How to stain a table

DIY step-by-step guide on how to stain a table. Give new, inexpensive furniture an antique finish for just a few dollars


This raw pine table cost just under AU$50 from IKEA.
Rather than buying new furniture, get it raw and finish it yourself. It only took a couple of hours to give this table an antique-style finish. We used Cabot’s Inter Stain in Cedar, AU$15.20 for 250ml, and finished it with Cabot’s Cabothane, AU$9.78 for 250ml. It’s as cost-effective as it gets and the technique is simple.

How to stain a table


Prepare the table
Fill any exposed nail holes with putty. Lightly sand with 280-grit abrasive paper in the direction of the grain. Wipe sawdust from the surface with mineral turpentine (if using an oil-based finish) or methylated spirits (for a water-based finish).

How to stain a table


Apply the stain
Stir the stain well then apply to a section with a brush, using flowing strokes to cover the length of the timber, ensuring an even application.
TIP Intensity of colour depends on timber porosity and how long you wait before removing the stain.

How to stain a table


Wipe off the stain
Wait for about five minutes, then wipe the stain away using a lint-free rag in a circular motion. Repeat the application and wipe-off process for other sections of the table, ensuring consistent colour. Leave it to dry for eight hours.

How to stain a table


Apply a clear coat
Wipe the table then brush on a clear polyurethane coat (in gloss, satin or low-sheen finish) with long strokes. Don’t over-brush when applying finish and clean up drips or run marks. Leave it to dry for eight hours.

How to stain a table


Apply the second coat
Lightly sand with 320-grit abrasive paper and apply a second coat of clear polyurethane for greater lustre. Leave it to dry for six hours.
TIP Two coats protect the timber and highlight the natural grain.

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