Dining Room

How To Stain Pine A Warm Medium Brown While Minimizing Ugly Pine Grain

Last Updated on January 11, 2019 by Kristi Linauer

As I told y’all a week or so ago, I’m planning on building my own dining table since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted in a price that I could afford. My inspiration is this turned leg farmhouse table from Williams-Sonoma that expands from 72 inches to 116 inches and seats up to 10 people when fully expanded.

Earlier this week, the table legs and table slides that I ordered from Osborne Wood Products were delivered, so as soon as I can get the walls finished in my dining room, I’ll be ready to start building my table.

And as always when I work with pine to try to build something nice, my concern has been the final finishing steps. I’m confident that I can actually build the table. That will be the easy part. But getting the finish just right will be the challenge. I want my table to end up with a warm medium brown finish. I love the color of Emily’s kitchen table.

This table from Ethan Allen is also a great example of the color that I want.

You get the idea, right? And I’m fine with it looking old and beautifully aged, like a well-loved antique, but I don’t want rustic. Somehow that makes sense in my mind. 🙂

Anyway, a table like that, in that warm medium brown tone, is exactly what I want. But back to reality…I’ll be building my table out of pine. Just plain, simple, cheap, new pine. And I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to stain new pine, but it’s tricky. I generally use a wood conditioner, followed by a dark stain color. That way it’s easier to cover up all of the crazy yellow and orange grain. And I always prefer to use Rust-Oleum wood stain on pine because you can literally paint it on like paint (just not quite as thick as paint) and it’ll still dry completely in a relatively short amount of time, and you can cover up as much of that crazy pine grain as possible. (You can’t do that with Minwax. It’ll never dry.)

But I’ve tried that method with light and medium-toned stains on pine, and it just doesn’t work. No matter how much wood conditioner, or how many coats of medium or light stain I use, that awful grain is still there…and accented in a way that I don’t find pretty at all. So yesterday, I tried out some different methods to see what I could come up with, and I actually think I found a way to stain pine a gorgeous medium-toned brown color that looks somewhat aged, while minimizing all of that yellow and orange grain!

Let me preface by saying that I know you can achieve pretty finishes on pine with paints and waxes. But I really don’t want to do any kind of painted faux finish on my new table, and I’ll never, ever, ever live with a dining table that has a waxed top on it ever again. Wax is just not durable for a table that is used often, so that’s not even an option that I would consider. And water-based polyurethane isn’t an option for me either. It drives me absolutely crazy the way that water-based poly clouds up when it gets wet. I know it clears back up when it dries out, but it’s just not something I’d ever use on dining table. So my goal was to come up with something that gives a medium-toned aged finish, minimizes the crazy pine grain, while ending up with a durable oil-based finish on top. Should be easy, right? 🙂

Here are my different test samples:

six ways to stain pine - 1

I bet you can already tell which one I’m gravitating towards, right? 🙂

Here’s a closer view of my samples:

six ways to stain pine - 2

Here’s what I did on each:

  1. This was my “control” sample with just plain ole stain on it. I used one coat of Minwax Honey stain. See what I mean about the grain? I think that’s awful. And depending on the stain color, I’ve seen the grain in pine turn yellow, and orange, and even an awful reddish purple. And when you get that much pronounced grain on a large item like a dining table, it looks so incredibly busy. And cheap, in my humble opinion.*I didn’t use pre-stain conditioner, but I’ve worked with pine enough to know that even conditioner can’t salvage pine enough for my taste when it comes to light and medium-toned stain colors. It works beautifully with dark stains, though (Rust-Oleum, not Minwax).
  2. I used Waterlox with a little bit of Rust-Oleum American Walnut stain mixed in. Wow, that’s red. Definitely not the look I’m going for.
  3. This was Waterlox with a little bit of Minwax Honey mixed in. I thought this was pretty, and the grain didn’t bother me so much since it didin’t turn a hideous color. But the overall color just wasn’t quite warm enough for me. And it looks too orange-yellow, rather than brown.
  4. I started this one by rubbing Annie Sloan Dark Wax over the entire thing, and then followed up with a coat of the Waterlox + Minwax Honey. When it was dry, I added a coat of Minwax Polyurethane. I love how the wax settled in the low places and gave it an aged look.
  5. Once again, I used Annie Sloan Dark Wax over the wood, and then used Minwax Polyurethane on top.
  6. This is my favorite, and it was a four-step process. First, I used some homemade vinegar stain on the wood to cut the yellow/orange color of the pine. The homemade vinegar stain was about two cups of white vinegar, two “000” steel wool pads, and two tablespoons of coffee grounds. I only let the vinegar solution set for about three hours before using it. After the vinegar solution, I used the Annie Sloan Dark Wax, and then followed up with a very thin coat of Minwax Special Walnut. And I finished with a coat of Minwax Polyurethane.

