There are many ways to stain wood and it is important to know which way works best for the wood that you are using. Soft woods are those that come from coniferous trees which we know as evergreens. These will typically be cedar, spruce, white pine, or Douglas fir. Some floors and woodwork can be made from a combination of these such as spruce, pine, and Douglas fir. Floors and woodwork can also be made from just one type of wood such as pine.
When you go to a lumber yard you will find a lot of different types including a product called SPF. This acronym stands for the combination of spruce, pine and Douglas fir. This marking means that the wood could be any of the three or a combination of all of them
Before you apply stain to the wood it needs to be prepared. This means to clean it and make sure that if there are any dings or gouges in the wood that they are repaired. You will need to have a flat surface to work on when you begin to stain the wood. A wood filler can be used to fill the holes to create an even stainable surface.
Sanding is the next step because you want a very smooth surface. To start you should use coarse grit sandpaper. This will remove more wood and provide an even surface. Continue with finer and finer grits of sand paper until you have a smooth, glass-like surface. This process will give you the ideal staining surface.
Soft wood is very porous so it may need a clear conditioner on it before you put on the stain so that it will partially block some of the wood pores. This will allow the stain to lay evenly on the surface and will leave you with an even finish. Wood conditioner should be used after sanding as it will enhance the grain of the wood. It is a good idea to read the directions on the conditioner because it will tell you how long after using the conditioner you must stain the wood. For the most part the conditioners dry very quickly and you can generally stain over them within a short amount of time; in most cases within 15 minutes.
When you apply the stain you will have to work it well into the wood. This can be accomplished with a rag or a brush. Once it is rubbed in well you should allow the stain to penetrate approximately 5-15 minutes depending on how dark you would like it. After you allow it to penetrate the stain can be wiped off and allowed to dry.
You might want to practice on an extra piece of wood to determine the ideal time to allow the stain to penetrate. Practice will also avoid blotching the stain and will help you develop a style that works for you.
Once you have the stain completed make sure it is dry before you put on polyurethane finish. If your wood is not dry you will have a messy, blotchy piece of wood instead of the beautifully stained wood you wanted.