So you finished building your project using some nice acacia wood, and you are not sure about the next steps to take. Before applying the desired finish, you might be considering staining it. Maybe you want to change the wood’s color to match some existing furniture. Or you like the wood pattern so much that you want to expose it even more. But first of all, can you stain acacia wood?
First of all, let me say that staining acacia wood is definitely possible. You need to follow these steps carefully. First, sand it to remove any imperfection and scratches that would end up being highlighted by the stain. Then, prepare the wood to take the stain by opening up the pores by water-popping it. Proceed to apply the desired stain; sand again if you feel like it’s not smooth enough. Finally, apply the desired finish.
Those are the steps, quickly outlined. To learn more about them, keep on reading.
Should You Stain Acacia Wood?
First of all, let’s consider if you really need to stain your project. Typically, you’d want to stain plywood or softwood like pine. They are pretty bleak on their own; staining gives the illusion of them being a higher-end type of wood.
With hardwoods, staining isn’t the most common choice. Usually, you’d want to apply a simple clear top coat to preserve the natural appearance of the wood, which is already good-looking on its own.
That’s my own opinion, though. Staining hardwoods projects is a good way to give them a new look, or to match existing pieces of furniture. Maybe you thought you’d like the finished natural look of acacia wood, but then you changed your mind. All valid reasons.
Be careful though when choosing stain color. Once you choose a color, there’s no turning back. Stain penetrates the wood’s fibers deep, so it can’t be sanded away. On top of that, For the best results, choose a tone that recalls the original color. After applying the first coat, you can apply a second one if you want a darker shade.
Can You Stain Acacia Wood?
Staining acacia wood is possible. Since it’s hardwood, the stain will have a harder time penetrating into the fibers. You’ll need to take a couple more steps to make sure the ending result is satisfying. Let’s get to it.
1) Sand to remove imperfections
Same as you would also do on softwoods, we’ll start with some sanding. This is needed to remove any imperfection from the surface. Without sanding, the stain will make them pop up even more. On top of that, sanding will also help opening up the pores to accommodate wood stain better. Since hardwood is less spongy than softwood, this step is very important to help wood soaking up more stain.
What grit should you use for this? Well, it depends on the prior state of the wood. A good way to approach this is moving by steps. Start with bigger grit sandpaper, like 80, to remove major defects. Then, move up to something like 120, and then 200 plus sandpaper. Get yourself a sandpaper package like this one.
Finally, make sure you remove any sanding dust. Ideally, you should use a vacuum to remove any wood dust from the pores, to make sure they are well opened for the staining step.
2) Open up the grain
This step wouldn’t be required if we were talking about softwood. Since it’s acacia wood we are dealing with, an extra step to make sure the grain is well opened for wood stain is required.
This process is called “water-popping” and it’s generally used with wood flooring. After sanding, water is applied to make the wood more porous, so that it can welcome stain better. It penetrates deeper, resulting in a darker shade. Keep that in mind when choosing the stain color.
So how do you “water-pop” your project? Follow these simple steps:
- Apply the water using a clean cloth. Make sure it’s well wrung out; wood only needs a little amount of water. Apply it as you would do with stain: try to be as even as possible. If wood receives different quantities of water in different spots, these will pop up after staining, resulting in a blotchy look. You surely want to avoid that.
- Let the wood dry completely before the staining step.
You need to be very careful when water popping wood. If you apply too much water, wood could easily swell. Proceed with care: remember that a little amount of water is sufficient to get the result you need.
3) Apply the stain
Now, we are finally ready to apply the stain. Try to apply even layers without overlapping. Those spots will pop out when the wood dries out, resulting in a blotchy look. Try to go along the grain when applying the stain; this will allow it to penetrate better into the wood.
When you are finished, wipe off the stain excess. Wait for it to dry before wiping. Check the can for instructions, usually it’s around 30 minutes. Wood will absorb only a certain amount of stain, depending on its porosity. The remaining stain will just lay on the surface, resulting in a sticky look. That’s why you want to apply the right amount from the start, as much as the wood demands.
What tool to use to apply wood stain? You could either use a foam brush or a clean rug. I’ve had the best results using a rug since it’s way easier to apply the right amount of stain, uniformly. Make sure you wear gloves if you are using a rug.
If you want a darker look, apply multiple layers of stain. Wait for the previous layer to be dried up completely.