I’m pretty sure that the last one is exactly what I’m going for. You can see some grain, but it didn’t turn a crazy color, and it looks more aged than stained.

Just a word about the homemade vinegar stain. I only let it age for three hours before using it. I was certain that it wouldn’t do any good, as I’ve read that it really should sit for at least 24 hours. So I wiped the vinegar solution onto the wood, didn’t see any change, wiped it off, and decided to try something else.

Well, evidently it did do something, because I tried to replicate the look of sample #6 without using the vinegar solution, and it didn’t look nearly as good. So I tried it once again with the vinegar solution (about four hours old at that point), and that one looked like sample #6. So there’s definitely something to the vinegar solution, even using it after only three or four hours. I’m going to try it again today after letting it sit for 24 hours, and I’ll see what difference that makes.

how ot stain pine a medium brown color with minimal grain

I actually really liked the effect of the Annie Sloan Dark Wax on all three samples. I love the way it settles into the low places and gives it a nice aged look, but I prefer the more subtle look of the last one.

And here’s a look at the last three samples that all used the Annie Sloan Dark Wax in comparison to my control sample #1 with just the stain. I find that stain-only sample to be just terrible, and that’s what I was afraid of my whole table looking like.

how ot stain pine a medium brown color with minimal grain - 2

And here’s a look at my favorite sample compared to the stain-only sample. It’s a night and day difference!

how ot stain pine a medium brown color with minimal grain - 3

And just to be sure that my last (favorite) sample wasn’t some kind of fluke, I decided to test my method on a piece of Select Pine lumber from Home Depot. I use this lumber quite a bit because it’s always cut the straightest and has almost no knots in the wood. But what it does have is crazy pine grain.

So I took a scrap piece of Select Pine and just used stain on one side. Here’s how that looked compared to my first sample.

how ot stain pine a medium brown color with minimal grain - 4

Awful. Both of them. The funny thing is that the Select Pine sample actually looks like someone did a faux bois technique on it. That grain almost looks fake to me…but it’s real. It’s crazy pine grain!

So I flipped the board over and did the four-step process that I used on sample #6 above. What a difference!

how ot stain pine a medium brown color with minimal grain - 5

And I think if I had added one more very thin coat of stain before the polyurethane, it might have reduced the grain even more and evened out some of the blotchiness.

I am going to try one more sample today with the older 24-hour vinegar solution, but at this point I’m thinking that I’ve found the perfect method to get the color I want while getting rid of crazy pine grain! I’m very hopeful that this will work on my table.


(January 11, 2019) It took me three more years, but I’ve finally found a much easier way to get a beautiful stained finish on cheap pine. I just refinished my bathroom countertop that I made out of pine, and I’m so pleased with how the finish turned out. I’m still working on the bathroom makeover, but here’s a peek at how the countertop turned out…

No orange or yellow grain in sight! You can check out the details of my process here…

Also, since I wrote this original post, I have discovered an AMAZING water-based topcoat. General Finishes High Performance Topcoat is now my go-to topcoat that I use over painted finishes (I used it on my kitchen cabinets, and it’s amazingly durable), as well as stained finishes. I love the matte finish, which has a very slight sheen to it.

*This post contains affiliate links.

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Looks wonderful! How does the Minwax get through the Annie Sloan wax? Would that work on wood that was previously finished but stripped?

    P.S. I can hear the excitement in your post!👏

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 9:31 am

      I think it works because I used so little wax on it. After waxing, the wood still felt really dry, like it would soak up just about anything I put on it (stain, poly, Waterlox, etc.) Had I used enough wax, or several coats of wax, to where the wood actually felt waxy or coated, it would have been too much. But just the absolute thinnest of coats of wax seemed to be enough to seal the wood to the point where the grain wouldn’t soak up the stain in a crazy way, but not seal it so much that the wood was too saturated with wax to soak up stain.

      Hope that makes sense. 🙂 If after waxing, the wood still feels dry and not waxy, it should be stainable. And I do think this would work just fine on stripped wood.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lisa Johnson
    February 4, 2016 at 9:30 am

    FYI- Two of my favorite finishes are danish tung oil, and a marine grade finish called Sikkens. I have had fantastic results with both of these.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 9:32 am

      You use those together? The Sikkens is a clear coat? And if so, is it a yellow/amber color like an oil-based poly, or is it clear like a lacquer?

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Lisa Johnson
        February 9, 2016 at 11:19 am

        These are used separately. I love the tung oil finish in the walnut color, it goes on really quickly and easily with a rag. You can choose the level of gloss with it, too! And the Sikkens that I use is “Cetol Marine Natural Teak.”It is a beautiful rich, deep brown, dries really hard, and with a couple of coats, it provides a great barrier. I use it on all my outdoor furniture, my front door (inside and outside), and it lasts exceptionally well!This looks glossy at first but quickly cures to a soft sheen,

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Fascinating Blog today! What a wealth of knowledge you are regarding staining. I will definitely be rereading some of these in the future.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 9:42 am

    You are inspired! I would not have the patience to go through all of those steps…so glad you have done it and given your steps so clearly.

