Tonight’s behind the
music stain is brought to you by Minwax. It’s a battle royale of sorts. Just picture that famous wrestling/boxer announcer dude in his booming voice going “IN THIS CORNER….WEIGHING IN AT 32 OUNCES….WAAAATER BASED STAAAAAAIIIIN…AND IN THIS CORNER…WEARING THE YELLOW…ALSO AT 32 OUNCES….OOOOOIIIIIIIILLLLL BASED STAIN!” But seriously, this is a post about water based vs. oil based stain, just for clarification’s sake.
We have been doing A LOT of staining and polying these days. Seriously. We just hit the 200+ mark in iPad/cookbook stand production for our Etsy shop, Roostic. Since I’m always looking for ways to make production faster, easier or generally more pleasant, switching out our stinky oil based stain for a slightly more pleasant smelling water based version seemed like a logical choice. So I took the water based stain for a test drive and compared the results. Can you tell which stain is which?
I was hesitant about the water based stain from the moment I opened up the can and revealed this:
For those of you who have worked with oil based stain but not water based stain, the water based is a completely different consistency. It’s thicker, milky, and almost paint like. Which kind of makes sense since when you buy the stuff, you have to get it tinted first at the paint desk. So I gave the can a good little mix up and then test stained a piece of scrap wood.
As I suspected, the water based stain went on sooooo much thicker than your typical oil based stain. I probably used 2-3 times as much water based stain for the same coverage as the oil based stain. The staining process is the same for both finishes. You just slap it on with a brush, let it sit for your chosen amount of time, and wipe off with a clean cloth. So here’s the result after staining one iPad rand with water based and one with oil based (both stands are made from the same board):
I’m not gonna lie, I don’t really like the water based stain’s finish as much as the oil based stain. The oil based stain brings out the wood grain and really enhances it where the water based stain seems to sit on top of the wood and mask the beautiful grains. I even tried scraping my finger nail across each iPad stand to verify this hypothesis, which resulted in the finish scraping off for the water based stand but not for the oil based one. Even after laying on a couple coats of glossy, water based poly, I still wasn’t overly impressed with the water based stain finish.
Here’s the closeup:
Even though the stains are the same shade, it’s like the water based stain has more red undertones in it. Me thinks I’ll stick to my typical oil based stain for iPad stand production. Although, it’s hard to beat this cleanup!
But who am I kidding! I stain every single day and have probably cleaned my brush three times in the last three months. I’m a shameless wrap my brush in saran wrap until my next staining session kind of stainer in lieu of cleaning it with mineral spirits every day. It even serves as stain every day motivation so I don’t ever have to worry about cleaning my brush! Shameless!
So to recap the water based stain trial:
- Pro: Does not stink (in comparison to oil based stain)
- Con: Goes on super thick meaning you’ll use a ton more than it’s oil based counterpart
- Pro: Cleans up super easy with just water (no mineral spirits needed)
- Con: Masks the wood grain and brings more red out in the wood
Pssst…How about you guys? Have you ever toyed with water based stain? Do you have a preference?