After applying the stain, make sure you dispose of the rags properly. When dried, they are fire hazard material. That’s risky stuff to have, especially in an environment like a woodworking shop. As a temporary solution, you can put them in a metal container with a lid.
4) Sand again to smooth the surface
If you want your project to be super smooth to the touch, you can sand it again after staining. This might be needed if you water-popped your project, which probably made it rough.
In this case, a light sanding is enough. You need to be very careful here, in order to avoid ruining the staining. Start with a light pass, then run your hand over the wood to check if it’s smooth enough. Keep on sanding until the surface appearance meets your needs.
Use high grit sandpaper for this step, 220 for example. To avoid unpleasant surprises, make sure the wood it’s perfectly dry before you start sanding.
5) Apply the desired finish
Finally, we can apply a finish over the stain. Unless you are using an all-in-one product, staining does not protect the wood, so it’s important to use a finish.
Make sure your project is completely dry from the precedent project before moving on. If you sanded it, also remove any dust left.
Same as with the stain, there’s a wide range of products you can choose from. The finish you’ll pick will depend on the project at hand, and on your needs. If you are satisfied with the way wood looks after staining, a clear top coat finish is ideal.
It’s not important to match the stain type when choosing a finish. Water-based finishes work well on top of oil-based finishes, and vice versa.
If you decide to use a water-based finish, this might end up opening up the wood again, the same as the water-popping procedure did. After the wood dried, if the surface isn’t smooth enough, proceed with a light sanding again.
Which Wood Stain to Use on Acacia Wood?
Many stain types are available on the market. The most common are oil-based and water-based ones.
Oil-based stain is the most popular type. It’s ideal for large projects since it takes quite a while to dry, resulting in a more even look. It also penetrates deeper into the wood than water-based stains. This is key for hardwood, where penetration is difficult.
On the other hand, water-based stains are definitely more environmentally friendly than oil stains. They dry out faster, so there’s less room for error. Plus, they don’t penetrate wood as deep as oil stains.
In conclusion, which wood stain is better for hardwoods like acacia? In my opinion, oil-based stains are better for hardwoods, for the reasons outlined before. They penetrate the wood better, and they are easier to apply because of the longer drying time.
FAQs [Frequently Asked Questions]
Should you use a wood conditioner before staining acacia wood?
To help wood absorb stain evenly, it’s usually a good idea to apply a pre conditioner before staining. This is especially true for softwood, which tends to take up stain unevenly, resulting in a blotchy look.
Should you use pre conditioner on hardwoods, then? In my opinion, it’s not necessary. Hardwoods such as acacia wood don’t suffer from blotchiness that much to justify the use of a conditioner. Moreover, using a conditioner will make it even harder than it already is for the stain to penetrate hardwood pores. You surely want to avoid that.
How to remove stain from acacia wood?
Removing wood stain from acacia wood is very simple if you use the right products. What you need is a stain stripper, an old brush to apply it, a scraper, and rags to remove it.
Start by applying a generous layer on top of your project. If certain areas dry quicker than others, adjust the stripper layer with the brush. Let it soak into the wood for at least 20 minutes. You should see the stain pop out of the wood at this point. Remove it, starting with a scraper. Continue until all the stripper has been scraped off the wood.
After that, clean the surface using a wet rag. Let it dry and then proceed with sanding, if needed.
How to restain acacia wood?
Restaining acacia wood isn’t any different than staining fresh wood. You can follow the steps I outlined in the previous section. Make sure you removed the previous stain and varnish correctly.
What about staining acacia wood which is used for outdoor furniture?
Again, staining acacia wood on an outdoor project isn’t any different than doing that for indoor furniture. What might change is the finish you’ll apply later. Make sure you choose an appropriate finish, that will resist both UV damage and weather damage.
As you can see, staining acacia wood can be done, and it’s a very straightforward process. It doesn’t differ that much from staining softwood or plywood. The only difference is the water-popping step, which is necessary to make sure the wood absorbs the correct amount of stain.
Let’s sum up the steps you need to take once more:
- Start by sanding the wood to remove imperfection and open up the wood’s pores;
- Open the wood even more by water-popping;
- Apply the stain;
- Sand another time for a smoother look;
- Apply the desired finish.
That’s it for this article, see you in the next one!