    I love your inspiration tables and just can’t wait to see the finished product.

    Your vision is so far above anything I have ever considered trying, but I am sure in time I will get brave enough.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Ive used a wood conditioner before staining and it really makes a difference on how the stain looks on pine. Have you tried that?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Yep, I mentioned that above. Wood conditioner works beautifully on pine if I’m staining it a dark color (with Rust-Oleum stain…not Minwax). But when it comes to light a medium-toned stain colors, wood conditioner just doesn’t seem to do much…or at least not nearly enough to suit my taste. Even with wood conditioner, the grain in pine is way too busy and pronounced for me when using light and medium toned stains.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Susan B
        February 4, 2016 at 10:16 am

        What if you used the condition and the vinegar? I think your favorite is pretty but kind of splotchy. I wouldn’t hurt to see if you could mitigate that with conditioner.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 10:03 am

    I’ve been trying to figure this out for years! Beautiful results!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lori Riggs
    February 4, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Are you familiar with Minwax Pre-conditioner that is applied before staining. You must stain within 30 minutes of applying but it takes care of making the stain soak in evenly. Also Polyvine is a poly that leaves a hand waxed finish. I personally have not tried it but plan to…those that use it love it. The product I love is AquaZar top coat in antique flat. It is a water based non yellowing product. It self levels removing brush strokes and dries to a gorgeous finish. Just some suggestions for you…looking good and I was going to suggest select pine as I was reading your post and you use it…that piece was gorgeous.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mary Anne Looby
    February 4, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Good idea using the Annie Sloane Dark Wax to fill in the grain. I wondered how you got through the wax for the stain, but you explained that above. I am doing my table in Cherry so I don’t think I will have that problem. I will have the boys put each piece through the planer to take the current finish off of it. I want to get the cherry back to it’s original look pre stain, which is very light. Then I will just seal it with something. I don’t think using the wax would work for me, but I will mix some color with the waterlox. That should give me the effect I want. My legs and apron will be painted to go with the chairs. Can’t wait to see it finished, and also to see the walls done. Moving along, and it’s only Feb. Blessings

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 10:15 am

    I have had that table for 26 years… You will love the memories 😀. When the kids were young they would scratch each other’s names into the wood to try and get a sibling in trouble… When one son was old enough and talented enough to refinish the whole thing we made him do it 😏

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lauren P.
    February 4, 2016 at 10:30 am

    THANK YOU for sharing this! I have some different pieces of plywood and pine planks that have been sitting in my craft office for a year, hoping to someday become weathered signs for my home. But like you, I really hate how pine takes stain, and I didn’t want to ruin my wood. I’m so grateful that you shared all of your test swatches, and your final combination of products, because I think your last board is exactly the tone and weathered-but-not-crazy-grain look I’ve been hoping for! Now I only have to buy a few products to achieve that look rather than a dozen with 70% of them being failures. This is one reason I’m an avid reader of your blog! Have you or any of your readers tried painting over stain with acrylics? Did you like the results?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 10:50 am

    I’m so glad that you tested your method on the select pine. I was afraid there for a bit that the difference was in the type of grain you had more than the method you were using. That looks wonderful! That piece you bought certainly qualifies as “crazy grain”! In the past, I’ve had good success with rub-on stains, layering up to the desired saturation of color…but they’ve changed the formula and it’s a lot thicker now and does really odd stuff. Hooray for finding something that works well!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 10:52 am

    What a wonderful, informative post. And I am like you, I like the last one.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Love your blog!! I’m making drapes now and referring to your experience to help me, thank you

    Tung Oil! No protective coat needed, food safe and easy to repair a spot instead of doing the entire table. There is a difference between PURE tung oil and products that contain tung oil. I used on my daughters table (found at thrift store) and 3 years later it still looks like the first day. She has 2 young boys and has every meal at that table with no special care. I did have to mix the dark and light tung oil to get the finished color I wanted. I purchased from “the milk company” and they were very helpful with any questions along with the information they have on their site (no I don’t work or advertise for them:). It does take patience, 4-5 days between coats and we did 4 coats. My only concern would be to make sure you like the results on a sample since I don’t if you could sand off the finish since it penetrates the wood (Im sure you know more about that than I do:) Can’t wait to see what you decide!! P.S. I have used Annie Sloan and love it, however, it will leave a ring from a glass, easy to repair but still it does leave rings.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      Your experience with Annie Sloan wax is exactly why I’m not going to use it as a final coat. Any finish that I do on my table will be protected by several layers of oil-based polyurethane. I’ve lived with a dining table that was just protected with a wax finish, and it was awful. It wasn’t protective at all.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Kristi….. I totally respect and am all too familiar with your budget restrictions. But just one question…… Why pine? Is there not a more pleasing wood grain that would reduce the number of steps to camouflage the pine grain.? And remove one or two steps and achieve a more satisfying result? I guess I’m asking what is the cost differential between pine and oak, walnut etc?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 11:26 am

