How to Finish a Wooden Storage Bench

Staining wood slats of a bench
What You'll Need
Clean white towels

A wooden storage bench can give you many years of good service if you maintain it properly. Here are some steps to apply, easily and affordably, a new finish to your wooden storage bench.

Step 1 - Know Your Wood

The first step is to find out what type of wood your bench is made of because this will affect the type of stain you select and the look you'll get after the project is complete. The most common woods include softwoods (pine, fir, cedar) and hardwoods (oak, beech, elm, birch and walnut).

Woods with an uneven grain are usually softwood and will stain unevenly. This lends a more natural appearance to the wood, but if you prefer a cleaner look you can apply a pre-stain wood conditioner to the bench. The wood fibers absorb the conditioner, which helps the stain go down evenly on the wood.

A more consistent pattern of grain is usually a hardwood. Hardwoods can take any stain well, but keep in mind that hardwoods like oak require more than one coat of stain. The end results, however, are quite beautiful.

Step 2 - Prepare the Wood

using a sanding block on wood bench slats

Clean the wooden bench so that it is free of dirt, grease, and dust. Make a selection of sandpaper based on the look you want to create. Lower grit numbers create rougher finishes that absorb more stain. When a piece of wood furniture takes on more stain it has a darker appearance. For a smoother-looking surface, try sandpaper with a higher grit number. When you use this type of sandpaper the wood will absorb less stain resulting in a lighter color.

For a flat wooden bench, use a lower grit sandpaper (60 to 80) to remove blemishes and scuffs. Then use a higher grit number (100 or 120). For a medium depth of stain, this grit number is adequate, but if you want a lighter color try an even higher grit number. Sometimes it helps to try different looks on a scrap piece of paper before sanding and staining the actual bench.

After you have finished sanding, wipe the whole bench down with a damp cloth to remove any remaining debris.

Step 3 - Stain

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and stir the stain. Use a sponge, brush, rag, or cloth to apply the stain to the wood. Be generous with the amount of stain you use. Follow the natural grain of the wood in one motion. Brush the whole bench as evenly as possible.

After applying the stain, wait five to 15 minutes for the color to absorb into the wood. If you want a darker color, wait a longer period of time. It's better to add less stain at first and then add more if you want a darker color.

After you've completed staining, set the bench down on a flat area and let it dry for six to eight hours.