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After stripping the finish from a table or other piece of furniture, sand it smooth and clean it with mineral spirits or a paint-removal wash.
Mineral spirits will remove dirt, grease and fingerprints and will help reveal imperfections in the wood. Don’t place metal on the wood while cleaning it; it could react with the chemicals in the wood and cause discoloration.
When the mineral spirits dries, begin staining the furniture. Use fine-grade steel wool to brush the stain into the wood. Brush the stain in a zigzag pattern to prevent brush marks that show where the stain was applied.
Buff the stain from the wood within a minute or two after applying it so the stain soaks in evenly. A helper following with a buffing rag as you apply the stain may be helpful. If staining table legs, wipe off the stain immediately after applying it; legs can absorb stain very quickly.
Allow the stain to dry for 24 hours before applying a finish. There are a variety of different finishes, including polyurethane and tung oil. Rub the finish with the grain of the wood, and allow it to dry properly between coats.