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Minwax Water Based Stain on Oak Hardwood Plywood

December 3, 2012 |
posted by Ana White
Minwax Water Based Stain on Oak Hardwood Plywood
Author Notes

Hi everyone! It’s been a bit since we've posted a staining tutorial, and I sure have missed working on projects! The finish really is that Cinderella moment, when you take raw boards, and wave the magic wand, and your pile of boards completes its transformation into a finished piece. 

For this tutorial, I really wanted to show you how easy it is to stain hardwood plywood. Because I promise you something - if you build a project with hardwood plywood - you’ll get second thoughts on painting it. It is tough to cover up beautiful wood grains! 

But you can choose to stain your hardwood plywood and enhance the wood grain, all while creating the right tone of wood for your space. 

Case in point: we built my daughter a modern toy box out of PureBond Formaldehyde Free Oak Plywood, and wanted a rich, warm, dark stain that does not cover the wood grain.
Minwax to the rescue! Here’s how I stained oak hardwood plywood with Minwax Water Based Wood Stain to achieve this finish.

Plans Used in Finish

What You Will Need

Shopping List: 

We are working indoors now, so I choose Minwax Water Based Wood Stain in American Walnut and Minwax Water Based Polycrylic in the quart can. Because we are working with water based, only a synthetic brush is required and I can clean up with soap and water. You’ll also need 220 grit fine sandpaper, and staining rags. Gloves are recommended.

Hardwood Plywood in Oak (I used PureBond)
Minwax Water Based Wood Stain (I used American Walnut - can be mixed in many different shades and colors)
Fine sandpaper or sanding block
Synthetic Water Based Brush
Minwax Water Based Polycrylic

Step 1

Prepare - Project Preparation

Stir the water based stain before you begin and throughout your project to ensure color uniformity.  If you are using more than one can, mix the cans together to ensure uniformity between cans.

Water based stain is much thicker than oil based in consistency.  Stir until the color is uniform throughout.

The first thing I did was test a small amount of stain on a scrap piece of plywood. This is always recommended, because while the stain is consistent, your wood may vary even within the same species.  So take a quick second to make sure you love the stain on a scrap piece of wood.

Loved it!

On your project, sand the wood with fine sandpaper.  Most hardwood plywood is sanded already, so no need to bring out the power sander in many cases.  You’ll want to sand any joints as well.

You must get rid of all sanding residue before applying stain.  I use a brush to remove the bulk of it, then wipe the project down with a damp rag to make sure all sanding residue is removed.

Step 2

Make Pretty - Stain Application

We’ll only need one brush for both the stain and top coat.  I’m using a 2” Minwax Synthetic brush, designed for quart cans.  Because everything is water based, we can just clean the brush with soap and water.

When you start staining, start in the inside, hardest to reach place first and work your way outward.  That way you won’t be getting stain on your shirt sleeves as you reach into tight places.

Remember that you will need to wipe excess stain off within 3 minutes, so work in sections, or have someone work with you wiping off stain after you apply it.  Apply the stain liberally, brushing in the direction of the wood grain.

After three minutes, wipe excess stain off.  Do not allow excess stain to dry on the project.

As you wipe stain off, work stain into lighter areas to blend in for a consistent color.

The color can be deepened by applying an additional coat Minwax Water Based Wood Stain 2 hours after the first coat.    Brush on as you did the first coat.  No need to sand between coats of stain.

And wipe off excess stain within 3 minutes of application.

I really love how Minwax Water Based Wood Stain in American Walnut brought out the grain of this hardwood oak plywood!  Beautiful and so easy!

Step 3

Protect - Top Coat Application

Now it’s time to let the stain dry completely.  After a minimum of 3 hours, depending on the temperature, I applied Minwax Polycrylic.  I used the same brush, just washed it with soap and water.  To apply the Minwax Polycrylic:

1.    Wait 24 hours for Minwax Water Based Stain to fully dry.

2.    Stir Minwax Polycrylic before and through use, do not shake the can.  The finish will appear milky in the can, but it will dry clear.  

3. Brush Minwax Polycrylic on in the direction of the wood grain with a synthetic brush, in a very light coat.  Avoid overbrushing.

4.    Allow first coat to dry for at least 2 hours.  Then sand lightly with very fine 220 grit sandpaper, sanding in direction of wood grain, and remove all dust.  Do not use steel wool.

5.    Apply a second light coat.  Allow to dry and sand again as you did the first coat.  A third coat is recommended.

6.    After the final coat, allow three house before light handling and 24 hours before normal use.

Enjoy your finish!  Thank you Minwax for bringing us another staining tutorial!

Thank you

Thank you for thinking of it all. There is nothing worst than to build and beautiful piece of furniture just to have it look amaturish because of poor finishing then sand it all down and start again. It happened to my brother in law. One question i have had mixed answers on. When should a prestain be used?

posted by Quintin79 | on Mon, 2012-12-03 19:44

Water-based Not my Favorite

Thanks for the tips as always, Ana!

I may have to give water-based stain another try; I generally go with oil-based stain and like the results better. It's been well past 10 years since I tried a water-based stain, but it didn't go well on very large areas (like 7ft bookcases). Lot's of trouble keeping the color density uniform.

Back then, you could use Windex to entirely remove water-based stain, if you did it before it thoroughly dried. Did that countless times trying to get even coverage.

But formulas change, so I'll give it another go. Sure would appreciate less fumes!

posted by RBean (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-12-06 12:42

staining wood

I've read that it is advisable to use a pre-stain conditioner on bare wood before staining. Is that not needed?

posted by Mary E (not verified) | on Sat, 2013-01-12 14:19

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