How to Use a Pre-Stain Sealer and Water-Based Stain

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

Now here's the equation: kids plus toys plus play, well, [LAUGHS] can equal quite a mess. But, you know, one of the keys to teaching kids to pick up after themselves is to give them convenient storage space. And what could be better than to have that storage space also double as seating. I think I've got an idea.

And here it is — a combination toy chest and child's bench that's already built but unfinished. The wood here is pine solids and veneers and there are plenty of knots visible. My first step will be to apply a water-based pre-stained sealer.

Now, there are at least three reasons for doing this. First, being a soft wood, pine has a tendency to blotch when stains are applied. The pre-stain will partially seal the wood allowing it to soak up color more evenly. Second, the pre-stain will keep the knots from bleeding through the finish. And third, since I'm going to be using all water-based products on this project, it will help reduce the grain-raising associated with water-based materials.

I let the pre-stain soak in for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess. For this project, I like to fold a quarter sheet of sandpaper into thirds. Then apply steady pressure as I move back and forth, always in the direction of the grain.

Sanding across the grain would produce unsightly scratch marks as soon as the stain was applied. With the prep work finished, it's time to take down one of the roman shades from my son's room and head off to the home improvement center.

I brought the shade because I've decided to use something other than a wood color for the toy box. I want to match one of the blues in the fabric. I can select from any one of 64 custom colors that can be added to this decorator tint base.

The tinting process is computerized, which means if I need to come back for more of the same color, I can get an exact match. Even though the stain was shaken at the paint counter, I always stir it again to make sure none of the pigment has settled to the bottom.

Next, I pour the stain into a shallow container. Now most stains can be applied with a brush, cloth or, as I'm doing today, a staining pad. First, I saturate the pad, then begin wiping on the color using overlapping strokes and moving in the direction of the grain whenever possible.

Stains need to be given time to soak into the surface, usually a few minutes. Then any excess should be wiped off. Heavier pressure removes more stain; a lighter touch will leave added color on the surface.

Usually it's best to again, move in the direction of the grain. One of the nice features of water-based stains like these is that colors can be made deeper or more intense with additional coats. In this case, I'm going to apply three coats, giving each one plenty of time to dry before putting on the next.

What I like about this finishing technique is that I can match the color of the furniture, the fabrics or walls, while at the same time, allow the wood grain and texture to show through. The resulting surface has depth and character.

On vertical surfaces, I usually start at the top and work downward, catching any drips as I go. A staining pad is especially useful on spindles and turnings. Wrapping it like this allows me to apply the color in one motion.

The stain is dry, so now it's time to put on a top coat and I'm gonna use this material right here. This is a water-based top coat, and even though it's milky in the can, it will dry clear. With almost any top coat, I like to pour the liquid into a clean one quart container, filling it no more than halfway.

I unload the brush with a back and forth motion to distribute the material, then finish off with long straight strokes in one direction, a technique painters sometimes call striking off. The purpose of a top coat is to seal and protect the stain underneath providing a surface that can withstand wear and abrasion.

Notice that rather than dragging the brush across the rim of the container, I'm pressing it gently on the sides. This removes excess material and helps avoid drips, but still leaves plenty of finish in the bristles so that it flows evenly.

Well, I've got the storage and a nice piece of kid's furniture to boot. The only question now is, can I get my son Max to use it?