Quick Tip: Why use wood stain?
Because most beginner DIY enthusiasts use pine and not hardwood for their projects, wood stain is commonly used to disguise or alter the look of basic pine.
When it comes to using wood stain or tinted sealer or varnish, many DIY enthusiasts use this to disguise the fact that they are using affordable pine for their projects. Pine may be the cheapest wood product to work with, but it can also be bland and boring if left unstained. And over time, the natural yellowish tinge of pine tends to darken and become more pronounced, eventually becoming a dark yellow / orange hue that is not very attractive.
Using a wood stain or tinted sealer / varnish, or even paint, lets you add a more attractive finish to the project, or match furniture or decor that you already have in your home, without having to buy very expensive hardwood. A wood stain or tinted sealer / varnish also lets you colour the wood but still be able to see the wood grain. Painting, on the other hand, covers up the beautiful grain, unless you are simply applying a whitewash that also lets the wood grain show through and tones down the natural yellow tint of pine.
At our DIY Divas Workshops, we often use gel and wood stains to colour the wood, but I regularly see people applying layer after layer of stain or sealer / varnish tint, so much in fact that the grain of the wood disappears under the many layers.
Always test before you use
There are some really beautiful wood stains and tints out there, but if you haven't used these before, be sure to test on a piece of scrap pine before applying to your project. Having a personal experience with a particular stain that was supposed to resemble mahogany, I was most upset when this colour actually stained my wood a revolting purple shade.
Unfortunately, a lot of the stain products you buy, especially those that you apply separately and not in a tinted sealer / varnish, you could end up spoiling a project.
Set up pieces of scrap pine that you can use to determine how many coats will need to be applied to achieve the desired finishing colour. This will prevent any mistakes on your project and let you apply wood stain with confidence.
Add a protective finish
There is a misconception amongst beginner DIY enthusiasts that you only need to apply a stain to finish off your project. This is not true. A stain is only used to change the colour of the wood you are working with, but it doesn't provide any protection whatsoever. After staining, you need to apply a clear sealer or varnish or a polyurethane sealer to protect the finish.