How to Varnish Pine Furniture

Pine is frequently used to create furniture pieces with a bit of rustic charm. Pine is relatively soft and often doesn't stain as easily or as well as other wood types, but the wood is inexpensive and easy to work and shape. A well-made pine piece will be both durable and attractive if taken care of properly. It is important to seal pine, and the most popular type of sealer is varnish. Unsealed pine can seep a gummy pitch that is both sticky and unattractive.

Sand the furniture with an orbital power sander set on low speed. Pine is very easy to scratch, dent or damage, so it is essential to sand with the grain of the wood. Start with 180-grit and work up to 220-grit using both the power sander and hand sanding. Clean the furniture with a tack cloth.

Apply stain controller if you intend to stain the furniture. Stain controller will control the absorption rate of the stain so that the finish will look more even. This is called a wash coat and the liquid will be very thin, so apply it with a rag, not a brush. Be sure to apply the controller evenly as well. Allow 6 to 8 hours drying time.

Lightly sand the furniture if the grain has lifted, and reapply small amounts of stain controller to those areas.

Stain the furniture with the grain, wiping the stain off for an even appearance. Allow 6 to 8 hours of drying time.

Varnish the furniture with a satin finish varnish. Allow the varnish to dry completely based on the manufacturer's recommendations and environmental conditions in your workshop. Apply 1 to 3 coats.


Test stains on a sample piece of scrap wood to achieve the colour you desire. If wood is damaged during sanding, it can sometimes be repaired by lifting the grain using drops of water at the dented areas. Light sanding may also be necessary after the water dries completely. Large knot holes can be filled with epoxy mixed with sawdust, sanded once dry.


Stain controllers and varnishes produce fumes and should be used in well ventilated areas. Wear safety protection on your hands and eyes to prevent absorbing chemicals through your skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Orbital power sander (180-220 grit sandpaper)
  • Rubber sanding block with 180-220 grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Stain controller
  • Rags
  • Stain (optional)
  • Satin finish varnish
  • Paint brush


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About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.