How To: Stain a Dresser Top

Here is a step by step tutorial of how I stain my dresser tops.  If you don’t know how to do this,  this post is for you.
                                               This dresser had one of the worst tops that I had ever worked with
                                                            It was covered with water rings and 380
Step 1:  Some may not choose to do this, but I find it makes the sanding part a little easier.  I choose to strip off the old varnish first.  I use Citristrip I get from Lowes.  It’s a better alternative to those stinky strippers of yester year.  And it works great.  Follow the directions on the bottle and get a good tool for scraping off the stuff.  It gets pretty messy so wear some gloves.
After you scrape it all off and it’s dry move on to the next step.
Step 2: (You must have a sander for this part)  Sand the heck out of it with some 60 or 80 grit paper.  I recently got an orbital sander and it works great.  It will take a bit of elbow grease, but it will be worth it in the end.  I also highly suggest you get a nice breathing mask, it’s probably not a good idea to be breathing in that dust. After this sanding part, go over it again with a 120 grit to get the top smooth.
Step 3: Make sure you clean the top of all dust.  I just use a wet rag and wipe it down several times.  Allow it to dry completely.  Then if you want a more even distribution of the stain, I recommend using a wood conditioner.  I use Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner.  Follow directions on can.
Step 4: Get the stain you want to use, I use Dark Walnut by Minwax.  Use a good quality brush and begin to paint it on with the wood grain.  Allow it to sit for as long as you want.  The longer you let it sit the darker it will be.  However try not to let it completely dry.  You will want to wipe off some after 15 min or so.  If it’s not dark enough for you, do this process again.
Step 5:  Once you achieve your desired color, allow it to dry.  You can also brush some polyurthane on top as a protective coat and to make it shiny. Clean your brush right away, because the stain is a b*%$@ to get off when it dries.
So there you have it.  My basic 5 steps for achieving a beautiful dark stained top like the ones you see here.
 Copy of furniture 375 furniture 005 furniture 170
furniture 295 furniture 339 furniture 344


  1. i follow the SAME EXACT STEPS!!! even use the ame stuff- citristrip, and i prefer to strip first, too! :)

  2. Hi there, so is it not necessary to use a pre-stain conditioner? I have my dresser top stripped and ready to stain, and thought I had some conditioner but can't find it anywhere.

  3. Exactly the kind of info I was looking for! Thanks! Just getting started on my first before and after project - fingers crossed!

  4. Is it better to stain before painting the rest of the piece or paint first?


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