Smart Moves Blog

How To Stain Wood Furniture: A First-Timer’s Guide

Hi, I’m Tripp, and I work at Bellhops. The other weekend I decided to figure out how to stain wood furniture for the first time. When I finished, I realized it’s a project many people who recently moved might want to try their hand at as they set up their new home. If you’ve ever wondered how to stain wood furniture, perfect! Below, I’ll explain the process step by step.

Staining furniture is an age old practice that helps enhance the aesthetic appeal of a furniture piece, while also adding years to its life. Whether you’re trying to give new pieces a vintage look, or making old pieces look fresh, identifying the right stain and applying it correctly is key. For this project, I chose to build a headboard from scratch (no, you don’t have to do that part) before applying a mix of a dark Kona colored stain with a weathered grey stain for added texture and character.

Here are the supplies I used:

Kona Stain
Weathered Grey Stain
Polycrylic Clear Satin Finish
Blank Headboard

*Note: Before you begin, do this project either outside on grass, in a well-ventilated garage, or in a room with a drop cloth. You will get dirty and stain is really tough to get out of carpet.

So here’s how to stain wood furniture: Start with a piece of furniture and sand it down. If you’re using an old piece of furniture, it’s good to do a deep cleaning, sanding away all old paint so it doesn’t compromise the new stain. I used a 60 grit, tougher sandpaper initially to sand down all the rough edges, and then I cleaned up the flat surfaces. Remember to wipe off all the excess dust with a cloth, but and don’t use water. You’ll want the wood to be dry when you begin the staining process. If you’re into building your own furniture, I built this headboard from designs on

After I sanded the headboard, I applied the first coat of the dark Kona stain. To apply it, I used an old t-shirt, dipping it with a couple fingers. Some people use different size brushes to apply stain in order to get into all the little crevices. I like the feeling of applying it with my hand since I’m able to really work the stain in and watch the wood soak it up. I went through and wiped it into every section, which took roughly 30-45 minutes for the first coat. Every coat afterward took less time since I didn’t have to apply the stain to every nook and cranny. This stain says it dries after one hour, but to be safe I waited two hours and then applied another layer of Kona stain.

Once the stain dried, I gently sanded the headboard to give it a slightly distressed look. (If you don’t want the distressed look, don’t do this part!)

Above is what the headboard looked like after I took the fine 160 grit sandpaper and gave it some random passes. Don’t apply too much pressure, and try to make the swipes from the sandpaper as random as possible to make the furniture look more naturally aged. Then I applied one layer of the weathered grey stain. With this, I also didn’t want to seem too consistent and applied more in certain areas and less in others.

I really like how the project turned out because where I added more weathered grey stain, it made the dark Kona stain lighter and almost translucent, really adding years of age to the piece.

I hope this helps answer your “how to stain wood furniture” questions! I’d love to see how your pieces turn out, so send images to And as always, if there is anything you’d like for us to write about, email us.

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