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Do You Need A Wood Conditioner Before Staining Oak?


An Oak wood table or a cupboard can change the overall look of a home. Being a strong, dense, and hardwood, oak provides longevity to the furniture. But, now, the real question is do you need to use a pre-stain wood conditioner to oak when it is hard in itself.

Do You Need A Wood Conditioner Before Staining Oak?

Oak wood is a hardwood so it doesn’t require wood conditioner like softwood species. When it comes to the application of a wood conditioner on oak wood, it relies on few factors. Oak is generally very heavy, strong, and hardwood that comes in various colors, including red, white, brown, beige, etc. The grains of the wood are pretty dense that provides the wood a hard finish naturally. So, being a hardwood, it does not readily absorb moisture and get blotchy like softwoods.

Firstly, you have to shortlist the requirements for the wood. If you are going to make oak furniture with extraordinary shine and color, avoiding wood conditioner will be better for you. It is because applying a wood conditioner always lightens the stain. So, you can skip this step while making a rich, colorful, and attractive oak piece. But, otherwise, you will not regret using a wood conditioner to oak. If you are making barrels, or something smaller, you can use a wood conditioner for a better finish and long life.

Wood Conditioner- What Does It Do?

A wood conditioner works as a delicate sheet over a piece of wood that protects it from getting blotchy. This coating gets used on a work piece before beginning the staining process. In most cases, wood such as elm, pine, birch, fir, and other softwoods require pre-stain wood conditioner to prevent an uneven stain appearance. It prevents the wood from forfeiting shine over time.

Wood conditioners create an even layer that holds the stains to get absorbed into the wood and stay polished and new for a long time. However, it gets used mainly in softwood, yet, some hardwoods also need a wood conditioner for a better finish. Wood conditioner enhances the texture of wooden furniture and improves its quality, and provides it a long life.

What is Oak Wood Like?

Unlike pine, far, elm, birch, etc., an oak belongs to the hardwood family. Oakwood gets used in making furniture, boats, flooring, wine caskets, barrels, etc. Oak being a hardwood does not mean that it never gets damaged. If not treated properly, oak furniture can get damaged, just like other softwoods.

It is up to you and the customer’s requirements whether you use a wood conditioner before staining an oak or not. If you skip using the conditioner, it will not impact the overall look as oak is hardwood itself. But, if you want a shiny and dark finish, you can surely avoid the conditioner part for a better result.

Testing Stains on White Oak

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In this video, Dave experiments with several different stains on White Oak wood. He wanted to see the effects of different stains, some are good and others not, hope this helps somebody.

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Kevin Nelson

I will always have a special place in my heart for woodworking. I have such fond memories working on projects with my parents on the weekends in the garage growing up. We built tables, shelves, a backyard shed, 10' base for a water slide into the pool, 2 story fort playhouse with a fire pole, and so much more. This woodworking blog allows me to write helpful articles so others can enjoy woodworking as much as we have.

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