      The difference between pine and oak is hundreds of dollars, and then I’m left with oak grain, which in my opinion, is only slightly better than pine grain. (Speaking of new oak, that is. I love antique, naturally aged, quarter-sawn oak, but that look is hard to replicate on new oak.) The difference between pine and walnut is $1500+ dollars. I priced each, and was SHOCKED at how much a DIY table made out of walnut would cost me. It would be more expensive for me to make a DIY table out of walnut than to just buy the Williams-Sonoma table.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Regarding a wax coating not being durable… I assume you’re referring to a hand-rubbed product like the Annie Sloan waxes.

    When my father built us a baby cradle, he insisted that the way “the pro’s” do a nice finish is to stain the wood (Maple in this case), follow with however many coats of poly you like, then apply a coat of wax over the poly and buff it in with an electric buffer (like one of the ones that fits on an electric drill). His father was a finish carpenter, so who was I to argue with him. 🙂

    I have to admit that I was very impressed with the end-results and it the finish looked as good if not better than what you’d expect from a furniture factory. Hard as a rock and I wouldn’t describe it as glossy. He used this product: http://www.minwax.com/wood-products/specialty-finishes/minwax-paste-finishing-wax (which our local Home Depot paint guy called “bowling alley wax” because it reminds him of what they put on bowling alley floors).

    I’ve since used the same wax over satin Behr paint (sprayed with my mason jar sprayer) because we don’t have easy access to Annie Sloan products and the major brands hadn’t come out with knockoffs yet. I hand-rubbed it because I didn’t have a buffer attachment handy. It was tacky and smelly for a bit but it eventually cured and hardened and really protects the paint finish without changing the color or the sheen and without having to muck with polyurithane or worry about bubbling (I’m not a very neat painter). My 4 year old daughter routinely bumps the cabinet with objects and I haven’t seen a major gouge yet. I’m planning to use the same technique on another furniture piece.

    I really don’t know if ether of these examples is the proper use of that wax product or how much it differs from the Annie Sloan waxes. In fact, Minwax’s own site says it’s for non-hard finishes, but it seems to work. You might want to try it as one last option just to see how it goes.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      I think the wax over poly is a perfectly acceptable use for wax, especially for more seasoned woodworkers. I’ve watched at least two videos from pro woodworkers/furniture makers on YouTube who used it that way. The finish was beautiful. Of course, these are also the same people who can make regular ole polyurethane look like a million bucks with a hand rubbed finish. I’ve never tried it, but I have a feeling it’s not quite as easy as they make it look. 🙂

      I do wonder how the wax-over-poly finish would work on a dining table that’s used every day. I’ve never seen a pro use a wax like Annie Sloan for something like that (I think it’s too soft), but I’ve seen both Minwax and Briwax used for that.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        February 4, 2016 at 10:47 pm

        That was actually part of the reason I used it over the paint. I do not have a good hand with poly, either spraying or brushing. I knew if I tried just poly, I’d end-up with drips or bubbles or something. Also, I was painting something red…which refuses to harden on its own for months because there’s something about drying time with red tinting, and I wanted a harder finish over it.

        I tried some of the wax over red paint on a scrap piece of wood and I was immediately sold. Never even opened the can of poly that I bought. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d gone out and gotten the buffer…it would have made a smoother, slightly shinier finish, but honestly, the hand-rubbed one was great for that painted piece. If I ever stain a piece, I’ll definitely get the buffer.

        I think it’d hold-up really well on a daily use table if it’s mechanically buffed. Not so much hand-rubbed.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Oh…one more thing… I recently discovered (thanks to TOH and Google) that there are dealers that specialize in old wood and I found 3 or so in my area (New England…we have lots of barns people take down). I wonder if there might be a place like that in your area. Perhaps you could get enough just for the top or the top and apron and you wouldn’t have to worry quite so much about aging it and toning-down the awkward colors. Even if it’s expensive, it might still be way cheaper than buying the inspiration table.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 6, 2016 at 11:20 am

      I wondered about getting old pine planks as well.

      My harvest table was made for me by a friend. He laminated some of pine studs together (removed from my house while doing initial renovation) and turned those for the legs. He has a stash of old wood he’s collected over the years and used two old pine planks for the top. Each plank is 18″ wide. Neither the top or legs are stained. The colour is a deep rich reddish gold. My table is 84×39 – kind of an odd size but that’s part of the package when using old wood.

      Kristi – just be aware that your new table isn’t going to stay the colour you make it at the beginning. I’m sure you know that pine changes colour quite quickly when exposed to light. It is going to gain some yellow/gold/red tones regardless of what you do now. In my opinion the warmth will only enhance the staining you are doing now.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        February 6, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        How amazing that you have a table made partially from wood that came from your house! I wish I knew how to turn my own legs. I used to own a lathe, but never practiced enough to be good at it.

