How to Choose the Best Wood Stain

Choosing the right wood stain can be a daunting task, especially with so many different wood stains on the market today. Choosing the best wood stain for your project will have a lot to do with the type of wood you are using and your personal preference. Here, we’ve taken the 5 most popular types of wood and have broken down what stains work best on certain types of wood. Again, personal preference plays a huge role in what stain you will choose.


Pine is usually yellow or white, with brown knots, and is used for many rustic looking pieces. It takes and holds stain well so it’s a prime piece of wood for projects that you plan to stain. However, with it being a softwood, it easily acquires dents and scratches. The best stain for pinewood would be a penetrating oil stain. It gives wood a clear color. The only drawback is that it takes quite a while to dry.


Maple wood is white and sometimes has a reddish hue. It is usually used to make furniture. It is an ultra-durable wood that absorbs and holds dark stains well. When stained darker it often resembles cherry wood or mahogany wood. Maple wood must be sealed correctly before staining or it could look spotty. Translucent wood stains are usually what looks best on maple woods due to certain areas of the wood absorbing more stain than others.


Cherry is a hardwood with rather straight grain lines. It is often red, brown, or blonde. It is used mainly for chairs and tables. It can be carved and polished easily. Even when it is not stained it has a gorgeous hue. One thing to keep in mind is that cherry wood darkens with age. It is recommended to not use any type of oil stain with cherry woods. Conversion varnish is the most reliable and suitable application for this type of wood.


Oak is a very grainy hardwood. There are red oak and white oak varieties. Oak is most often used for arts and crafts projects. It is extremely durable and highly resistant to warping. One thing to take away is that oak can absorb the stain so well it can make it too dark and give the wood a “two-color” look. It is recommended to do a ground color dye before staining oak woods. This combats the “two-tone” colors that many oaks produce once stained.


Walnut is a hardwood that can be brown or yellow. It is most often used as bedroom furniture and antique-style furniture. It is a very strong wood that is suitable for carving. It can vary from dark to light on the same wood piece, so keep that in mind when choosing a stain. Using an oil-based stain is what is recommended for walnut wood. It is also a good idea to use a pre-stain conditioner before staining to avoid any blotchy area’s that might become visible after the staining has taken place.

There you have it! It is our hope that this mini-guide has helped you in the choosing of the best wood stain for you. Maybe it even helped with your choice of wood as well. Like I mentioned earlier, only you know the color stain you prefer but this guide will help lead you to the correct type of stain to use. Good luck with your project and have fun staining!

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