Bristle Basics: Choose the Right Brush and Learn How to Take Care of It

Choosing the right brush is an important step in any project.  Picking a high-quality brush can make the difference between an okay job and a great one.

Spend some time choosing the right brush


Ever wonder why your stain looks so uneven and the finish feels so rough?  When you invest your time and money into a new DIY project, opt for a good quality brush. Remember a finish is only as good as its brush.

Minwax Brush Selector

Here’s a handy guide to help you select the right brush for your project. Remember the basic rule: synthetic bristles for water-based products, and natural bristles are used for oil-based products. If you use a natural bristle brush in a water-based stain or finish, the bristles will absorb the water and will lose its shape.

Tips on how to preserve your paint brushes

Taking care of your paint brushes will save you time and money. Here are some tips to keep your brushes in tip-top shape.

First, pick the right cleaner: water for water-based products, and mineral spirits or paint thinner for oil-based products.

Second, never hold a brush upside down under running water, the water forces the stain or finish deeper into the bristles, making it harder to clean out.

Third, never leave a brush sitting for hours in a jar of solvent. This will permanently bend the bristles.

Finally, use the hole in the handle and the cardboard sleeve to properly store your brush after cleaning. The hole at the top insures any solvent will slide down and off the tips of the bristles, and the sleeve keeps the wet bristles in shape as they dry.

Until next time,


Thrifty Décor Chick’s New Favorite Wood Planked Wall

By: Guest Blogger

Sarah of Thrifty Decor Chick has done another amazing job with her new wood planked wall project! See how she uses planks to creatively transform her kitchenette.

I am really thrilled with this project and so excited to show you! I’ve planned it in my head for some time now and it came out even better than I had hoped. I’ve been working on a few projects completed with the help of Minwax products over the past couple of months (see my DIY state art here) and this one is one of my favorite DIYs ever.

I got the idea from the planked wall I did on our stair landing down to the basement.Stair Landing Plank Project

I love our basement. :) I’ve definitely gone slightly industrial design-wise down there by using some metal and darker woods. It’s been fun to have a space to do something different than I do in the rest of the house.

Our little kitchenette has had quite a few updates. I stenciled the wall years ago and then early this year during my no spend month I finished it up with some shelving.

Old Kitchenette

I loved the stencil for years but I was growing tired of it. This new plan in my head took root and I just had to change it up!

I went to the hardware store and had a large sheet of maple veneered plywood cut down into strips (I measured the space and then decided on the size of each strip). For my project I needed four inch planks.

I went with the thinnest wood I could find — I love a thicker planked wall but this was going in above the countertop and I didn’t want it to hang over the backsplash part too much. You could very easily use the planks I used for the stair landing, I just wanted something a little less busy this time.

When I got them home I used some Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner on the planks. I never used to use this but now that I’ve tried it a few times I’m hooked. It makes a big difference in how well your stain takes to the wood.

Applying the Pre-Conditioner

I used to avoid it mostly because I’m impatient, honestly. But it takes no time at all to wipe it on and you can stain within minutes. I highly recommend it — I will do a post sometime to show you the difference it makes.

By the way, I use the cheap foam brushes to apply the conditioner and my stain.

They are the easiest and cleanest way to apply stain in my opinion. I have used rags to do it but it’s crazy messy and this does just as good of a job.

Staining is SO easy to do and one of my favorite DIYs because the change is so easy and it’s instant. There are a couple of rules though. First of all, keep a “wet edge” when wiping it on. Don’t start a project unless you are able to finish it. If any parts of the stain dry (it takes some time), you will see where you left off. So keep it going and smoothed out.

Stained Planks

Also, let it sit for a while but not too long. The longer you let the stain sit the deeper the color will be. But if you wait too long to wipe it off it will get sticky. (I never wait more than five minutes — if I want it darker I can add more coats.) Use a lint-free rag to wipe your stain (those blue shop paper towels work great).

I took down the shelves on the wall (I had added a mirror to the middle since that last post too) and started installing my planks. I only had 12 planks cut from a four by eight piece of wood and my area was 52 inches by six feet – so I had to cut them in pieces so I’d have enough to cover the whole thing (I was fine length-wise but vertically I knew I’d come up short unless I cut them up).

