Bruce Johnson’s National Woodworking Month Tips


April is Minwax National Woodworking Month®! To celebrate, Minwax® expert Bruce Johnson has put together some of his favorite tips & tricks for using Minwax® products. Don’t forget to download the Minwax National Woodworking Month® mail-in rebate form, you could save up to $17 on select Minwax® products. 

Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

While Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner is often recommended on softwoods, such as pine, fir, and spruce, it helps reduce blotchiness when staining any wood, including classic hardwoods such as cherry, poplar, maple, and oak. The more important the project, the more important the Pre-Stain Conditioner.

The more porous woods, such as pine and alder, are the most unpredictable when it comes to staining. Give these woods a second coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to further reduce blotchiness.

When it comes to staining, knots are a sign of trouble, for they absorb stain unevenly. To help reduce blotchiness and streaking around knots and blemishes in the wood: apply a second coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner.

The ends of any board always absorb more stain than the surface, so to prevent the end grain from turning darker than the rest of your project, apply a second or even a third coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner before staining.

If you get called away and cannot apply your stain within the recommended two hours after brushing on Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, don’t panic. Simply sand the wood lightly with #180-grit sandpaper to reopen the pores, wipe or vacuum off the dust, and apply your stain.

Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

If you start with water, stick with water. If you apply Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, be sure to select one of the Minwax® Water Based Stains to follow it.

Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner will cause the grain of the wood to swell slightly, but a fast, light sanding with #220-grit sandpaper will smooth it out once and for all.

Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner is designed to dry IN the wood, not ON the wood. After a few minutes, be sure to wipe off any unabsorbed Wood Conditioner before letting it dry. 

Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain

Stain color charts and photographs cannot take into consideration the effect any wood’s natural color has on the stain you apply. To avoid surprises, follow a simple rule:  test, test, test, either on a scrap of wood or an inconspicuous place on your project.

Water Based Wood Stains are already formulated to dry very quickly, so don’t try to hasten the process by working in bright, warm sunlight. The heat from the sun can cause the stain to dry too quickly, leaving unsightly brush marks before you can wipe them off.

Steel wool and water create rust spots, so never use steel wool in place of sandpaper when working with any of the Minwax® Water Based Stains, Wood Conditioner, or finishes.

While clear protective finishes dry ON the wood, stains dry IN the wood. After just three minutes, wipe off any of the Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain that the wood has not absorbed.

Minwax® PolyShades®

It’s a familiar adage: the better the brush, the better the finish. This is especially true for Minwax® PolyShades®, for the soft tips of the bristles are critical for laying down a smooth, even coat of stain and finish in just one easy step.

Minwax® PolyShades® also comes in a convenient aerosol can. To avoid spraying too much stain and finish in one spot, start spraying a few inches off to the side of your project, then move the can in a steady motion across the project and off the opposite side before releasing the nozzle.

To provide more protection without darkening the color of your first coat of Minwax® PolyShades®, simply apply a clear coat of Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane after it dries.

Stirring isn’t something you do just at the beginning of your project. To keep the stain pigments evenly distributed throughout your can of Minwax® PolyShades®, stir it a few times every ten minutes to maintain a consistent color.

Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane

Dust is the enemy of any smooth finish. First, let any dust in the air settle, then use a bristle attachment on a vacuum to remove the dust from the pores of the wood. Brushing off the dust only sends it back into the air, and a rag pushes it deeper into the pores, where your finish brush will dislodge it, leaving your dried finish rough to the touch.

Bright, warm sunshine will draw the wood’s natural moisture up to the surface, trapping bubbles in your fresh, clear finish. To prevent that from happening, apply Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane in the shade of your garage or porch.

Before applying Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane over an existing finish, make sure the older finish is clean, dry, and lightly scuffed with #220-grit sandpaper for best adhesion.

Two or three thin coats of Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane will dry faster and will build a stronger coat of clear protection than one thick coat.

A stream of fresh, dry air over a wet coat of clear Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane will speed the drying, but make sure your fan blades won’t blow a cloud of accumulated dust over your finish by first testing it away from your wet project.

Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane

To achieve maximum clear protection, apply three coats of Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, sanding the first and second coats lightly with #220-grit sandpaper to remove any dust — and to ensure the strongest adhesion between coats.

When cleaning your Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane brushes under a warm water faucet, always keep the bristles pointed down to avoid having the water push the finish deep into the bristles nearest the handle, where they will harden and ruin your brush.

Dry does not equal cured. While Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane will dry in approximately two hours, you should allow three days for it to cure to its maximum hardness before moving any furniture and rugs onto a floor that you have finished.

Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish

While Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish has long been touted for its rapid drying, either low temperatures or high humidity can lengthen the time needed for any clear finish to dry. As long as any finish is still tacky, delay applying your next coat, for it will prevent the earlier coat from drying thoroughly.

Because it is water-based,  Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish is best applied with a quality synthetic bristle brush that won’t swell out of shape like a natural bristle brush will when exposed to water. Avoid using a foam brush, for it will leave parallel ridges of finish in its wake that soft bristles will not.

Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish dries quickly, so you need to work just as quickly. Apply your finish in smooth, long strokes at a steady pace, then leave it alone. Over-brushing is likely to leave behind brush marks as it starts to dry.

Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane

Don’t be alarmed at the dark, almost purple color of Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane in the can. That’s the ultraviolet light blockers you see, but they dry clear when applied. For best protection against the sun, plan on three coats applied with a natural bristle brush.

Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane isn’t just for your wooden deck furniture. It offers more protection than standard interior finishes for indoor windowsills that are subjected to sunlight and water.

When protecting outdoor wooden furniture with Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane, don’t forget the bottom of the legs of chairs and tables. Left unsealed, they absorb water and rot from the inside out. To prevent this from happening, turn each chair or table upside down, and then use a brush to apply two or three coats of Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane to the bottom of each leg.

Minwax® Water Based Helmsman® Spar Urethane

Gravity never stops, so before you walk away, check the sides, edges and end grain for any runs or drips you can brush away before they dry and harden.

Unlike the oil-based version of Helmsman®, Minwax® Water Based Helmsman® Spar Urethane dries crystal clear, with no amber effect, making it ideal for light-colored exterior deck furniture.

Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane

Don’t be alarmed by the milky appearance when you open your can of Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane. That’s just an effect caused by light entering the can. When applied to the wood, Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane will dry crystal clear.

Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane combines the durability of polyurethane with the ease, convenience, and short drying time of water-based finishes. After cleaning your brush with warm water, wrap the bristles in a paper towel secured with a rubber band, then hang it on a pegboard hook or nail to keep the bristles in shape as they drip dry.

Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane can be applied over Minwax® Water Based Wood Stains or oil-based Minwax® Wood Finish, with one exception. The sensitive red pigments in Red Mahogany are not compatible with water-based finishes, so Red Mahogany should be top-coated with Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane.

For more great tips and project ideas, visit our Pinterest page. Download the Minwax National Woodworking Month® mail-in rebate form here.