This is the easiest, most accurate way to match wood stain for your project.
How to Match Wood Stain
I’ve refinished a number of furniture pieces and wood trim when matching an existing stain was important. I’ve had far better luck getting stains matched by the staff at the paint store than I’ve had trying to mix colors off the shelf myself. Just bring in a sample piece to be matched. Keep in mind that stain can look different on different pieces of wood. So if you’re doing trim, for example, don’t just bring in the piece that’s easiest to remove; choose a sample piece that has the color and tone you want. You’ll also need to bring in an unfinished test board of the same species and with the same grain characteristics as those of the pieces you’re trying to match.
I keep a quart each of de-waxed shellac, clear shellac and amber shellac on hand at all times. I use de-waxed shellac as a sealer/base coat. I use clear or amber depending on the tone I'm looking for. The biggest drawbacks of shellac are that it doesn't repel water and it's not as durable as polyurethane, so I don't use it on items that get hard use.
Check out one of the many uses for dewaxed shellac: How to Stain Wood Evenly Without Getting Blotches and Dark Spots.Buy it now on Amazon.
It took me a while to warm up to water-based poly because it doesn't give the same warmth of tone as oil-based finishes. To combat this, I apply de-waxed shellac for the first coat, which adds some warmth. In the plus column, there's almost no odor and it dries faster than oil, meaning I can build up a finish faster.
Learn some important tips for using water based varnish here.Buy it now on Amazon.
If you're putting a top coat on outdoor furniture, you want spar varnish. It's been used on wooden boats for generations. Spar varnish stays slightly soft and flexible after it cures. This allows it to move with wood that lives out in the elements, expanding and contracting with changes in humidity.
Here's a perfect spar varnish project: How to Build a Cedar Potting Bench.Buy it now on Amazon.Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Brad Holden, an associate editor at The Family Handyman, has been building cabinets and furniture for 30 years. In that time, he has absorbed so many slivers and ingested so much sawdust that he's practically made of wood.