Choosing Timber Stains - Fiddes Australia

STAINING TIMBER SURFACES – a step by step guide

By Heidi – Fiddes Australia Technical Support

Adding colour to wood surfaces is very exciting, but at the same time can be a bit daunting. Perhaps your existing timber surface is looking tired, or you’re just bored and want to change the colour scheme in your home. Re-painting walls and want a different coloured floor or furniture? Whatever the inspiration, it is very important to know which stain to choose and which application method will achieve the desired result.

How do I choose the RIGHT stain?

There are some things to consider when choosing which stain to use. Are you looking for a subtle tone to enhance the grain or a more solid, opaque look?

Fiddes Nitro Stain is an oil penetrating stain that enhances the grain of the timber, meaning that the timber will still have a natural look to it. It is available in 9 different colours and a clear called Nitro Thinners, which is used to dilute the stain depth if required. Nitro stain can be applied by rag, brush, or roller. More on application methods further down.

Fiddes Light Fast Water Stain is of course as the name suggests a water-based stain. This is the ideal stain to use if you are looking for a more ‘solid’ or ‘opaque’ colour such as a jet black. You will still be able to see the grain of the timber and will not look like a painted surface. Available in 9 colours, it can be applied with a brush, sponge, or pad applicator.


How do I prepare timber for staining?

It is extremely important to make sure that the timber surface is prepared well for staining.

  • Remove any existing finish, polish, lacquer, oil, wax, paint, grease, stickiness/tackiness by sanding the timber completely back to raw. A paint & varnish stripper may be required prior to sanding for heavily coated timber. You may also need to use a coarse sandpaper to remove all existing coatings.
  • Continue to sand the timber surface to a fine finish working your way up to 120-150 grit sandpaper depending on the density of the timber. The sanding process is a very important part of the staining procedure as if this is not correctly done the stain results could be undesirable. If the surface is left too rough, it will absorb more stain and the colour will be darker. The reverse is the case if the surface is sanded too smoothly. The stain will not penetrate as deeply, and the stain colour will be lighter.
  • Doing a test sample on an offcut of timber sanded to the finish grit is always a good idea before diving in and staining the real thing.


How do I apply the stain?

After you have fine sanded the surface, vacuum or wipe down the area so it is clean and free from dust before applying the stain. The stain will stain your hands so please wear gloves to protect them.

  • Fiddes Nitro Stain as mentioned above will enhance the grain of the timber. The depth of the chosen colour will vary if applied with a roller/brush or if applied with a rag. The roller/brush method with give a darker tone than that of a ragged application. Follow the grain of the timber rather than against and use continuous movements to ensure even colour.
  • Fiddes Light Fast Water Stain will achieve a deep solid and opaque result whilst still being able to see the grain. Application with a sponge or pad applicator will push the product into the timber and when left to dry will be a deep colour. Ragged application will still be a solid colour but not as deep. Work with the grain in continuous movements to achieve even results. 

Image 1. Nitro – Coal 

Image 2. Lightfast Water Stain – Ebony

(Courtesy – Pedulla Studio)

Image 3. Nitro – Ice 

Image 4. Lightfast Water Stain – Walnut

How do I choose the PERFECT colour?

When staining, it is important to understand that colour results will vary by stain choice and application method even if using the same colour. Note that the same stain colour will also look different on various species of timber for example, pine, hardwood or oak so a test sample is always best to make sure that you achieve the correct tone. It is also a point to note that not all stain names produce the same colour. The name Dark Oak will be different in Nitro Stain and Light Fast Water Stain as they both have different properties. It’s always best to choose stain colour from display boards/swatches rather than by name.

The possibilities really are endless when it comes to colouring timber, and it doesn’t have to be difficult and daunting. My best advice would be to firstly determine the colour you want to achieve. Do you want a brown or grey? Are you wanting to go very dark or just add a little colour? Whatever the choice it is always best to determine the species of timber first and do a test sample. Fiddes Trade Sample Kits are a great way to start. Available in Nitro and Light Fast Water Stain the kits contain sample sized bottles of all colours, timber swatches showing colour ranges, and application instructions. This may help with getting a better understanding of the colour you will choose.

Product information and application instructions and videos are available on our website and of course, if in doubt please call (03) 8813 0338 or email  and our staff are more than happy discuss further.

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