Right Preparation of Wood for Interior Stain and Varnish

You might be thinking about giving a wooden surface some oomph by adding a stain of your choice and also adding varnish elements to just make the whole thing two times better.

And if that’s what you are aiming for, one thing you should know, is the key to achieving that really professional like after result. Preparation! Yes, you read it right.

The pro like outlook often comes from this entire session where you put your effort before the actual staining and varnishing process. Today, let’s talk wholly about preparing wood for interior stain and varnish.

preparing wood for interior stain and varnish

Preparing Wood for Interior Stain and Varnish

Get all the tools, set up the workstation, and fill the cracks in the wood material. After that, sand down the wood to level the surface and then clean the surface.  

To begin with, preparing wood for varnish and stain is not simple unless you know the procedure from a professional perspective. It will need a good amount of time and energy, rushing the steps would result in nothing but an incomplete result. So first and foremost, aim to have patience! 

The wood surface preparation before applying stain and varnish will need 2 to 3 hours on average.

Wait, I want to confirm one thing which you might need to continue the steps and it is the gears. If you haven’t purchased them or don’t own at home, try to spend some time on picking quality items that are made for this task specifically. Good Luck! 

My Recommendation:

  • Being one of the best finish for wood, the Howard RF5016 is a handpicked item. It takes care of scratches, fades color, blemishes at ease. Plus, this is safe on wood material
  • The next item which is almost a must for staining and varnishing is the Black+Decker Mouse BDEMS600. It is a sander that has great grip, power, and comfort to use for such tasks.

Step 1 – Gather Tools & Materials. 

A woodworker would need supplies for wood preparation. Here are some tools as well as materials which you must necessitate. 

  • Get the best sander for removing paint from wood. And, ensure to purchase 100-grit, 120-grit, 150-grit, 220-grit, and 280-grit sandpapers or pads.  
  • Grab 2 bristle brushes in a 2.5-inch size. Avoid choosing cheap ones. 
  • Get a good-quality filler and scraper to patch up dimples. 
  • Buy cotton rags instead of using bed sheets or cloths to absorb any stain. 
  • As you’re going to apply solvents and solutions on wood, leaving hands bare is actually a silly mistake. So, pick a quality glove set. 
  • Before sanding the wood material, you’ll need to use a good solvent like these. Get 1 gallon of methylated or mineral spirits. 
  • Purchase a sealer to apply after the rough application of the sander.  
  • Buy tack cloth set to use when cleaning the surface. 

Step 2 – Organize the Workspace.  

Working quietly in an organized place will be a great help. Having supplies and a clean zone will let you work well without making a mistake.

Get up and add good lighting to your workstation so that you can see when preparing the wood. A bright light in the room will be good for the task.

Next, focus on the ventilation setup. For that, you must open all the windows and doors (if necessary) to maintain the aeration system.

After that, your workplace should be dry and warm. Meaning the place shouldn’t feel cold or dampening. This is to maintain a certain humidity to allow the material work with its best potential.

And, that should be it.

Step 3 – Patch Up Cracks & Holes on Wood.

Seeing wood filled with cracks and holes might cause the worst visual appearance. And when you’ll start sanding in the cracked wood surface, it would cause dimples and bad finishes, which definitely is not recommended. 

So, I would suggest using the best stainable wood filler like Elmer’s E914. It covers up holes, gouges, shrinks, and other cracks. And its formulation is unique which goes from purple to medium brown shade.  

To apply the filler, apply one spook of it on holes and with the scraper, carefully level the surface. Then, wait for it to dry out. Wipe access using a cotton rag. 

Pro Tip: It would be great if you sand the surface for once using a 100-grit or 120-grit sander.

Step 4 – Sanding the Wood.

To sand, the wood can be different based on the material type. On old or new wood materials, you might need to use correct sanding procedures.

  • Wear gloves to cover your hand.
  • Take a clean rag and apply mineral or methylated spirits. Be sure to use it everywhere.
  • Use 100-grit coarse sanding pad on wood to level the surface. Then, rub 120-grit to 150-grit pad on the sander to get rid of scuffs and finish wood material. After that, 220-grit sander to fining the surface. Lastly, sand down with a 280-grit sander for ultra-fining.
  • Wipe down the material using brushes.
  • Apply the sealer to smoothen the wood material. How to seal wood before varnishing? With a brush, apply the sealer like a primer. Wait for some hours and lightly sand using a 220-grit sander. 

Pro Tips:

1. Don’t use steel wool.

2. Avoid wrapping the strip sandpaper.

3. If the material is big and thick, then use the power sander. Otherwise, an ordinary sander would work finely.

4. Use a sock to test if the surface is level or not. If the sock land smoothly, then it’s good.

Step 4 – Clean the Wood.

Now, it’s time to wipe out the wood. To start the stain and varnish, you have to ensure a smooth finish on the surface with no dust.  

So, how to clean wood after sanding before staining or varnishing? And, what to use to clean wood before staining

You’ll need a vacuum or mop to take care of the wood dust. Just use these like you normally do and ensure no dust on the material. 

Just be sure not to sweep as it will lead to more debris. Plus, you can use damp-mop or tack cloths for extra cleansing with a smooth finish. 

Then, use a quality paint thinner to get rid of oil, grease, or wax from the surface. And, that’s how to clean bare wood before varnishing

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need to prime wood before varnishing?

One coating of primer will be decent on wood before varnishing. However, just be sure no grease, oil, dust, wax, stain, grime, or anything sticky is not attached to the surface. These things will ruin the texture of wood to varnish smoothly. 

2. Do you wet wood before staining?

To add pigmentation in the wood material, you can use water or other solutions before staining. It might give extra darkness that the original shade and need more time on wood to dry out. And, never attempt sanding when staining over the material. 

Wrapping Up

Looks like you now know quite a lot about preparing wood for interior stain and varnish. It’s safe to say that your efforts will have a much better results once you apply all the things we discussed today.

I hope you will be able to get some great outcome on the whole.

And on that well wishing note, I’ll be leaving for today. See You Soon on A Similar Piece!

About Sam Maxi

Hi, this is Sam Maxi. I love talking about woodwork tools and my reviews are mostly based on the experience I have from my work. Apart from reviewing, I am a huge fan of surfing. Also, I love watching horror genre movies.

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