Wood stain is a type of paint that is used to color wood by soaking pigment into wood fibers with a solvent and then having it set and bind to the wood. Stain works by saturating color into the wood itself, rather than applying a layer of color over the surface of wood. The primary purpose of stain is to color wood, while offering certain protections as a result of the coloring and absorption of the stain deep into the wood. Perhaps the most common reason to use stain as protection is against ultraviolet light. Many stains help reflect UV light, which prevents wood surfaces from fading and losing their color.
A sealer coat or wash coat is often used over the stain or on unstained wood. Its purpose is to "seal" the pores of the wood to give you a smooth, even surface for the top coats of varnish or lacquer. The sealer coat will also prevent the stain from bleeding into successive coats of finish materials. You can buy a commercially prepare wood sealer or make your own by mixing equal amounts of shellac and denatured alcohol. Sealers are best applied by brush. With a full brush, apply briskly along the grain. Work rapidly as shellac dries very rapidly.
Wood fillers are often used to fill the large pores in woods, such as red oak, or to accentuate the grain of the wood. Wood filler is a heavily pigmented oil (high solids content). To use it, thin it to the consistency of a thick paint. Spread it on the wood, brushing it into the pores. Allow it to dry, then wipe it off (wipe in the direction across the grain) with a clean, coarse cloth. Keep wiping until all the excess filler is removed.
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