        • Reply To This Comment ↓
          February 8, 2016 at 8:40 am

          I remember reading somewhere that Alton Brown (the FoodTV personality) had a big old tree come down on his property and had the family’s kitchen table made out of it for their new house. Of course, he probably had it professionally milled (as one can do when money is no object).

          I always thought that’d be fun to do. Especially when a big oak fell on our property recently. I found myself wishing I had a way to rip it into boards and then a nice planer to get it smooth and piece it together into a tabletop or a bench.

          I think the only practical way to DIY that would be to use a “chainsaw sawmill” (which I saw recently on Alaska, The Last Frontier). It’s a metal guide/fence attachment for a chainsaw that lets you slice boards from a log right in the field. Then, you’d probably need a planer to get it smooth.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Interesting experiment. I will be interested in what it looks like after the vinegar solution ages to 24 hours.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Just a quick question. Did all of the samples have comparable grain before you stained them?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      Not exactly, but they were all cut from the same piece of lumber. The sample that I like the most doesn’t have as much grain as the first sample with just the stain, but it does have the same type of grain as the stain-only piece on the left side, and yet you can see that the way in which it took the stain is very different.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Another way I’ve found to deal with stain and getting just the right color is to make and use a wood toner. This post from pneumatic addict on how to make your own wood toner is great. You can make either oil based or water based.


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm


    Do you think this method would work on Ikea butcher block countertops?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      I do, but you’d need lots of layers of a protective coat on butcherblock countertops. I had so much trouble with countertops when i tried to stain them. I finally gave up, sanded them down to bare wood, and just oiled them with mineral oil, and then kept them oiled on a regular basis. That was my favorite finish for my butcherblock because any scratches, gouges, or stains could be easily removed, and then the countertops re-oiled. With any stained finish, gouges, scratches, and stains are almost impossible to fix without it being noticeable.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rebecca B
    February 4, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Kristi. I for what its worth, absolutely hate pine. But I know that your table will turn out nice and I will like it because every project you have done has turned out really well. But I still hate pine. It’s so soft and gets dented and is full of ugly knotholes …..
    What is wood conditioner?
    What happened to the table that you got from your sister?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Pre-stain conditioner is something that you brush onto the wood about 5 to 15 minutes before staining. It penetrates into the wood, and helps the stain to go on more evenly to prevent blotchiness. Here’s the one I use.

      The table from my step-sister didn’t work out. I want a stained table, but when I stripped the top of that table, I found that only the very top of the table was covered in wood veneer, and the decorative routed edge around the table top was MDF, so it wouldn’t take stain. Or actually it will take stain, but MDF soaks up stain much faster than wood, so it turned a completely different color.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I made a cart for my daughter for Christmas. I used pine from Home Depot and was not really trying to hide the grain. I stained every board three times with Minwax Golden Oak and wiped it off after only five minutes. I didn’t want the orange tone that I got and the 2×4’s stained differently than the 1x’s. I did three coats in order to get basically the same depth of color on each board. But then I wiped everything with almost a dry brush technique using Minwax Espresso stain. Suddenly everything orange became a warm rich brown and I loved it. Wipe on and immediately wipe off. Grain didn’t disappear but it became beautiful! Not dark, just rich looking. Might save you some steps. I can’t figure out how to attach the photo to this comment but if you want to see it I could send it to your email.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Just want to give you one more suggestion – I have had very good luck with Gel stain- not as easy to find – but much more workable and buildable – goes really far too – Not Milwaukee – General finishes or Old Masters

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    How about doing a layer of thinned down paint to control the grain and color variation. Then stain on top of it. This has worked well for me.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    I’m not sure if anyone has suggested this as admittedly, I did not read all of the comments. However, I’ve had great success with General Finishes Gel Stain in Antique Walnut. The gel stain does not penetrate the wood but rather sits on top of it so it’s great for masking ugly wood grain. Depending on your method of application it can take on an aged look or a full coverage look. The wood grain is still visible but it tones it down considerably. I’ve used it to refinish my oak kitchen cabinets and I’m working on the oak vanities in my bathrooms now. I imagine it would be equally effective on pine.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 4, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Might you try the different stain recipes on the same pieces of wood? The grain in each sample is quite different and using the same piece would give a more realistic ideas of each recipe’s effects. Pine is rather a soft wood, will it hold up for a dining table?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 4, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Pine is very common for dining tables, and also for floors. It’s soft, but the dings and scratches that occur kind of lend to the character and charm of it. The table from Williams-Sonoma is made of pine.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 5, 2016 at 5:52 am

