Staining Wood

Dear NH,
I'm going to stain a fireplace mantle. It's new pine and has never been finished before. I'm using Minwax stain with polyurethane. Should I use a pre-stain wood conditioner?
JR from Staffordsville, KY

Dear JR,
Pine does not absorb wood stain evenly. Simply applying a stain with no preparation may result in a "blotchy" appearance with contrasting dark and light areas. Applying the wood conditioner equalizes the absorbency of the pine so that a more even finish is obtained. Follow the directions on the can regarding proper application of this product.

Be aware that if you wish to apply a second coat of stain to darken the finish, you should apply the wood conditioner AGAIN prior to restaining (especially if you wait overnight before applying the second coat) or the stain may not absorb evenly.

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