Checked and updated on March 10, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
Staining is a good way to add appearance and sometimes an extra layer of protection to the wood. With woodworking being both a craft and a career, the practice of staining becomes all the more relevant as it can really help add life and luster to your projects.
While you often stain after sanding in most cases, you can also do the opposite, especially when you’re recycling or repurposing old projects. In this guide, we’ll share with you instances where it’s okay to sand after staining.
Just make sure you use the right type; more on this below.
Should I sand after I stain wood?
Sanding is usually done before staining so as to prepare the surface for finishing. Sanding removes excess fibers and makes the surface smooth and even, allowing the stain to effectively take hold, bond, and spread.
It’s important to know when to do what. Like if/ when to sand cabinets after staining or if you should stain furniture after sanding.
Though it’s not really advisable to re-sand a piece after staining it, you may want to lightly do so in order to remove fibres that have curved upwards due to the wood getting wet by stain. You don’t want to get stuck on how to fix rough sanding after staining, right? Other than wanting a smooth surface, you mainly want to avoid sanding after staining.
When to sand after you stain wood?
Most woodwork projects, in general, don’t need sanding after applying each coat of stain. What you want to do is avoid faint sanding scratches seen in the wood after staining. There is a high chance that you’ll end up with either stain chipping or blotching, which can further result in wood damage.
For projects like furniture making, wood crafts, and outdoor landscaping, you don’t need to sand after staining; so let’s look at instances where it’s okay to do so.
Type of sandpaper to use in different finishes
Sandpapers usually come in various degrees of abrasiveness, mainly coarse, medium, and fine. Each type of sandpaper polishes wood differently and can greatly affect the effectiveness of stain to latch onto your piece.
Coarse (below 100 grit). Good for removing old layers of wood either for recycling or refinishing. Use this mainly to remove blemishes and old stains.
Medium (100 – 120 grit). The general, all-purpose sandpaper grade for removing scratches, dents, splinter-causing edges. Medium sandpaper is ideal for 1st sanding.
Fine (220+ grit). Often used for finishing and 2nd sanding. Any coarseness and irregularities left behind my medium sandpaper are removed by this, making it ideal for pre-stain.
Types of finishes on wood
Considerations to take before you stain on wood
What tools help with the job?
By applying a stain, you can enlist the aid of certain tools to help it stick better and dry quicker. 1st with the pre-stain phase, you get a lot out of using power sanders; mainly either a finishing sander, or an orbital sanding tool – both if you’re really particular about detail.
Mostly though you should use a finishing sander for this project. It works both as a power spot removal tool and a surface cleaner.
A finishing sander will get you that ultra-fine and smooth finish which helps the stain to stick, while an orbital sander will let you do detail-work to even out trims and tight areas of intricate pieces. Both work better with the grain as opposed to sanding by hand.
When drying, you can leave your project somewhere outside, under partial and covered shade. If you prefer to work indoors, you can make use of a fan to speed up drying and blow away odorous fumes, especially if using oil-based stains.
Just take care not to place the fan too close as it may forcibly blow the stain into different directions, making for an unequal and unsightly finish.
Did you know that there are 15 different types of sanders for different jobs?
How long does it take for the stain to dry?
That depends on proper conditions and what type of stain is used. Generally, oil-based stains dry slower and take between 3-5 days to completely dry. Water-based stains usually dry in only about 2 days. Both stains require 24-hr curing before pieces can either be touched or used.
Otherwise, stains used outdoors applied in direct sunlight, on a porous wood can mostly dry in only half an hour.
Can you overstain?
Yes. If you apply too much wood-stain, it can build-up and the added thickness can make your finish look tacky and messy.
How to clean wood after sanding?
Sanding will leave behind a lot of dust. You can either blow on your piece or use a vacuum to clear it of debris to help out the staining process. If you are still not convinced, you can also make use of a damp cloth and wipe-down your piece from top to bottom to ensure that all dust has been removed.
How to fix scratches from sanding?
Sand it again and go with the direction of the grain. If removing scratches from a previous sanding, use finer sandpaper or an automated sander.
Fine grit wet and dry sandpaper should be used to leave the smoothest possible finish.
While staining sounds simple enough, the bulk of the work of the process lies in the pre-stain stage, where you must ensure that your piece is primed and ready for a coated finish.
It’s important that your piece is optimized for the stain to adhere, set, and spread out evenly and well; while fine-grit sandpaper does this well enough, nothing beats a finishing sander when it comes to getting pristine smoothness and evenness quicker- it is no doubt the best tool to use for pre-stain.
If you need to sand between coats use fine grit wet and dry sandpaper that leaves behind the smoothest possible finish.-
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