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Stain Guide for Woodworking: Which stain is best for my project?

Organic finish or Polyurethane finish?

We will break down these two methods so you will know exactly what kind of finish to go with on your next project. Maybe your old projects need some love and deserve touch-ups too. Let's get into it!

Polyurethane - Layered Style

You can use this method for two types of polyurethane; water-based polyurethane which has no colour and oil-based polyurethane which will look more amber.

When working with poly, you will want to start with a clean workspace followed by good ventilation. We highly recommend using a ventilator if you do not have a well-ventilated work area.

Step #1 - Sand & Strip

Make sure your project is sanded and ready for paint thinner or mineral spirits. When you use mineral spirits after cleanup, you will notice that nothing has been missed. Be it dust or visible scratches. Poly is best applied when all other surface stains or varnishes are out of the question, and you are applying it directly to the wood.

Step #2 - Clean Surfaces

Remove all the dust from the project by using a clean, soft rag or a soft bristle vacuum. Now apply your mineral spirits to tie up the cleaning process.

Step #3 - Apply Thin Layers

Use your brush to apply long even strokes and apply a thin layer with each stroke. It is better to apply multiple thin coats to avoid dripping and avoid any unwanted mess. If you have hard-to-reach spots, you can also purchase a polyurethane aerosol can. Err on the side of caution and use short bursts so you do not have drip lines.

Step #4 - Now Sand it Again!

You are going to want to sand areas gently and rough up the applied poly. Just sand enough to clean up lines or grooves. Use 220-grit sandpaper to get rid of any lines, drips, or bubbles, then clean off your workstation, rinse and repeat for a couple more coats

Long Lasting Finish

The longevity of polyurethane can last between 10 - 20+ years and makes for a gorgeous finish. Once it wears out, you will need to re-sand your entire project and re-apply.

Odie's Oil - Tung Style or Organic Style

Working with a natural finish can bring peace of mind just knowing that you are not working with something toxic. It can make you feel more connected to the project just feeling you are applying something organic to something… well organic.

Most commercial finishes are 90% thinner and 10% product. James (the owner of Odie’s Oil) product is 99% product and just enough thinner to make it possible to apply. It is a serious force to be reckoned with in the woodworking field.

Step #1 - Sand & Clean

The first step you should take on is sanding your project with 120-grit to get rid of scratches or imperfections. After your project is smoother than Howie Mandel’s head, you are going to want it to be as clean if not cleaner too. Using a soft rag (damp or dry), to remove all the dust and junk off the surfaces that will be stained.

Step #2 - Apply

Once all is clean and the workstation is set up for the job, grab an application pad and simply apply Odie’s Oil onto the rag, then the project. You do not need a lot for Odie’s to work, a little will go a long way.

Step #3 - Wait & See

Now, wait 45 minutes to 2 hours for the oil to work itself into the wood. Organic oils need more time to work their magic and the results are always worthwhile. After the time has passed, use a dry soft rag to wipe away excess oil so the wood feels nearly dry to the touch. That’s it!

Step #4 - Re-Apply

Depending on the colour and the protection for the project, you can apply another few coats. Patience is key when working with Odie’s Oil. If you want to have an impenetrable finish, wait a week before applying your next coat and it will last up to 5 - 15+ years.

For more details about Odie's products, check out their website and YouTube channel. If you are a beginner, we highly recommend you perform tests using scrap wood before applying it to your final project.

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