Have you ever looked at your table and thought, “I would love this table if it was just a little bit darker.” Have you thought about making that table darker and the thought of stripping, sanding and restaining stopped you in your thought process? You quickly decided I don’t have to strip that table and start all over. Well, let me show you how to easily darken stain without stripping the table or any other piece of stain wood, this includes hardwood flooring as well.
Step 1: Lightly Hand Sand
Using a light grit sanding block, lightly hand sand the entire surface of the wood piece that you would like to darken. You are only doing this to remove the shiny surface and to remove any other dirt or grease build up. Make sure to use a light grit sandpaper(250-300) because you do not want to scratch the wood with a heavy grit sandpaper.
Do not use an electric sander as this would apply too much pressure and could remove some of the original stains. I like to use a sanding block because it is easier on my hands and easier to grip.
Lightly sanding also removes any build up on the wood. The picture above shows some white marks, this is where something sticky or build up was on the wood. Make sure to remove all the white build up areas by continuing to sand until feels smooth to the touch.
The seat on the right has been sanded and you can see the shine has been removed from the right one. This is all that is needed.
Step 2: Clean Wood
Clean your entire piece thoroughly using a mild cleanser. I like to use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Do not use an oil-based cleaner like an oil soap. You want to keep the freshly sanded pores open and an oil cleaner will clog the open pores.
Step 3: Apply Dark Gel Stain
Apply the gel stain using a chip brush. Work in small areas as you do not want the stain to start to dry. Once it starts to dry, it is harder to remove. Use a cloth to wipe away the stain. If the wood is not dark enough, let the first coat dry completely and apply another coat of stain in the same manner, allowing to dry completely after wiping away the extra stain. I used Java Gel stain from General Finishes on this table. You can use any brand of gel stain.
This is the before and after, after applying one coat of gel stain.
Step 4: Seal
My favorite sealer is Wipe-On Poly from Minwax. Apply a light coat of the poly sealer and let dry completely. Sometimes I will apply the first coat with the spray version as to not wipe away any stain. The gel stain has a tendency to lightly rub off with the first coat of sealer. You can use any brand that you like to seal, just make sure you are using an oil based sealer.
After the first coat of poly has dried, use fine grit sandpaper and lightly sand down before applying the second coat of sealer. Lightly sanding helps to keep the surface smooth. Apply additional poly coats as needed. I typically do 2 to 3 coats of poly sealer.
Here is the before and after of my dining room table makeover
I also used gel stain to darken my hardwood floors and stairs.
Gel stain is my “Go To” product when I am re-doing any type of wood.
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