Quick Friday tutorial: how to stain a frame properly

Written by chris pink on August 29, 2014 in Picture Framing

Stain is a wonderful thing. It’s readily available in hardware shops, it comes in numerous different colours, and the spirit-based stuff dries incredibly fast. You can also polish it with wax to give it a smooth, shiny appearance.

Why, then, do beginners find staining so hard to get exactly right?

Staining mistakes

Stain works on nearly all woods and the beauty of it is the deep tone it can give. The only problem, however, is that it’s easy to make a mess of. Brush stain on in the wrong way and it’ll appear inconsistent and stripey. While you can cover stain and even it out with wax, it’s advisable to get it right at the first application.

How to get staining right in 3 simple steps

Step 1: use an appropriate brush

Staining a narrow frame that has detail and depth to its moulding? Then use a brush which is as wide as the frame and versatile enough to get in those gaps. Staining a wide, flat frame? Then use a wide, smooth brush that will apply an even layer of stain in one go.

Step 2: speed and accuracy are your friends

Staining isn’t easy to get perfect, so you’ll get the best results by practising on off-cuts first. When it comes to the real thing, you’ll need to work fast. The best technique is to do long brush strokes the length of the frame, then start on the next line before the previous one has finished drying. This will enable the two to merge together, minimising any brush strokes or striking differences in colour.

Step 3: don’t be tempted to go over old ground

See a bit you didn’t quite get right? You really are better off leaving it to dry first. If you have to, come back to it afterwards.

Be aware that while you are applying the stain, it may not look quite right. However, most of the time the end finish is much better than expected – especially some time after all the stain has dried and evened-out.

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