Oak wood is one of the most popular choices for wood when it comes to making cabinets, furniture, and for use in flooring. This is accredited to its excellent durability and strength and a great aesthetic appeal.
However, not everyone loves the pale appearance it naturally has as it can be quite visually overpowering. This is why people tend to use varnish and stains to darken the color to make it more subtle and help it to match the aesthetic of your room.
But compared to other wood choices, especially if you are choosing a wood type that you know you want to stain, you may wonder, does oak wood stain well?
So here is a quick summary of what we have learned about the stained quality of wood after extensive testing:
Generally speaking, oak stains well. Oak will take almost any color of stain because as a wood it has big open pores which can absorb and retain a sufficient amount of any stain used on it.
Oak has a lovely look with every color of stain and because of its structure, it will not have the tendency to look blotchy that other wood types can have. This is why oak wood is one of, if not the best types of wood for staining.
The structure of the oak is what makes it so good for staining because of its uniquely deep pores letting any stain get a really good grip on the wood's surface. With how easily the stain will stay on the surface of the wood makes it a quite easy and satisfying process with amazing results without too much effort.
But this has only been a quick rundown of how well oak acts as a base for wood staining, so throughout the rest of this article we will go through everything you need to know about staining wood, so you can be thoroughly well-informed on the topic!
How Hard Is It To Stain Oak Wood?
As previously mentioned, oak is generally considered one of the easiest woods to stain as the stain can easily get through the surface of the oak wood due to its large pores allowing any stain to enter easily.
If a wood has a very tight grain, it is generally considered that it will be difficult to stain. We can check the tightness of a wood's grain by cutting through it and seeing that its vessels are small and will not allow much to go through them.
A good antithesis of oak wood being easy to stain is maple wood which is notorious for being one of the most difficult woods to stain.
In comparison to maple wood, oak has a very smooth grain and its vessels are large enough to be visible to the naked eye which is how it takes in the stain so easily.
This ability of oak to be able to easily absorb a stain is what gives a stained oak wood such dramatic grain lines when it is fully stained. This is why it is considered that oak is one of the best choices for staining wood.
What Is The Best Stain To Use On Oak Wood?
So now you know how good oak wood is for staining, and you have decided what you want to use your oak wood for, you have to choose a stain that will suit your needs.
When you are picking a stain color for your wood you will have to have a clear understanding of the undertones you are looking for, so you do not have an oak structure that sticks out and does not match the room it is in.
Different types of oak have a visibly different undertone. For example, red oak has a rich red-type undertone, while a white oak will have a much more neutral undertone in comparison.
One of the best brands of stain to use on oak wood is Minwax. They have been making wood stains since 1904 and have kept up a reputable standard within the industry for efficient and long-lasting results.
Some of the best Minwax products we will be looking at for staining oak wood specifically in this article are; pickled oak, Jacobean, simply white, dark walnut, golden oak, and golden pecan. All of these colors of stain have been well-reviewed for working on different types of oak wood and will get you the results you have been looking for!
So let’s go over each of them separately, so you can see which one will suit your needs and your oak wood furniture best! And the best thing is, all of these stains are available to be delivered straight to you from Amazon to make staining your wood super convenient!
OUR TOP PICK
For a subtle look which does not immediately read as a stain but will give your oak wood a massive extra feel of depth, the Minwax Pickled Oak color is perfect for your oak wood.
This color of stain is very similar to the natural color and grain that oak is naturally, but it will still manage to transform your oak wood into something that looks a lot more refined.
If you are looking for something that will keep your oak wood similar to its natural appearance but still stained, this is the best color choice for you!
The color appears to look like a beige cream and will take around 2 hours to dry. The stain is oil based and will work best on doors, cabinets and other more specific types of wooden furniture.
The Minwax Golden Pecan shade is one of the best if you are looking for a more noticeable tinge of color than the previous choice, but you want a more obvious red undertone.
Luckily this shade of stain will work great on both red and white oak, so if you are not sure which you will be working with, buying this stain is a great safe choice. While you will still be able to notice the natural appeal of the oak, this stain will give the oak wood a richer deeper appearance that highlights it beauty.
