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Minwax® Wood Finish™ in Cherry and Puritan Pine colours were used to create the unique “striped” look.
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This contemporary design was created with three Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain colours: English Oak, Winter Moss and Sangria.

Designing with stain is easier than it looks

We all know that stain changes the colour of wood while also enhancing its grain. But there’s another way to work with stains that can change the very style of a piece of furniture.

Using multiple stains to create a design is a craft that goes back a long way. Initially the technique was used to mimic the look of inlaid wood, but today it’s a craft all its own, and one that anyone can master.

First comes the idea – your idea. The tables shown here are just one place where a pattern of multiple stains works well. You could also apply it to chair seats or backs, cabinet doors and drawer fronts, floors, wall and ceiling paneling, and on any unfinished surface that could use some added decoration.

The tables in this project are all identical and made of cherry, and they came from an unfinished furniture store.

The striped table (top left) used two stains – Minwax® Wood Finish™ Cherry and Puritan Pine – to add richness to the wood’s reddish-brown colour. Then came the protective finish: Minwax® Clear Brushing Lacquer in a semi-gloss sheen.

For the second and more challenging stain design, three stains were applied after the cherry was treated with Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain Wood Conditioner: Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain Sangria, Winter Moss, and English Oak. The project was completed with two coats of Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish Semi-Gloss.

So, how do you get from the twinkling of an idea to stain on wood? Once you’ve developed the design you want, pencil it onto the surface you’ll be staining. (Straight lines are somewhat easier than curved for this kind of work.) Next, score the lines with a very sharp or razor-type knife, using a metal straightedge as a guide. The scoring keeps the stain from migrating to areas designated for other colours. When it comes to staining, apply it carefully, keeping your brush only lightly loaded with stain. It’s always best to do the lighter colours first and the darker ones last. Is a little practice in order? Absolutely.

Do some tests on scrap wood. Get a feel for this technique and there’ll be no stopping you.

Project Pointers

After drawing your design on the wood, but before scoring, apply clear packing tape over all the lines of your design. Then proceed with the scoring. Along the cut line, the knife-edge will create a tight seal between the tape and the wood. When it’s time to apply one of the stain colours, pull up the tape only in those areas where that colour is being applied.