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How To Stain Trim

Tools: Sawhorses, sandpaper: medium (100) and fine grade (220), paintbrush or paint sponge, drop cloths, rags, latex gloves.

Materials: Stain, latex or oil base polyurethane.

Tip: Oil based polyurethane tends to yellow more with age than latex, and brushes must be cleaned with paint thinner. Latex can be cleaned with soap and water. Latex polyurethane is just as durable as the oil based. Oil based polyurethane may be more resistant to water.
Before you begin, try out your stain on a sample piece of wood to make sure it is exactly what you want. The polyurethane will deepen the color of the stain.
The main steps are sanding, staining, and a finishing coat of polyurethane.

1. The first step is to sand out any roughness or irregularities. Set up your sawhorses and lay several pieces of trim out. Using your medium grade sandpaper, sand over each piece till it is smooth. This step is to get the large snags and irregularities out. Wipe with a dry cloth. Do all the pieces you have, one at a time.

2. Using the fine grade sandpaper, gently sand over each piece until perfectly smooth. Again use a dry cloth to remove all dust. I sometimes use a paper towel I have SLIGHTLY dampened with water to make sure I get it all, but if you do this, you must wait until the wood is completely dry to apply the stain.

3. Stain can be applied two ways. You can use a brush and wipe off the surface stain immediately with a clean cloth, or you can just dab the cloth right into the stain and apply directly to the wood. You will want to wear gloves to do this. Try both ways to see which one you prefer. Be sure to get into every crack. The stain should be allowed to dry 24 hours.

4. Gently sand the stained wood with 220 grade sandpaper. This is to help the polyurethane stick and provide a smooth finished surface. Do not sand hard enough to remove the color of the stain. Do not skip this step if you want your woodwork to be nice and smooth.

5. Apply the polyurethane. You can use either a paint brush or a paint sponge for this. I have tried both and I prefer the sponge because it seems to coat more evenly than the brush, although the brush will leave less air bubbles. You want to apply a thin coat and let it dry thoroughly.

6. Gently sand again and re-coat with the polyurethane. I recommend three coats of polyurethane with a gently sanding in between each coat. The sanding in between is extremely important for a smooth finish. Allow the trim to dry 48 hours before putting it on the wall.


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