How to Stain Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir is a fantastic wood for many different purposes. However, it can sometimes be a bit of a pain to stain. I assure you that it is possible to get a rich, strong color out of Douglas Fir. Follow along with the steps below and you'll have beautifully colored wood in no time!

1) Choose a Color

You may think that this step is frivolous, but it is actually extremely important. Stains will affect the wood's color for a long time, so it's important to pick something you like. You'll need to test multiple different kinds of the same color to make sure you can find one that you like.

Scope out several options for that color that are within your budget and don't worry about anything more expensive.

2) Test a Few Different Stains

Douglas Fir can be a bit finicky when it comes to staining, so before you commit to anything you need to test your stain on a piece of scrap wood to make sure it looks good. It may take you a few different iterations to get something satisfactory, but trust me it will be worth it. Sometimes you'll need to apply a few coats as well in order to get the correct color.

Before you choose your stain, you should keep in mind that gel stains work far better than any other kind with the Douglas Fir, which is definitely something you'll want to keep in mind when shopping.

3) Sand the Surface

Now that you know what you're going to be using for your stain, it's time for you to sand the surface of your piece just a little bit.

Douglas Fir doesn't require very heavy sanding at all, so I would recommend that you not go above 100 grit for this part. Any higher than that will actually close the pores in the wood, making it significantly harder for the stain to set properly.

Lighter sandpaper will do the opposite of that, opening up the wood to let in whatever stain you add to it. Sand with the grain until you start getting a light but gritty sawdust. Then take a soft washcloth to get the sawdust off. Like with painting, you'll need to be quite thorough in order to make sure that the end product looks good.

4) Apply the Stain

Different stains need to be applied slightly differently, but I'm going to focus on gel stains in particular as they work the best with Douglas Fir.

Before doing anything else, put down a tarp or some newspaper to protect the place that you're working in. You'll also want to make sure that your workspace is in a well-ventilated area (preferably outside) as the fumes from the stain and the finisher you'll be using later can cause dizziness.

Gel stains are fairly simple to apply, and unlike other kinds of stains, they can be applied with a brush. Your first coat will need to be fairly thick to soak in properly. Don't bother wiping it away! At this point, the goal is just to cover the entire piece in stain so that the wood can start absorbing the color.

Once the main body of the work is done, move on to any drawers or knobs that might be included in it.

5) Remove Excess

Go over the entire piece with a clean rag and remove any excess gel. This will help you to get a really even stain since having a lot of excess can definitely worsen the natural splotchy pattern of Douglas Fir.

You can do this step right away once you've got the first coat over the entire thing. Future coats will be much thinner than this one, so don't worry too much about whether this coat is too thick. As long as there aren't a bunch of big gross blobs, you'll be fine to work with it later.

6) Wait For the Stain to Cure

Once the first coat has been applied, the stain needs some time for the necessary chemical processes to take place before you can put on the next coat. As long as it's dry where you are, you should only need to wait for about 24 hours before it's time for the next round.

7) Keep Applying More Coats

When the first 24 hours are up, you can start adding the next coat of stain. There are two main purposes for these extra coats. The first one is to make sure that the end result doesn't look streaky or blotchy. The second is to ensure that the color you have is dark enough for your taste.

These coats need not be particularly thick. In fact, optimally they would be relatively thin to prevent streaking. In a lot of ways, gel stain is a little closer to paint than other kinds of stains.

You'll probably need two or three additional coats after the first one. Between each coat, you'll need to wait about 24 hours for the stain to cure just like you did for the first one.

8) Apply the Finisher

When it comes to Douglas Fir, you have a couple of different potential choices when it comes to finishers. The best is probably polyurethane, but most finishers are applied in mostly the same way.

Unlike with the gel stain, you'll want to add only a very thin layer of polyurethane using a natural bristle or foam brush. Work with the grain of the wood and not against it, all the while watching for air bubbles. Whenever you see bubbles, you'll want to smooth them out.

You'll probably need to apply more than one coat of this as well, waiting 24 hours between each coat. Like with any other finisher, you'll need to sand it in between coats as well to ensure that no flaws can accumulate over the course of the project. Use relatively light sandpaper to avoid burning the wood underneath.

Once you have a satisfactory number of coats, polish the surface of the finisher until it's clear enough to see through to the stained wood. When the polishing is done, your project is officially finished!

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