How To Stain Pine To Look Like White Oak In 10 Easy Steps

How to Stain Pine to Look Like White Oak [Step-by-step Guide]

The main purpose of stain is to protect wood from mold, fungus, moisture and ultraviolet radiation. Treatment with stain significantly increases the service life of furniture and other wood structures.

However, designers, furniture makers and other craftsmen use it to give wood the desired shade and preserve its natural texture. One common question is how to stain pine to look like white oak.

Why to Stain Pine Wood

Pine is a widespread coniferous tree. From the point of view of woodworking, it is a cost-effective material used for the manufacture of furniture, household goods, building materials, and much more.

But pine wood has some disadvantages. Pine wood is quite vulnerable to mechanical damage, easily getting chips and cracks. Like all conifers, pine tends to release resin, which requires additional treatment. Also, like most wood, pine is sensitive to humidity, insects, and temperature fluctuations.

Staining pine to look like oak solves several things at once

  • Firstly, it makes pine stronger and more durable against external factors such as fungus, mold and moisture;
  • second, wood stain can contain components that make pine wood fire-resistant and unattractive to insects;
  • the proper stain makes it much easier to care for your furniture and home, for example here’s how to clean wooden stairs easily;
  • in addition, stain pine to look like oak has decorative reasons, which we investigate below.
how to stain pine
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Why staining pine to look like oak is worth it

If you do need to stain pine, why not use a white or golden oak stain? Designers all over the world use this technique to make furniture and other pine products look more interesting and textured.

In addition, oak wood can come in many shades. For example, depending on the type of wood, there are white oak, red oak, golden oak, and depending on the treatment, there are weathered oak, pickled oak. You can choose just the right shade of stain for your pine staining DIY project.

However, know that to make your pine look like oak to the max, you need to tackle not only the color, but also a thorough surface treatment. Dive into reading, as our post will walk you through the steps to make your pine furniture resemble oak wood.

staining pine to look like oak
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Materials you need to stain pine to match oak

Here are the supplies and tools you’ll need to stain pine wood match oak wood. The amount of accessories is based on how much pine material you need to process. Naturally, one Ikea children’s table will require less stain and other supplies than a couple of pine boards.

So, here’s what you’ll need to work with stains:

  • floor covering material (rags or even newspapers);
  • protective equipment – gloves, goggles and mask;
  • 180, 220 and 240 grit sanding tools, power sander or manual. If you have a hand tool, maybe a sanding block will be more convenient than regular sandpaper.
  • stain application tool: brush applicator, putty knife, foam brush, or just a clean cloth;
  • supplies to remove excess stain, e.g. old towels, microfiber cloth or tack cloth;
  • pre-stain wood conditioner or wood filler;
  • stains in chosen shades;
  • water based polyurethane as a top coat.
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So, with everything you need at hand, let’s get to staining pine to match oak.

Instructions on How to Stain Pine into Oak

So, have you chosen your shade of oak? What will it be – red oak or golden oak? Either way, here are the steps you need to take to make ordinary pine wood look like oak.

Step #1 Make your working area ready

Let’s start by making your workplace comfortable and safe. Lay any covering material on the floor, no matter if it is polyethylene, rags or old newspapers. An accidental drop of pickling stain can leave an irremovable stain on your floors or other surfaces.

Also in this step, neatly lay out all the supplies for the project. It’s better to have everything ready in advance than to fuss around with a brush in your hands.

Make your working area ready
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Step #2 Prep the pine wood surface

If you’re already raring to apply the stain, you’ll have to wait a little longer. When it comes to treating pine wood, patience should be added to the list of must-haves, along with supplies and tools.

The fact that the pine surface is characterized by irregularities, it often has knots, splits, and uneven grain. Therefore, the first thing to do when preparing the wood is to conduct a thorough inspection of the entire surface.

Pull out moving knots and repair these places with wood putty or epoxy resin. Smooth the repaired surface with a putty knife or spatula, carefully filling in any gaps. The more attention you pay to texture treatment, the more you make pine to look like oak natural grain.

Allow the epoxy or putty to dry completely, otherwise a wet surface will be sticky to chips and dust. After all, our next step will be sanding, and you will have plenty of sawdust.

Step #3 Sanding the pine wood surface

So, now that everything is completely dried, your pine wood looks like it’s ready for more. For a small project you’ll be fine with a sanding block or sandpaper, for larger projects it’s better to get an electric sander.

Start with 180 grit and work your way down, section by section, until your pine board is smooth. Work only along the fibers, along the wood grain. The direction of the wood grain is easy to determine by hand by touch. Moving along the wood grain will feel nice to your skin, while against it will be rough and may give you a splinter.

When you’re done with the 180 grit, move on to 220 grit and further on to 240 grit sander. The higher the grit, the softer and gentler the sandpaper. So, this finishing step makes your pine boards even smoother and partially close the wood pores.

Sanding pine wood surface
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Step #4 Time to clean up the sawdust

After sanding, do not neglect cleaning. Even use a vacuum cleaner if necessary, but never skip this step. BTW, here are ideas of what to do with wood chips and sawdust after the project.

After all, you don’t want any foreign debris or sawdust when applying the stain. This can ruin the whole look and force you to sand the ruined area all over again.

Remember when tack cloth was on the supplies list? Now it’s its turn to wipe down the wood properly and catch all the dust to finish. If you don’t have one on hand, replace it with microfiber or just a clean rag. Either way, go over the entire surface without skipping anything.

Time to clean up the sawdust
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Step #5 Use pre-stain wood conditioner before staining

If you apply stain directly to pine wood, the result will be a spotted pine rather than the noble oak. Pre-conditioning is a very important step, please do not skip it.