    I used the vinegar/steel wool method to make stain for some wood I wanted to have an aged look. The directions I found used apple cider vinegar. It made a beautiful rustic stain. Later I wanted to do it again & used white vinegar, it was not the same.
    Also, I repurpose furniture for a living. My favorite finish for a table top or dresser top is to sand off the old finish and stain with a mixture is Miss Mustard Seed’s Curio (walnut color) & some typewriter (flat black). The last time I did this I brushed on a coat of water first & wiped it off so the paint absorbed more evenly. I paint on a thinned down mixture then wipe off like stain. Sometimes it takes more than one application to get the richness in the color I desire. Then follow by wiping on a couple coats of hemp oil. It turns even the ugliest wood into a beautiful piece. Most retailers sell the small trial packs. If you can’t find it in your area let me know, I would be happy to send you what you need to try it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 5, 2016 at 8:31 am

    It looks nice but if you really want an even stain on pine, you need to do a shellac washcoat first. Mix 3 parts pre-made shellac with 2 parts denatured alcohol. This will also help somewhat in sealing any knots to reduce pitch bleed.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      February 5, 2016 at 8:49 am

      Hmmm…I hadn’t heard of that, so I searched, and the first article that came up was this one: http://www.woodshopnews.com/columns-blogs/finishing/502292-shellac-as-a-sealer-its-all-just-hype

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        February 7, 2016 at 3:39 pm

        Hi Kristi, You’ll find a lot about using washcoats in magazines/websites like Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking. In the the article you mention, he’s talking about using a sealer after the stain and before a varnish-type finish. Whether or not he likes it it’s a common practice when using an oil stain and a water-based varnish. He does say however that, “Shellac also blocks the resin from pine knots and very oily exotic woods, which can slow the drying of lacquer and varnish significantly.” I was talking about using one before the oil-based Minwax stain to keep the stain from blotching the face and to prevent the end grain at the head and foot of your table from absorbing significantly more stain. If you’ve used Zinsser BIN primer, a shellac-based primer, before painting pine, a washcoat is the same but clear and much thinner. I’d forgotten about Zinsser SealCoat which while made to go over stain is perfect when mixed 50/50 with denatured alcohol for a washcoat. I’d also forgotten that Minwax actually makes a mineral spirits-based pre-stain wood conditioner for soft woods which would be easier to use than shellac but I’d still recommend experimenting with SealCoat for the end grain.
        Whether you use the Annie Sloan wax, the shellac washcoat, or the Minwax pre-conditioner, be sure to use at least 2 if not 3 coats of poly on top because all 3 prevent full penetration of the oil stain and I’d hate to see good work worn away.
        Whatever you choose, I’m sure it’ll turn out great. Your style choices and mine may often be different but I always think your work looks beautiful and magazine worthy.

        • Reply To This Comment ↓
          February 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm

          So you just put one coat of shellac and let it dry. And then do you sand before you stain? Or does it matter? And then you stain, let it dry, and then topcoat with several coats of poly. Is that right? Any other steps that you would add in there?

          I did find this article yesterday, and they have a multi-step process, one of which is to use shellac. –> http://www.popularwoodworking.com/projects/staining-pine

          • Reply To This Comment ↓
            February 7, 2016 at 5:35 pm

            That’s a lovely finish on pine. I’m sure you noticed they were using a water-based pre-conditioner and dye rather than an oil-based pre-conditioner and stain and they still evened color further with glaze. The shellac wash after the dye was likely to keep the glaze and dye from bleeding together.
            One coat of the 1 lb dewaxed shellac (the 50/50 SealCoat/denatured alcohol) is probably good if you’re using the select pine for your tabletop. Here’s a good article that discusses shellac washcoat thickness. You’ll want to let the washcoat dry and give it a very light sand with 400 sandpaper just to remove any flaws from the brush, then remove the sanding dust before staining. After the stain color is to your liking and completely dry, then you can use a compatible poly over the top of it or you can seal the stain with SealCoat and then poly. If you’re using Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane it’s fine otherwise double check with your polyurethane manufacturer that this is okay but it should be. I’d avoid a polyacrylic unless someone online has tried and tape-tested it and found it works.


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 5, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Wow, I have learned more about finishing wood in the last 30 minutes than I have in my whole life. Thanks everyone! I’m a former Cosmetology teacher and after the 10th comment about wood conditioner, it finally clicked. If you are trying to tint your hair and it has different porosities (ends are very porous from curling irons and flat irons, the middle of the hair shaft has medium porosity from day-to-day damage and the new hair is resistant) you must apply a filler before the tint. It basically goes in and fills up the hair where it is porous so that when you apply the tint it takes evenly from scalp to ends, just stain does after wood conditioner. I love it when I can make connections like that! Now I know I need wood conditioner before staining and it actually makes a difference!! Thanks again and can’t wait to see the table!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 5, 2016 at 10:46 am

    This is so timely. I just purchased a home and will be moving the middle of March. I want a table just as you described but looking at them I am seeing prices from $2100 to $3500 depending on where I am shopping. That doesn’t even include the chairs. I was aghast. I am not nearly as experienced as you are with woodworking but you do give excellent instructions so I feel like I will be capable of handling it. I am wondering what expenses I will incur purchasing power tools to do the build with. I have very few tools at this time. I will be watching anxiously..

