It will be understood, of course, that an application of stain is only to be made where it is desired to alter the shade or color of the wood. Several of the darker woods look very well when finished natural, and ash and white maple are sometimes kept purposely light.
In selecting a stain consult the actual wood samples usually supplied by manufacturers to the stores handling their products. If the stain has to be ordered by mail, send for the color-plates showing the actual effect on the wood before ordering. Carefully note whether the color effect selected was obtained on hard or soft wood, because the softer the wood, the more stain it will absorb, and the more stain it takes, the darker the resultant shade. This, however, may be easily remedied by thinning the stain with alcohol, gasolene or turpentine, as required by the directions on the can. The latter is necessary if it is an oil stain, which variety is the most easily applied for the reason that it dries more slowly. In any case it is safer when working with a new product to experiment with a block of the actual wood or on the under side of the article to be finished. Be sure that all drops of glue have been removed and that the surface is smooth and without greasy finger-marks. Handle the brush in an orderly manner, and do not paint a part simply because it happens to be near the brush.
If, for instance, you are staining the square leg of a table, start at the top of one side and complete that side before starting another, taking due care not to carry the brush so full as to cause the stain to trickle around the edges onto the new wood. The best brush for handling thin stains is that known as the fitch-brush. In such woods as Oregon pine or redwood, the grain may be greatly intensified by wiping off the surplus stain with a soft cloth before it has had time to soak into the more resinous portions of the wood.
When the stain has thoroughly dried, which will take from eighteen to twenty-four hours, it will be found that the wood feels rough and that the stain has raised the grain. This is soon remedied, however, by rubbing lightly with 00 sandpaper, which, if held in the hand without a block, will give a smoother surface than ever. If, after wiping off the dust with a soft rag, it is found that more contrast or a darker shade is desired, apply a second coat of the stain.