I had a few receptacles to cut around – I marked my cuts and used a jigsaw.

Cut Around Outlets

I still need to install a GFI outlet here – that’s happening this week (I have a few other minor touch ups to do on the baseboards as well before I can officially call this spot done). Before I put the new outlet covers on I used this method to pull the outlets out a bit more to be even with the new wall.

Remember when you are using a jigsaw to turn your wood over and cut on the “bad” side, not the stained side. The jigsaw will sometimes tear up the wood a bit but only on top.

I didn’t really follow a pattern with the planks but I did try to vary it as much as possible. I didn’t want to stress to much about it — it’s supposed to be imperfect. I absolutely LOVE how it turned out!

Wall Plank Close Up

It is SO so warm and cool looking, I adore it! I used a nail gun to put the boards on the wall. Never use glue unless you are absolutely sure you are never taking it down.

I used three stain colors of Minwax® Wood Finish™ on the wall — Dark Walnut (a favorite of mine), Ebony and Provincial (I used this staining guide to decide on them before I went to the store.) I think Provincial is my new favorite stain color — it is so lovely. So warm but a little lighter than I typically use. Really beautiful! (It’s the lightest color on the wall).

I did full planks on some of the rows, some were half and half, some were two feet and four feet and some were three pieces of two footers.

It came out even better than I imagined it would.

Plank Sizes

I was planning to put the IKEA shelves back up but as I went along I realized I didn’t want them there. We have plenty of storage space below so they weren’t really needed anyway. Most of the stuff I had on the shelves I put in a tray on top anyway.

I wish I would have spaced out those lights just a tad more years ago – but I left the placement up to our electrician. I still LOVE the lights (I found them at Lowe’s).

Lamp Placement

I have to caulk and paint the baseboards in this area and then this little corner is officially done! Only took me three years!  I especially love the warm woods with the lighter cabinets. I’m a contrast lover.

Caulk Baseboards

Here are the items I used on this project:

Minwax Products

Those little cans are more than enough for a project of this size. A little bit of stain goes a very long way. I still have most of the cans left.

This project cost me less than $35 — the large piece of wood that I had cut down was $24 and the stains were $5 each (I had the other stuff). Not bad for such a big impact! LOVE!

Do you have a favorite stain color you’ve used in your house? Our floors are Jacobean by Minwax and I love that color. Dark walnut is also a favorite, but as I said, I fell in love with Provincial too.

Sarah’s blog, Thrifty Decor Chick, features more great DIY projects that will help you have a lovely home without spending a ton of money. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram or Pinterest for more. 

How To: Make a New England Pine Blanket Chest for Storage

Project Level: Intermediate

Build a charming storage unit for your home. This New England Pine Blanket Chest project will teach you to practice installing hidden dowel hinges and joining boards and biscuits.


What Do You Need?

  • Usual arsenal of tools
  • Hammer and 1/32” nail set
  • Ball-peen hammer
  • Block plane
  • C-type springs
  • Jointer
  • Plate joiner with no. 20 biscuits
  • Sanders: belts, random orbit, pad; with appropriate sanding papers in 80,120,150, 200 grits plus, 220 AND 240-grit for pad sander
  • Saws (radial, band and table) – Electric drill (with screwdriver bit)
  • Assortment of drill bits
  • Router, with cutters: 3/4” straight and 1/4″ rounding-over

To see a full list of tools and supplies, as well as detailed instructions and plans, download the project guide.

Before You Begin

Make sure you follow the directions carefully while practicing and developing your safe working habits. Wear your safety goggles and the appropriate respirator when it is necessary.

Mask1  Mask2

For Your Chest Project

You can see the chest project guide for cutting plans and assembly steps.

Recommended Finish: Minwax® Wood Finish™ Stain (Colonial Maple)

Minwax Wood Finish Colonial Maple  ColonialMaple.jpg

Before staining and finishing your pine chest, sand the entire piece using 120-grit paper. Then, use 150-grit paper in a pad sander. Dust off the piece and wipe it with a tack cloth.

Make sure to apply Minwax® Water-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner before applying Minwax® Wood Finish™ Stain following the directions on the label. Wait 5-10 minutes, then wipe off excess using a clean, lint-free rag. Proceed to staining within 2 hours.