    I did have one question, would selecting a different wood choice make it easier to accomplish the desired result? Or create other problems such as difficulty in working with it?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    March 31, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Thank you for doing this! Dad and I have built (well.. Mainly dad… Actually only dad) this Ana White console.. Two of them and they are beautiful! And I don’t want to ruin them with a bad stain job but neither of us excell at staining. Any recommendations for a different wax? Dropping another $20 is just not what I want to do right now. This is going to be a pain but I love how your samples turned out.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      March 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm

      I don’t know of another brand, but you might get a similar benefit from a product like shellac that you can buy from Home Depot I think one thing that the wax does is just kind of seal the wood so that it keep so much of the stain from penetrating into and accenting the grain. A shellac or sanding sealer might do the same thing. I also came across this link that has some great tips for staining pine for a beautiful finish: http://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniques/aw-extra-101013-staining-pine

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 19, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Funny how opinions can differ, I came on this site from google image because I wanted to know what was sample #1. Absolutely love it. It seems maybe I can see a bit of lines from the saw blade? Hard to tell from a picture but the highlights of the wood veins are really something beautiful.

    To each their own…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    July 26, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Hi! I just wanted to chime in that polyurethane over the wax might not be a good idea:

    Q. Can I apply another clear protective finish over Soft Wax?

    A. Once Annie Sloan Soft Wax is applied, no other protective finish can be applied to your project. Attempting to add another coating – such as Annie Sloan Lacquer or another varnish or even polyurethane – over a wax finish is futile.


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 31, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you for this post! I have a question about the Annie Sloan wax? What do you think the would look like without the wax underneath but still the vinegar solution? Thanks!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Hi Kristi
    Looks great! Do you think it would be durable enough to use for a flooring on pine floorboards?
    If the polyurethane doesn’t work, is there another finish which would protect and give the same effect? Many Thanks

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jen M
    November 28, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Would this system also work for pine plank floors??? I’m looking for that exact look but for flooring! We’ve considered using pine planks like in the old houses in our area. What are your suggestions?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      November 28, 2016 at 9:26 am

      I would personally be a bit scared of trying it on a floor. What I WOULD try on a floor is bleaching the wood first (using a bleach product that’s specifically made for floors and other large areas) and then staining. This is a process that I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading about lately because I want to build a wood countertop for a pantry I’ll be building, and naturally, pine is the cheapest wood so that’s probably what I’ll be using. But I’m back to the issue with the yucky grain. I came across some info about bleaching wood, and I think if it’s done before staining, it’ll remove that yellow/orange color and make the stain look much better. Anyway, I’m going to try it, so if you’re not on a hurry, you can stay tuned and see how mine turns out. I’ll probably be tackling that project in December or January. I still have to build the cabinets before I can make the countertop, so that’s why it might be January before I tackle it. Or you can google bleaching wood and find some articles and videos about it. It looks promising!

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Jen M
        November 28, 2016 at 9:33 am

        Perfect! Thank you so much! I will stay tuned! We don’t plan to start building our home until next summer so obviously much more time before floors go down. We’ve had several friends rip plywood and use, but like you said- THE GRAIN!!!!!!!! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!! I want the feel of a cozy, warm, not brand new house. I would love the color of this table you’ve done to be how the floors look. Slightly weathered and matte.

        Thank you so much for a very quick reply! Can’t wait to see the counters. I would also like to do wood countertops against crisp white cabinets in our build. TBD

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        March 15, 2017 at 8:28 am

        Just read your post here and thought I’d ask how your counters and cabinets came out? I’ve built my own, too, and am very happy with the results. I made butcher block counters out of long scrap maple from a reuse center, so don’t forget that there are other options than Big Box and lumber yards!
        As far as bleaching wood, I went hard core and bought oxcylic acid online. It’s what pros use to remove water stains from wood and to lighten colors. I haven’t used it on my pine floors yet, but you’ve got me thinking. It does an incredible job taking out water marks from old doors — which is why I bought it! Toothbrush, dipped in water, dipped in oxcylic acid powder, a little scrubbie-scrubbie and stains are gone! Neutralize with a wipe of watered vinegar? Done! Nothing needs to be that complicated, right!?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    March 12, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Hello! Just came in via Pinterest (againm!)

    I’m starting to look for a way to stain my pine kitchen floors. I really don’t mind the grain, but I sure hate the yellow color! It’s made of pallets, packing crates, and 1″x12″x12′ boards from a reuse center, so I have lots of different looks in the same species. Some too yellow, yet some too red.
    I am thinking of gray stain first, to neutralize, but I really like the idea of a wax to fill in the cracks for an aged look. Probably Briwax on my part since it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg like ASCP. Whatever works, right? It also come in different wax tones, so I can tailor it for the huge of the wood.