The color is semi transparent meaning you will still be able to see all the details beneath it, and will take only 2 hours to dry. Like the previous choice it is an oil based stain designed to be used on wooden furniture as well as doors and cabinets.
The Minwax Simply White stain is one of the best if you want to soften the color of your oak to make it paler and closer to white.
This is sometimes a necessity if you want your oak wood furnishings to not stick out in a room with a brighter aesthetic as the heavy beige can break the matching appearance of a room. And luckily this stain will not cover up any of the beautiful natural details of the oak wood like a paint would.
This stain is great for softening the appearance of both white and red oak but will not highlight the oak undertones like some of the other stains would. This stain will give your wood a distinctly white appearance that will help it match any living space that has a similar appearance.
The color of this stain is a softening white that takes 2 hours to dry and like both previous choices is oil based and will be best for use on cabinets, doors and any wooden furnishings.
Minwax Golden Oak will give your oak wood a classically golden appearance resembling the typical appearance of a lot of oak wood furniture. It is described as a more mid-range stain not being as lightweight as some stains while not as full coverage as others.
And luckily it will work well on both red and white oak wood. It will also not be too full coverage to overshadow the natural details of the wood. Instead of highlighting red or white undertones, the wood will take on a pleasant brown shade.
It will also erase any differences between a red and white oak so if you want to have a distinct appearance between the two, this is not the best stain for appreciating this.
This stain is officially described as being a rich color that will work great on any project with a 2-hour dry time and is still an oil based stain.
If you are looking to make your oak wood significantly darker than its natural shade, then the Minwax Dark Walnut stain is the way to go.
This stain will make your oak wood a much darker walnut color with a rich shade and manages to do this while retaining the natural details of the grain. This dark stain will work equally well on both red and white oak and will easily soak and stain the grain of your wood.
This is a dark rich stain with some golden undertones with the standard oil based 2 hour dry time and will work well on any wooden project.
The Minwax Jacobean oak wood stain is similar to the dark walnut shade in that its color will completely transform the natural shade of your oak wood, but instead of a richer extremely dark shade like the walnut, the Jacobean is a distinct light brown.
With just one coat this stain will completely change the natural grain of your wood while keeping its natural details that make oak such an attractive wood option.
This is an oil based light brown stain with the standard 2-hour drying time which makes it great for any woodwork projects like furniture, cabinets and doors.
Now you have a variety of options which cover all the popular shades people tend to like staining their oak wood, hopefully you have found something that fits your tastes. These shades range from a subtle difference to complete transformations, so make sure you are confident in your choice before you start staining.
But now you know which stain you want to use on your project, the next natural step is knowing how to stain oak wood. So let’s go through the process, so you are confident in how to finish your projects with a stunning stain.
Will Oak Wood Need To Be Conditioned Before You Stain It?
While some wood types will definitely need to be conditioned thoroughly before staining, this is not a necessity for oak due to how easy it is to stain. However, if you want the best results you can get without any chance for mistakes, you can ensure this by conditioning your oak wood.
The best way to condition your oak wood for staining is to use a pre-stain conditioner designed specifically for your wood type. This conditioner is made, so it will support your wood so that it will not be streaky or blotchy once it is applied.
If you want to make sure to never make mistakes with your staining, all experienced woodworkers will recommend conditioning your wood instead of skipping this step. This goes for whether you are working with red oak or white oak as it will be equally effective.
While both types of oak wood do not usually make a stain go streaky or blotchy, there is still a chance it will happen if your oak is not properly prepared, or if you are not experienced in staining.
If you even have one poorly applied coat of stain, it can be very difficult to cover up these mistakes with subsequent coats, so it is best to prepare, so you can get the best results first time.
Most conditioners will only need around 15 minutes on the wood after being applied to work their magic and all you usually need to do is apply it and then take off any excess once the set time has been fulfilled.
Luckily Minwax make a great pre-stain wood conditioner which will work amazingly with all the stains that have been listed previously! If you use a different brand of stain, there will usually be a matching brand of conditioner, it is usually best to match brands just to make sure there will be any incompatibilities.
