Why You Need to Seal Wood After Staining

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This is Why You Need to Seal Wood After Staining, plus two easy ways to do it. This is your guide to sealing your stain after you create your color layer on your project. The process is easy, and you will love the results following this guide. Enjoy.

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After Staining Wood do You Have to Seal It?

Why-You-Need-to-Seal-Wood-After-StainingThe short answer to this common question in wood finishing is no. The long answer is yes. In reality, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to when to comes to your projects. They are yours, and nobody else’s.

However, an unfinished stain will lack some things that you might really like to see. For example, in order to see the actual color that the stain was meant to look like, he needs to have a clear coat over the top.

Another issue is that stain doesn’t offer any protection against the elements. Moisture and humidity can still affect your peace negatively, even though you might like the color. However, if you wish to skip the topcoat, you can.

See Also: 13 Helpful Tips on How to Stain a Wood Table

Pros and Cons of Not Sealing Your Stain

In order to make an informed decision, you need to know what will happen if you choose to seal your stain or not. Here are the pros and cons of leaving your stain coat as it is without any sealer.

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First of all, the finish will be done a lot faster. If you get to skip all the steps of adding a clear coat, leveling the clear coat, and making it look nice, you do you kill quite a bit of time. Your color would look a little different, but that might be OK for you.

The negative side of the equation was alluded to above. Not only will your piece not be very well protected, you’re not going to actually see the full color as you were meant to see by the manufacture of that particular shade of finish.

Your project will also have a flat to dead flat sheen, which is not consistent with most woodworking pieces. This also makes it stick out from other examples, and that can be a negative if people notice there’s no sealer in place.

See Also: How to Fix a Bad Stain Job

Pros and Cons of Sealing Your Stain

When it comes to sealing your project, there are also some good and bad things that come from that decision. Obviously right out of the gate there’s an increase in your time commitment, because there’s more steps involved in using the clear coat.

On top of your time there’s an additional expense in product. You’re going to have to buy some lacquer, or another sealer product and apply it. While this isn’t the end of the world, it is technically a negative.

The positives of using a sealer on your woodworking projects is that there will be an additional layer of protection on the piece. It will retain its shape against moisture changes in the environment much better, and the color will pop.

In general, applying a sealer to your stain after you’re finished is definitely the better of the two choices. In certain situations you can get away with just the stain, but it needs to make absolutely perfect sense in that exact situation.

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If you’re worried about applying a sealer coat to your project, don’t. I mean, don’t worry about it. This is not a very difficult operation in wood  finishing, especially if you pick the right products and follow some good directions.

See Also: 18 Great Tips for Finishing Wood Furniture

How to Seal Your Stain Layer by Hand

If you are using hand applied finishes to apply your sealer coat or your topcoat, here is some really good news. It’s actually pretty easy to do this process. Not only that, but it’s inexpensive and the learning curve is very low.

Simply find a clear coat product that’s compatible with your stain, and that can be wiped on with a rag. Select a finish that allows rag application, like a wiping varnish, and you’ll be in really good shape when it comes to application.

All you need to do is spread an even layer on the surface. Make sure that the layer is very thin, and that there aren’t any pools or uneven spots on the surface. Allow the layer to dry, and then repeat that process one or two more times.

When in doubt, follow the directions on your product. Most hand finishes can be applied with a rag or with a brush, but the real trick is applying a thin coat. Whatever you do, apply very thin coats and let them dry well in between.

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See Also: The Secret to Wood Finishing

Spraying Sealer on Your Project

Another option that you have to apply a sealer over your wood stain is to use sprays. This doesn’t have to be fancy spraying equipment that’s expensive. It could be simple rattle cans with a good product inside.

Make sure to read that last sentence carefully. The type of clear coat that you use is very important, and not just any clear product will work. You need to select a high-quality furniture grade product in order to be successful.

These aerosols just work better. They spray nicer, they dry better, and they end up creating a surface that you can be proud of. It’s almost difficult to tell if the product was sprayed from a can or a professional spray system.

Just like other finishes, dust on several thin coats following the directions from the manufacturer. In the case of lacquer, you can dust on several coats which are separated by a few minutes each. That will melt into one, and the piece will look great.

See Also: How to Choose the Best Wood Finish Spray

Wood Sealing Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you through your wood sealing adventures with a great looking finish on the other side:

  • Whatever you do, apply thin coats of finish. They work better, provide a flatter layer, and in general create less problems.
  • Choose a good product, with a brand that you recognize, and a long track record of making an excellent finish.
  • If you’ve never finished anything before, do some practice on some scraps.
  • Your colors will look better after you apply a clear coat, and the dullness will go away.
  • Make sure to allow your stain to completely dry before applying the sealer coat to the top.

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know why it’s so important to apply a seal coat after staining a piece of wood, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. If you have a piece that has stain on it right now and needs a sealer, start that process.

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On the other hand, if you’re just doing some academic learning right now, apply a stain to a scrap, and allow it to dry really well. Take a look at the piece, and get an idea for its properties without a clear coat.

After you play with the piece for a little bit, apply a coat of finish to the top, and notice the differences. You’ll be happy that you saw it both ways, and that you had an opportunity to work with both sides of the process.

If you have any questions on sealing wood after staining, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

  • 20 Years Experience in Woodworking
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