Product Instructions

Sanding and Staining Tips
for Shaker Workshops Kit Furniture


The most important element in obtaining a fine finish on furniture is the surface preparation. Taking the time to sand a piece thoroughly will pay off in all the subsequent steps. Shaker Workshops furniture kits are sanded to a medium grit finish (120 grit) on our machine sanders. This produces a good basis for the final sanding. However, since the pieces are sanded by the regular mechanical motion of the machines, patterns of sanding marks are often left on the surface. If sufficient hand sanding is not done in preparation to staining, these regular marks will be highlighted by the stain.

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Begin by sanding all the kit parts with the 120 grit sandpaper supplied. Sand with the grain and until all machine sanding marks are removed. Working with good light is essential. A raking light across the surface will help to show up any irregularities. If you are sanding a large piece such as a table top, you can use an electric orbital or oscillating sander to help speed up the process of removing the machine sanding marks. Be sure to sand by hand, using a sanding block (a 3” x 4” x 3/4” block of scrap wood with the sand paper wrapped around it) afterwards. Sand with the grain to remove any swirl marks left by these sanders.

At this point you can choose between two techniques. One, assemble the kit first, then do the final sanding and staining, or two, continue to sand with finer (180 grit) sand paper and stain the parts before assembly. Staining the parts before assembly reduces the number of corners and intersections of parts where staining an assembled piece may be difficult, but necessitates care in assembly to avoid marring the stained surfaces. If you assemble first, be sure to sand the piece carefully afterwards with 180 grit sand paper. Pay particular attention to any areas where glue may have gotten on the surface or where the grain may have been raised by water in the damp rag used during clean up. Glue spots will show up as light areas where the stain could not be absorbed completely, and raised grain will show up as dark areas where the rougher areas held on to more pigment. Be sure all surfaces are sanded thoroughly and equally to obtain an even stain color. All the 120 grit sanding marks should be removed by the 180 grit sand paper. Round all sharp edges slightly. Often people are tempted to sand the parts with even finer grits of sand paper. This is OK if the piece is to be oiled with no stain applied. If stain is going to be used, sanding with sandpaper finer than 180 grit will cause the wood to stain lighter and often times more unevenly because the surface is too smooth to hold the pigment when the excess stain is wiped off.


We are pleased to announce that we have converted all our stain colors to waterbased formulas. This allows us to provide a product that is safer and less toxic to people and our environment. However, being a waterbased product it may look somewhat different than our older solvent based stains. Many of the ingredients used in older stain formulations are no longer used today. Also, our new stains will apply differently than solvent based stains. We recommend that you read these instructions carefully and practice on a piece of scrap wood of the same species or underside of a table top. Be sure you like the look before staining the entire piece. This test piece should be sanded to the same degree as the rest of the kit. It is best to let the stain on your test piece fully dry and then apply a coat of the final finish to accurately judge the color. If you do not like the color, or the way the stain applies, you may want to purchase a solvent based stain from your local paint or hardware store. If you have questions at this point, please do not hesitate to telephone us.

Again, be sure the pieces of the kit are well sanded with 180 grit sandpaper. The better the sanding job, the more easily and evenly the stain will apply. Apply the stain with a clean lint free cotton cloth (an old T-shirt or diaper is ideal). Apply the stain to one area at a time ( for example a rung, slat, or post) and when the color is uniform wipe off the excess stain while it is still wet. If you are staining after assembly, first wipe the stain off those areas where parts intersect, so that the color in these areas will blend and not become too dark. Stain larger areas, like table tops all at once. Apply a liberal amount of stain onto the table top and wipe it all over the surface. Be careful to keep all areas wet. While the stain is still wet, quickly wipe off all the excess. Be sure to wipe in the same direction as the grain of the wood. When staining a large dining table top, having a second person to wipe can make the job much easier. Allow the stain to dry overnight.

If, when you begin to stain, you do not like the look of the result (ie. machine sanding marks are still visible, glue spots appear, etc.) stop staining and correct the problem immediately. Do not continue to stain hoping that it will look better when it dries. It will not, and you will be left with the prospect of sanding all the stain off.

After the stain has dried the piece should be rubbed lightly with steel wool (0000 grit) to smooth the raised grain. Be sure to wipe off all steel wool particles and dust. If a darker color is desired, a second coat of stain may be applied. Take the piece into a well lighted area and apply a second coat as necessary to achieve a uniform coating. Let dry completely, and then lightly rub the piece with steel wool. Again, remove any steel wool particles and dust.

After doing a test of the stain, if a lighter color is desired, the stain may be thinned. Our waterbased stains, may be thinned with water.

Different types of wood will absorb stain differently. Maple will absorb less stain than pine and the resulting color will be lighter. If you are staining a furniture kit that contains both maple and pine parts (the Bed for example), stain the maple parts first, and then match the pine parts to them by thinning the stain.

Once the furniture kit has been stained and you are satisfied with the result, a final finish must be applied over the stain. If there are any areas of stain that need touch up or repair, be sure to do this before applying the final finish. Polyurethane, shellac, varnish, etc. may be applied over our stains. We do not recommend using oil finish over our waterbased stains. It is best to use a hard finish over these stains.

If you have questions about finishing your Shaker Workshops® furniture kit please call our
Technical Support at: 1-978-827-6086, 9 am to 6 pm, Monday-Friday.

14 South Pleasant Street
Ashburnham, MA 01430-1649