So now you know the importance of conditioning your wood and how to do it, how do you carry out the main process of staining your wood?
How Do You Stain Oak Wood?
Before you begin staining your oak, it is recommended to condition the wood, so refer to the previous section to see all our advice on this.
Luckily for any beginner woodworkers, staining oak is one of the easiest oaks to stain because of the above average size of its pores. This means it does not require any expertise or training to do successfully.
All you need to carry out this process successfully is:
- 120 grit sandpaper
- The stain of your choice
- Rags which you do not mind getting messy
- Stainproof gloves
- A paintbrush
Once you have sourced all of these tools we can get going with the process! Reading through the steps quickly may make the process seem easy, but make sure to read carefully , so you do not miss any key details.
Clean And Sand Your Oak Wood
First you will need to clean and sand your wood to make sure this is absolutely no sawdust to impede your progress. This will also help your wood absorb the stain more evenly.
You will want to sand your wood’s surface with a 120 grit level sandpaper in the same direction as the wood's surface trying not to scratch it too much. Do not choose a grade higher than 120 as it will damage the quality of your wood and will make it stain very unevenly.
After the wood has been sanded you will want to clean the wood’s surface with a dampened cloth and get rid of any residue. After this step you will want to let your wood dry for at least 24 hours to make sure it is completely dry.
Apply The Stain On Your Oak Wood
Once you are confident the wood is completely dry you can start staining its surface. Using your paintbrush start applying the stain as evenly and consistently as you can.
While doing so stay aware of how much pressure you are using as the more pressure you use the deeper the color will be. So inconsistent pressure will lead to an inconsistent stain. Try to make your results as uniform as possible so once it has dried it will look neat.
Let Your Oak Wood Completely Dry
While most stains will advertise that they only take around a couple of hours to dry, it is best to wait until you can see the stain is visibly dry until you attempt to do anything else with it.
This can take up to another 24 hours, but your patience will pay off, and rushing to finish will just lead to bad results. If you do your second coat while the wood is still wet it can completely ruin the effect of your first layer and can lead to a very blotchy final product.
Apply Another Coat Of Your Stain And Let The Oak Wood Dry Again
After you are sure the first coat is dry wipe off any excess with your rag and then start to apply your second coat as uniformly as you did with the first, in the same direction, with the same pressure.
The stain will take about 15 minutes to penetrate the wood but will once again maybe take up to 24 hours to dry properly. You can do more than 2 coats, but 2 should usually be enough to get long-lasting and visually pleasing results.
How To Make Your Oak Wood Stain Appear Darker
If you want your oak to appear darker, you can of course choose a darker stain with the appearance you want. But if even this is not getting you the results you want, you can use extra pressure with your paintbrush to get a darker more saturated tone.
It may be harder to apply a darker tone with a deeper pressure more consistently, but if you make an active effort it will not be too hard to achieve.
You can also keep applying more coats to get a darker tone, but this will only be obvious once the stain has completely dried and may just not work for some shades of stain.
How To Stain Your Oak Wood A Lighter Color
The best way to get a lighter appearing stain is to use lighter shades of stain. You can do this by mixing different stains based on their final results to get a lighter color matching what you are looking for.
Some hardware stores or online guides will be able to recommend mixed shades of stain to get the color profile you are looking for. Experimenting can pay off, but it can also take a lot of time, effort, and money.
If you just want a lighter stain, you can also apply the stain with less pressure, and it should not be as saturated as if you did the same stain with a deeper pressure.
Will An Oak Plywood Stain Well?
You can still stain oak plywood, but it is harder to get a solid result than on solid oak wood. You can sand the plywood with 60 grit sandpaper and dampen the cleaned surface to help the grain absorb more stain.
This will help you get better results overall.
Does Oak Wood Stain Better Than Pine Wood
Yes, this is because oak has larger pores than pine wood.
Hopefully this article has covered any questions you have about staining oak wood and has given you all the information that you will need.
Luckily staining oak wood is quite easy, but the best advice to follow during the process is to be as patient as possible to get the best results!