Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Paint, Stain, or Oil?

Until I began working with furniture, I never realized how many options there were for bringing life to wood. I had always painted with water-based paints, and was shocked to find how easy using other products could be! I've learned to love painting, staining, and oiling wood all for different reasons. So which one is the best for your project?


Painting is great and gives lots of options for people who are looking for something specific. In the first picture, I chose an oil based paint because I wanted a smooth, glossy look that would cover the many blemishes from this side-of-the-road pick. The church pew had a lot of blemishes, too, so paint was a natural choice!

  • Covers problem areas well
  • Many bright and specific colors available
  • Many choices and finishes
    • You can get oil or water based and even choose glossy or matte to match your style.
  • Can be painted over and over again
  • Does not require as much sanding
    • No need to sand every square inch. Just rough up the large area a bit for the new coat to stick.
  • Works on all types of surfaces
    • Yep, even laminate.


  • Easily nicked and tough to touch up
  • Can be expensive
  • Messy
  • Brush strokes often visible
  • Dripping
  • Wait time to dry
  • Cracks, bubbles, or peels when aged

I love how stain brings out the grain of the wood. Any time I have a piece that has beautiful lines I try to stain it to show its beauty. The tables especially fit that criteria! You can also use stain to give age to wood like I did on the bread board. Click on the pictures to get the tutorial for each.

  • Leaves wood grain
  • Match other pieces in your home
    • Got one oddball that doesn't match? Sand and stain it to match the rest of your home.
  • Leaves even finish (as long as it's not globbed on)
  • Easy to touch up
  • Not particularly expensive
  • Fades nicely with age


  • Stains hands
  • Doesn't cover as many blemishes
  • Requires heavy sanding
    • Yes, you even have to sand the hard to reach spots! Staining will show any old finish right through the stain.
  • Best results on solid wood (no laminate or likewise)


  • Very easy to apply
  • Leaves a smooth finish
  • No clear coat needed
  • Brightens color of the wood


  • Oily 
  • Hard to remove
    • Once it's on, it's a bother to try to remove it. Oil and sanders don't mix.
  • Limited choices

Does this make your decision easier? Truthfully, they are all about the same amount of effort any way you slice it. But each one produces dramatically different and unique results! Which do you prefer?

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