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Pine has porous wood, so it is worth using pre-stain wood conditioner for best results. The primer protects you from wasting too much stain, as it makes pine wood absorbs stain less. Wood conditioner also helps to evenly stain the surface, which will protect you from darker stain areas.

If you have some scraps or spare material, coat them with wood conditioner too. Try to guess what for, and in the next step you may find the answer.

When applying wood conditioner, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For a single coat, the average absorption and drying time is half an hour to an hour. For a second coat, the time is usually less.

Most manufacturers recommend applying the primer with a special brush, but if you don’t have one, try just a clean cloth. In any case, work with gloves only! So, after thorough sanding and conditioning, we can move on to applying the stain, so your pine furniture will look great very soon!

fill the pores with conditioner before staining
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Step #6 Do a test staining on scrap wood

If you have some spare material or scraps, they will be very useful to you. They can and should be used to test first the stain and then the pickling stain.

Oak wood comes in many shades. The most common are white oak and golden oak, although weathered oak look great as well. Have you decided what shade you want to get?

Also, the final shade will depend on the color of your pine material. If you originally had yellow pine, the result will be more of a brownish color. If your pine material is rather white, the color of the stain will be more pure.

You can buy several small jars of stain in different shades for a test coat. This way you will be sure to find the color you are happy with.

Try a few strokes of each stain on a small area of the prepared surface and allow it to dry completely. Evaluate the result in different lighting conditions and decide which one suits you best.

test staining on scrap wood
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Step #7 First coat of oak wood stain

Staining pine to look like white oak should be done in two coats without fail. This is the only way to soak wood surface evenly. Stain evenly in small sections, coating the pine along the grain.

You can apply the stain simply with a clean rag, foam brush or bristle brush. Most importantly, make sure there are no lint, threads or other foreign debris left in the wood stain.

When working with wood stains, you buy the finished color from the manufacturer, but you have the option to make it lighter or darker to your desire.

The longer the soaking time of the stain, the darker the final color will be

If you want a lightly pigmented color, leave the first coat to soak for 7 minutes and then wipe excess stain. For a deep and rich color, wait about 15 minutes.

But remember that these are general recommendations only, the exact time will help you to determine the manufacturer’s instructions and test coating on scraps. You’ve seen this paragraph above, right?

wood stain first coat
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Step #8 Evaluate the stain color after drying

The result should be assessed only after it has completely dried out. At this stage you already have some experience and can learn lessons for the next coats.

See if you are satisfied with the chosen stain color and its saturation. You may want to do the next layers with a different color for a unique combination or continue with the same stain color.

It is a good idea to have a sample of the white oak you are aiming for on hand. That way you can compare the shade and decide which way to go next.

How many coats are you likely to apply? The answer is as many coats as you want, but usually a second coat is enough for pine to look like oak.

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Evaluate the stain color after drying
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Step #9 Pickling stain process

After your pine has achieved the desired color, it still looks like a colored pine wood. The main transformation to oak wood takes place after the second coat of whitewash stain.

Applying pickling stain or white wash can completely lighten the entire surface of the wood. But you can also use pickling to draw lines that mimic the structure of white oak.

White wash is exactly what is needed for staining pine to look like oak

When working with whitewashing compound, be extremely careful. If you accidentally drop on something, wipe it dry immediately. White wash works very quickly and leaves indelible marks.

One minute of waiting is enough to get a lightened pattern similar to real wood. Use a foam brush or cloth for large surfaces or a small brush for fine lines.

White-washed stain
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Step #10 Top coat layer

If you are quite satisfied with the achieved result after the white wash, then perhaps you should stop there. The finish coat does give good protection for wood stains, but be aware that it will also give some gloss. If your design suggests a noble oak with a touch of age, gloss is not what you need.

If your piece is to be used in a humid or aggressive environment, seal the wood with a polycrylic or polyurethane topcoat. These materials have an water-based formula and are completely transparent. To get rid of excess shine, you can lightly sand the topcoat.

Be especially careful with oil-based stain and tops. Over time, they may yellow somewhat and change the color of your furniture.

Final coat for pine stain finish
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How to Choose the Right Product for Staining Pine

There are many decent and quality wood stains and topcoats available today. But for all of them there is a professional tip: several thin coats are always better than a thick one. So here are some popular products to stain pine to look like oak.

Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain for white oak look

Varathane Fast Dry Wood Stain tinting oil for wood has a large palette that makes it easy to choose the color you want. Among them you can choose from antique white, spring oak, golden oak stain, and weathered oak stain.

Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain Antique White
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Varathane Premium Wood Stain for red oak appearance

Varathane Premium Wood Stain Wood Stain Tinting Oil has rich and dense shades to easily get a red oak effect. Check out summer oak, ganstock oak, and golden oak stain.

Varathane Premium Wood Stain for red oak appearance
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Are you inspired by woodworking? Then you are in the right place, learn a lot about is birch good for carving.

How to Stain Pine to Look Like White Oak FAQs

Can you varnish pine to look like oak?

Of course, this technique has long been used by designers around the world. Pine is much more affordable than oak, and with a simple treatment it will look just as great!

How do you use light oak stain on pine?

First, sand the pine to hide the uneven grain. Next, use wood filler to close the pores in the wood. Then impregnate your piece with the stain color of your choice. Once done, use a whitewash to achieve a new oak-like pattern. Finally, finish your project with a protective top coat, if necessary.

How do you make pine look pale?

You can correct the color of pine from yellowish to white with whitewashing stain. These stains can even imitate the oak grain, if you don’t mind a little brushwork.

Summary: What Stain Is Best for Pine Wood?

Choosing among the many manufacturers and shades of wood stain, this video by Dave the Woodworker may help you. Happy staining!

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