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Various Types of Stains

For some, stains are simply different colorants that are applied to wood to change its color. There is more to wood stains than different "colorants". In this blog you will read about three different wood stains; oil stain, varnish stain, and water-based stain.

Oil Stain

Oil stain is the most common and available type of stain used. This mostly has to do with the fact that oil stain is the easiest to use because of linseed oil. It is as well the easiest to work with in the case of small mistakes. For most companies oil stains are listed as "petroleum distillate".

Oil stains may contain one of the following three; pigment, pigment and dye, or just dye. No matter which is used won't make a difference in the way the wood finish looks. You may use this kind of stain in any finish except under a water base. Before the application of the finish coat of stain allow an overnights time for drying.

Varnish Oil

Varnish is very similar to that of oil stain, but differs in the way that varnish oil only has varnish as the binder. This makes varnish dry differently than oil stains. Because of this, varnish stain is harder to work with than oil stains due to the shorter time span that one has to work with if excess oil has to be wiped off.

You may brush varnish stain on wood, but if excess oil is left while drying out brush marks may be seen. This type of stain may be used to use as a coat on top of an already finished surface or for wiping off excess in small areas.


Water-based stains are the more eco-friendly stains to use as water is the binder used for this type of stain. This wood finish is less irritating to be nearby and easier to clean up in comparison to oil and varnish stains.

This stain finish doesn't do well over oil or varnish stains, unless given a thorough time to dry. Best finishes are guaranteed if used over water-based stains only. Using this stain is the hardest of the three as water stains raise the grain of wood and are the quickest to dry, thus giving you very little time to correct errors. To avoid issues with the raised grain it is best to raise and sand the grain on the wood before applying the stain.

The little time window for drying can be made a tad bigger if certain solvents are mixed, but doing that may play with the finish and it may not be as expected. The best way to make best use of the little time that water stains provide is to complete a project in small areas or to complete the job as a two person job with one applying and the other following.

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