Staining Soft Wood Pine Floating Shelves

We were asked to make some dark, floating shelves for a rental unit.  Typically, when a client asks for dark wood, we jump to walnut.  In this case, cost was a bit of a concern so rather than go to the expense of using walnut, we settled on staining pine. 

Staining soft woods (like pine) can be tricky. They tend to come out looking very streaky.  That is one of the many reasons we avoid pine.  For a more even look, when we do use pine, we make sure to first apply a good pre-stain conditioner. 

In this video we walk through the build and finish of a quick DIY floating shelf.  

We starting off with a standard 2x10x8 board and cut it to length. We immediately noticed it had a lot of wobble in it but once we cut it to length on the miter saw, it was much better.  Still, we ran it across the jointer to make sure we had an even face.  Then we turned it on its size to square the edge.  A few passes through the planer and we had a nice square shelf.

From there we cut and squared the ends to length on the table saw.  It was such a nice day outside, that Seth setup the sawhorses and did all the routing and sanding in the fresh air.  Last year we got a great deal on a set of cordless Ryobi tools.  The edge router is by far one of our favorites out of the set.  Seth used a chamfer bit to route the upward facing edges.

From there he sanded all sides with an orbital sander (alas a cordless we do not have) beginning with 80 grit, then 120, then 220.  At this stage the shelf is ready to be finished.  If it were walnut, we would hit it with a few good coats of oil and buff it with finishing wax, but this time we had to stain. 

Pre-stain conditioner is a pretty neat product that prepares bare wood for staining.  It will penetrate the wood and help give you a much more uniform acceptance of the stain, particularly oil-based stains.

We simply apply the conditioner to the bare wood with a sponge brush or clean cloth and wait about 15 minutes to wipe any excess off.  From that point you have about two hours to apply the stain for the best finish.  We usually apply stain heavily with a rag or shop towel, wait a few minutes, then wipe the excess off.

The next day we use a wipe on polyurethane and let it dry for a day.  A quick sanding with 220 grit paper the next day and we can apply a second coat.  As a final step we usually wax our shelves.

Our client was very happy with the outcome.  We made a new mantle top and several floating shelves using some wall-mount pipe hardware that we ordered from amazon.  They turned out pretty good if we do say so ourselves.


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