Working on one section of the chest at a time, apply Minwax® Wood Finish™ Stain using a brush. Allow the stain to set 5-15 minutes to achieve desired color, and then wipe off excess stain. Allow stain to dry 24 hours. The next day, apply Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane using a good quality, natural-bristle brush suitable for use with polyurethane. Allow finish to dry overnight

The next day, sand lightly using 220-grit paper, dust off and wipe with a tack cloth. Apply a second coat of the Polyurethane and set aside to dry overnight.

Finally, sand lightly with 240-grit paper, dust, wipe with a tack cloth and apply the third and final coat of Polyurethane. Allow the chest to dry for several days before putting the piece into service.

For full instructions on staining and finishing, download the project guide.

Useful Tips

  • Always test the stains and finishes you have selected on a scrap of wood. On the back of the scrap, mark the stain/finish combination and the type of wood. This is important so you can make sure you like how the color will turn out before staining your chest.
  • Remember to pre-treat soft wood (like pine) with Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner before staining.
  • For a clean, sharp finish, all final strokes with the brush or cloth should be made in the same direction as the wood grain.
  • It is critical that all stains and finishes dry thoroughly between coats. Remember that drying times can vary due to humidity and other climactic conditions.

Want to check out other organizer or storage projects?

If you need under-bed storage, see the hideaway locker plan. If you’re looking for a bedroom organizer, download this plan.

We’d love to see your finished projects! Share photos of your step-by-step process or finished product on our Facebook page.

How To: Make a Dog Bed for Your Furry Pal

Project Level: Intermediate

Who doesn’t love a cozy and warm bed to sleep in? With this project your furry friend can be comfortable and their bed will blend right into the aesthetic of your home. Made mostly of solid wood, it can be customized to fit your pup and the size of any pre-cut pad. Plus, it’s a great way to learn how to make table saw tongue-and-groove joints and recessed panels. You’ll also learn about biscuit journey, applying stain, and even learn how to use finishes to protect the wood while maintaining its beauty.

Dog bed

What Do You Need?

  • Usual arsenal of tools
  • Adjustable square
  • Table saw
  • Router table
  • Band saw
  • Drill with drum sander
  • Orbital or finish sander
  • 120-and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Wood glue
  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator

To see a full list of tools and supplies, as well as detailed instructions and plans, download the project guide.

Before You Begin

Make sure you follow the directions carefully while practicing and developing your safe working habits. Wear your safety goggles and the appropriate respirator when it is necessary.

Mask1     Mask2

For Your Dog Bed Project

We recommend using solid oak and hardwood veneer plywood. You can see the dog bed project guide for cutting plans and assembly steps. You can buy a dog mat or pad at most pet stores. We suggest looking at the Petco Orthopedic Dog Mat or another of your choosing at

Recommended Finish: Minwax® PolyShades® (in Pecan)

MinPolyDogBed  Pecan

Before staining your dog bed, carefully sand all parts in the direction of the grain. Start with 120-grit paper and finish with 220-grit. Remove all the sanding dust. Make sure to apply Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner and then you’re ready to stain and finish.

Apply Minwax® Polyshades® following the label directions. Make sure to use a good quality, natural-bristle brush suitable for use with polyurethane. Stir the can contents thoroughly before starting and periodically during your work session. Allow the first coat to dry at least 6 hours.

For the second coat, sand all surfaces lightly with very fine (000) steel wool. Remove all dust. Apply a second coat of Polyshades®, following the directions above. To achieve a deeper color, you may apply a third coat after 6 hours or longer, repeating the application directions above.

Useful Tips

  • Always test the stains and finishes you have selected on a scrap of wood. On the back of the scrap, mark the stain/finish combination and the type of wood. This is important so you can make sure you like how the color will turn out before staining your frame.
  • All stains and finishes should dry thoroughly between each coat. Keep in mind these drying times may vary depending on humidity, temperature and other climatic conditions.
  • If you have some leftover stain or finish, wipe the can rim so that stain or finish in the rim won’t dry out and prevent the lid from forming a tight seal.

Want To Make Another?

Want to see other pet project?

Check out the dog feeding station project and the antique crate for pet toys by Bruce. Show off your finished work! Share photos of your step-by-step process or finished projects on our Facebook page.