How do I stain pine a consistent color?

Q:

I use white pine in many projects because it’s readily available and inexpensive. But I have problems staining boards a consistent color from one end to the other. What’s the best way to stain pine?
—Jim Gray, Madisonville, Texas

A:

 If pine’s soft earlywood were as hard as its dense latewood, your staining problems would be over, Jim. However, that soft earlywood acts like a stain sponge, leaving behind a blotchy surface. To beat the blotch, try this two-pronged approach regardless of how dark you want the wood. First, sand the entire project to 180 grit. Thoroughly wet one surface at a time with a damp cloth so the moisture reaches just beneath the surface. Then immediately wipe the surface dry and apply a dye that’s the shade you want. We aimed for a dark finish on the test board above, so we used antique mahogany dye (#40, W.D. Lockwood, 866-293-8913 or wdlockwood.com).

Allow the dye to dry overnight; then lightly sand the wood with 220 grit to remove nibs. Wipe the surface clean and seal the wood with a ½-lb cut shellac or with varnish that’s thinned 75 percent with mineral spirits.  Hand-sand the sealed surface evenly with 220 grit, and apply a pigmented stain over the sealer. Choose a stain that’s close in color and darkness to the dye. If you want a still darker surface, repeat the sealer/stain combination. Cover the final coat of stain with a clear finish.

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