process. And find a well ventilated area that you can protect with a drop cloth in case of spill or drips.
Apply the wood stain evenly on wood and wait for it to seep into the surface. Once you see the stain work its way down into the wood’s pores, wipe it down with a rag to remove any stain that is not absorbed. For an even finish, it is important to wipe away any “puddles” of stain on the surface and allow for the recommended drying time written on the can or container.
What Type of Stain Should You Use for Mango Wood?
The most common type of wood stain are oil-based. Oil stain contains a liquid solvent, a binder, and the coloring agent. When you use oil stains, you should be careful to apply only one coat, or the binder will be laid on too thick, and this could result in a finish that looks like it has been varnished.
Water-based stains are the other type. These stains dry significantly faster than oil-based stains. Some water-based stains do not use a binder. If this is the case, you can apply it in multiple coats if you want a darker shade. I like water-based stains and ended up applying two coats on my mango chair to get the look that I wanted. In my opinion, water-based stains also leave a “softer” hue on wood.
But one disadvantage of using water-based stains is that it tends to raise the grain of mango wood. This is what happened to me, so it just means that you might need to sand the surface again with a fine grit sandpaper once the water-based stain dries.
There are also gel versions of stain available that work well if you’re staining a wall or perhaps a wooden sign that is secured in a vertical position.
The Differences Between a Stain and a Finish
While some people might confuse a stain and a finish, there is a simple way to distinguish between the two. A finish is applied to coat and protect the wooden surface from damage and wear. Finishes will also give the wood a sheen, such as a matte, satin, or gloss finish.
A stain, on the other hand, changes the color of the wood using pigments or dyes. A wood stain can lighten or darken the natural tones of the wood, as well as highlight the grain.
So if you already like the color of your wood, there will be no need to use a wood stain on it. And after you stain your wood, it’s good to apply a finish coat to help protect the wood.
Some Materials That You Need to Stain Mango Wood
The simple materials that you’re going to need before you start your project includes an assortment of sandpaper. Fortunately, there are already pre-packaged sets with assorted grits of sandpaper that you can buy.
You might also need tack cloth and they usually come in a box of 12. Look for the individually wrapped tack cloths to ensure effectiveness in removing surface particles.
Then you need the wood stain itself. You can find oil-based stains in a variety of colors. But if you prefer a quick drying wood stain, you can choose a water-based stain instead. Or for vertical surfaces, you can choose a gel based stain.
There are also convenient staining kits with everything you need to do a proper staining job.
Lastly, while finishing is not part of the staining process, it is recommended that you apply a wood finish to help protect the wood.
Some Handy Tips While You’re Staining Wood
If you want to enhance the natural grain of the wood, then you can leave the stain on the wood for a longer time before wiping it off. Just be prepared for darker and deeper colors.
Mango is a hardwood, so there is little need to use a pre-stain conditioner on it. However, if your stain looks blotchy or with areas that are lighter or darker than the rest, than it might be worth to experiment with a pre-stain conditioner to help you achieve a more uniform result.
Getting the Color You Want
The resulting color will depend largely on the color of the stain and how long you leave the stain on the wood. So it is a good idea to experiment, by first staining an unseen area to see what the stain will look like on the wood.
For instance, if you are staining a mango wood table, you can first stain the underside to see if it produces the color that you have in mind. Remember, if the resulting color is too light, you can always apply another coat to make it look darker.
For some products, you can mix two or more wood stains to get the exact color that you want. However, if you are going to create your custom stain color, be sure to mix products from the same manufacturer as some of the ingredients used by different companies might not mix well.
Other Tips for That Perfect Staining Job
What can you do to ensure a great looking wood furniture stain? Here are some tips:
- Be sure to shake the can of wood stain before opening it. The different components in the wood stain will separate when it’s in storage or not in use. Shaking the can and then stirring the contents after opening it will redistribute the coloring agent that might have settled to the bottom and help ensure that you get the color that you want.
- When working with a finished wood surface, always sand the wood first. This is because the existing finishing will only block the stain from getting into the wood’s pores. When you wipe the stain off with a rag, all of the stain will come off.
