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How To Stain End Grain

Have you ever finished a woodworking project only to find that the end grain is 4-5 times darker on the end grain than on the face grain? Pretty frustrating, right?

Face grain and end grain are naturally going to look a bit different from each other. It also is going to act differently as well. And there is a simple reason for it. At the end of the board, there are pores that are open, and these act like straws. Any finish that goes on the board’s face grain is not going to absorb near as much as on the end grain of the wood. The end grain pulls in far more of the finish, and it goes deeper.

So you can end up with a real problem as you are staining your projects. The deeper the stain goes into your wood, the darker it will turn out at the surface. End result being the ends are very dark in comparison to the face of your project.

You have to prevent the stain from going in so deep into the wood. A few things can be done to do this. A gel stain is one of the easiest methods. It is going to make the color more consistent throughout the different grains. The gel stain is a good bit thicker than a liquid stain, so it isn’t going to go as deep into the wood. End result? The end grain as well as the face grain is more consistent in color.

Keep in mind that gel stains are not all the same thickness. To get the best results, find a manufacturer of gel stains that is as thick as possible. Thicker is better.

You can also sand the end grain with a finer sandpaper – such as using 600 grit on the ends, and sticking to 220 on the face. This works better because you are polishing the grain using friction. And the ends of the pores in the grain will become smaller, naturally not letting as much stain into the wood.

Something to remember, end grain isn’t always going to be at the end of a board. It will show on the face of the board at times as well. In woods such as cherry, maple, and pine, this is especially so. They can have a grain that is wavy and wild.

Once the grain makes a turn and goes up to the face of your wood, there will be a patch of it mixing into the face grain. Thus you will have some end grain with your face grain. This can look like a dark blotch on your product. To avoid this problem, before you stain apply a wash coat, or wood conditioner.

Usually, it’s just made up of a solvent that will evaporate at a slow pace. The conditioner goes underneath the stain, so the result is going to be the stain won’t be able to penetrate as deep. Wood conditioner can be found at about any store that you buy stain at.


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Ted Leger –


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(image of end grain at the top of the post is courtesy of wikimedia.org)

Updated: December 16, 2014 — 10:01 pm
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