    This post is older and you don’t show a finished product, but I’d be very interested to see.
    I’m going to finish my floors with a couple coats of paint BASE for an invisible, water proof matte finish. Rustic floors are one thing, but I get what you mean about a rustic table!

    Thanks for all the experimenting. You’ve gotten me a little ahead of the game!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jonathan and Lindsey
    April 7, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Can you make a video showing the staining process? We just built our table and dont want to screw it up on the staining. We love the honey brown you came up with. Did you brush or wipe the stain on?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 3, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Wow! This is amazing. So scientific! It appears that the vinegar is helping avoid grain reversal. Is this true?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 15, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Is there an image of the finished table? I’d love to see how the process worked on the entire piece. We just had a table and two benches built, and I’m trying to decide how I want to finish it.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      October 17, 2017 at 7:38 am

      I ended up not using this technique on my table, so I don’t have a picture of it on a large surface.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Chelsea Smith
    May 23, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    FYI: YOU’RE MY HERO 🙌 I cant tell you how many DIYs I’ve come across that are gorgeous…right up until the finishing step. I’ve searched high and low and none of the “copycat” finishes even come *close* to what I’m looking for. I can’t wait to try this! 😍

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mary Starkey
    May 26, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Can this same process be done on raw oak?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Heather Waclaw
    July 22, 2018 at 10:35 am

    I was shopping for the wax online and love the fishes of #6 too for a pine barn door we purchased but it calls this out on the site below which makes me a bit nervous. Have you had any issue since doing your table?
    From the site:
    It is important to understand that once you wax a piece of furniture, you cannot apply polyurethane, Lacquer, shellac, varnish, urethane, etc…. over wax. It will eventually peel off. You may not have a problem right away, but it will be a problem. I guarantee that. : (

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Karen Murray Boston
    January 25, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Good Morning! Love your post. My husband just finished a wall of Beetle Kill pine. Stunning grays and tan, but I hate the yellow tone. Have you ever stained this wood? I am leaning toward you selection of stains also, but do not want to lose too much of the gray. Thank you for any advice!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      January 25, 2019 at 9:45 am

      I haven’t ever used (or heard of) that wood. But if you have a scrap piece left over, you might want to try bleaching the wood. If you follow the link that I added at the bottom of this post, you’ll see one of my more recent projects where I bleached pine before staining it, and it turned out beautifully. Not a bit of yellow or orange undertones. That’s going to be my go-to process from now on when dealing with pine. But as far as it removing the gray, I’m not sure about that. It will just require some testing. The wood bleach kit that I used is pretty inexpensive, so it might be worth the purchase to test it out on your wall (or rather, on a scrap piece of wood from the wall).

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Melanie Crabtree
    August 6, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Hello! Thank you for this post – exactly what I’ve been looking for!

    How do you wipe the vinegar stain on/off the pine? I know you have the steel wool pads, but do you use those to take it on/off as well? Or maybe paper towels? Thanks for the help!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 29, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Kristi,
    I tried this & my pine ended up VERY dark, almost black. (I did soak the solution for more than 3 hrs.) Do you know if I can get that off the pine or if I apply your other steps with the stain will it get to the warm brown? Ty

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Suzanne Reid
    September 30, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Hi Kristi,
    I let my solution soak for longer than 3 hours and after applying it the pine table looks so dark, almost black. Do you know if there’s a way of undoing this? I’m assuming that following the next steps you listed won’t help. Thanks.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Hey there, I really liked your articles, I too have had a really hard time with pine. I’ve recently discovered Fusion Mineral paint gel stain and topcoat in the color double espresso. It looks AMAZING on raw pine. I highly recommend you try it. I just finished using it on farmhouse style picture frames I built out of the cheap pine 1×2’s at Home Depot and they turned out gorgeous. Actually very similar in color to your last board with just one coat.. No pine grain shows through it at all. It’s all a solid beautiful medium brown and it’s not opaque or streaky like water based gel stains. I can guarantee it will become your favorite stain for pine! Plus you can apply it by hand like a traditional oil stain! (I’ve even used a wadded up paper towel with great results!)
    P.s I’m not a seller or spokesperson for fusion- just a happy little diyer who’s discovered a revolutionary product. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Minky du Toit
    March 4, 2022 at 1:55 am

    I love the outcome of your experiments. I am also no fan of the orangey look on pine. With the vinegar stain, how wet do you make it and how long does it take to dry.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      March 4, 2022 at 7:24 pm

      I used a pretty generous amount and made sure to get the wood saturated, just like using a penetrating stain. I think it took a few hours to dry and change the color of the wood.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Minky du Toit
    March 4, 2022 at 2:18 am

    Hello Kristi
    I have a second question please.
    If I use coffee stain, do I still need a wood conditioner and if so, which do I put on first.
    Thanks Minky