- Generally, you should apply the stain in the same direction as the grain.
- Don’t scrimp on the stain. It is okay to apply a liberal amount of wood stain on the wood. This will ensure that the wood will have a sufficient amount of stain to absorb. Just remember to wipe any excess stain off the wood.
- Take note of the time. The longer you leave the stain on wood, the richer and deeper the color. If you are working with a large piece of wood and want to have an even color throughout, then be careful with your timing. And again, wipe off any excess stain before it dries on the wood.
- When wiping off the excess stain, wipe in the direction of the grain. Don’t wipe the unabsorbed stain in a circular manner as it could leave swirl marks on the wood.
- Be sure to wear gloves. Wood stain will color your hands and can be difficult to remove. Keep your hands clean by wearing gloves.
- Apply your wood finish only after the stain has dried completely. If you put on your wood finish before the stain dries, the solvent in the wood finish could react with the stain.
- Remove any handles, knobs, hinges, or pulls before you stain. If you’re working with a piece of wood that has metal hardware on it, be sure to remove all of these as the stain will also change their color.
- And one more time, wipe unabsorbed stain completely. You may think that leaving the unabsorbed stain on the wood will help get a darker shade. But usually the excess stain will only peel off later because the wood stain is designed to seep into the pores of the wood and not stay on the wood itself.
Why Do I Like Mango Wood?
Mango wood is gaining in popularity. I think mango wood has several characteristics that make it ideal for a wide variety of applications such as making furniture, musical instruments, plywood, flooring, or turned objects, among other things.
While some consider Mango to be a moderate-quality wood, it’s hard and durable enough to last for a very long time. Mango is also sustainable. Mango trees are not part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
The fruit is also delicious and currently in demand. The National Mango Board reports that per capita consumption of mango in the United States grew by 82 percent from 2005 through 2017.
With the increased demand for its fruit, we can expect growers to plant more Mango trees. What’s more, those Mango trees can later become a source of timber after the trees stop bearing fruits.
Mango trees grow so fast that they start to bear fruit in three to eight years, and it’s possible to harvest the timber within seven to fifteen years after planting. In contrast, mahogany trees need twenty-five years to fully mature.
What’s more, Mango wood does not need prolonged drying and processing.
But More Importantly, Mango Wood Looks Good
Mango wood is naturally beautiful. If you have not seen Mango wood furniture in real life, you should check out the retailers that sell them. Some of the striking things that you’d notice about Mango are the wood grain, the diverse patterns, and even the variety of colors, including green, pink, and brown. Sometimes Mango wood can even look like teak.
Mango wood is also easy to cut and shape. Very few wooden materials have the sturdiness and flexibility of Mango, which makes it perfect for CNC machine carving projects and even woodturning.
Why You Should Consider Staining Mango Wood
Mango wood is inherently beautiful. However, there are times when staining is an option. For example, as in my case, if you have other pieces of furniture to match with your Mango wood furniture.
What’s more, if your mango wood has contrasting lighter and darker areas, staining could help to bring these two opposites together, making the two colors blend better.
For older Mango wood furniture, like my Mango chair, using a stain can bring a new life and look to it. And if you are using different types of woods in combination with Mango wood, staining the woods could help disguise those differences so that it all appears to be the same. Conversely, staining different types of wood can also alter the contrasting features of the wood, such as making a naturally light brown piece of Mango wood appear more classic with a darker shade.
Go Ahead, Stain That Mango Wood
I hope you found this read helpful and saw that staining wood is easy. If you’re working with new wood, just sand it, wipe and clean it, and then apply your stain. If you are working with a finished piece of furniture or if you’re planning to give new life to an old Mango wood chair like I did, you may need to strip off the finish and then sand it, before applying the stain. Then it is a good idea to top off with a coat of finish to make sure your wood is protected.
Now, if you ever feel like you need professional assistance to refinish your furniture, please give us a call in Hilo, (808) 959-4060.
Please see our one of kind furniture collection and evolving list of services at www.rkwoodshawaii.com.