Ash wood is one of the most common hardwoods found in our homes. You’ll find it on the handle of most garden implements, in kitchen cabinets, food containers, furniture, flooring, and more.
The wood comes from ash trees and has a beautiful beige to light brown color that is often stained to look like oak and used as a low-cost alternative, that’s why it is considered one of the best woods to stain. Staining ash wood can give it any number of stunning colors to suit various decors.
Unlike oak, ash wood is relatively inexpensive but shares nearly all the premium oak features. But, does ash stain well? Dive in to learn about staining like wood.
Does Ash Stain Well?
Yes, ash stains pretty well. Thanks to its large pores and prominent straight grain structure, it accepts any wood stain color and produces a wide range of beautiful shades. Both water-based and basic oil stains penetrate ash wood furniture evenly to create the desired shades without turning blotchy. Ash works well with various wood stains, making its straight grain pop. Unfortunately, as some woodworkers observe, it’s hard to find any wood that stains as well as ash.
Is Ash Wood Easy to Stain?
Ash wood is top on the list of easy-to-stain woods. It readily absorbs stains and allows the pigments to penetrate its large open pores easily throughout the surface. This typically results in beautiful finishes for stained ash wood.
The wood has open pores evenly distributed across its entire surface. This pore structure makes it easy for wood stains to penetrate the wood and distribute the pigment without causing any blotchy spots.
As with red oak and other ring-porous hardwoods, stain pigment accentuates the large open pores of ash, allowing you to create the look you want.
In any case, you can expect your ash wood to accept any stain without losing its texture or grain pattern. This is the main reason woodworkers and DIYers like to stain it to resemble an oak or don it in various stunning colors and shades.
Once you are done staining ash, you can use any clear coat to lock in the color and make it durable. This is because all topcoat finishes work well on this tropical hardwood.
Notice that if you clear coat ash wood without staining it, the white color may yellow with age—the same way maple does. Therefore, to make the most of ash, you may want to know how best to stain it with various colors.
How to Stain Ash Wood
Staining ash wood is a breeze if you have the knowledge and tools for the job.
This section provides a detailed list of the supplies you will need for staining ash, the following procedure, and a handful of stain recommendations that should do the job perfectly each time.
What you will need for the job
- Wood stain in your referred shade
- 220 grit sandpaper
- Applicator (paintbrush or lint-free cloth)
- Rags or tack cloth
- Hand gloves
- Drop cloth
Ash Wood Staining Procedure
Here are the steps to follow to get your stain in. Once you have assembled everything you will need for the job, you can begin by preparing your workspace.
As a norm, you should always lay down a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to protect the floor from the wood stain. You never know when you are going to spill something. The plastic sheeting will collect all of that.
Next, ensure there’s good ventilation where you are working. Working outdoors, such as in a carport, you should have all the airflow you need. But if you are indoors, such as in your garage or basement, you may want to open the windows for better air circulation.
Step 1: Clean and sand the wood
Whether you are staining ash wood furniture, cabinetry, or a piece of ash wood, always begin by cleaning it to remove any dirt and grime accumulated on the surface. If the wood isn’t overly dirty, proceed to sand it without cleaning it first.
Use 220 grit sandpaper for sanding the wood surface nicely and evenly. Please don’t be too aggressive with it; instead, keep the pressure gentle and even across the entire surface. You can have the sandpaper on a sanding sponge for manual sanding or use an orbital sander instead.
The choice of sanding tool should depend on the size of your project and the nature of the wood. For instance, an orbital sander may not reach some nooks and crevices, such as under the railings on your deck.
Whatever the case, ensure you cover the entire surface to make it smooth.
Choosing your sandpaper grit
Finer-grit sandpaper isn’t recommended for ash wood as it may block the pores. Neither should you use too coarse grit sandpaper; it will likely leave unsightly scratch marks on the surface.
So, what grit sandpaper should you use? always stick to medium-grit sandpaper with ash to get the best results. If you want the wood to stain darker, 220-grit sandpaper should open up the pores enough to create that look.
However, if you are looking for a lighter, more natural wood finish, you can go as fine as 320 grit.
Step 2: Clean the sanding dust and let the wood dry
The next essential step after sanding is to remove the wood dust. Here you can use a tack cloth or damp rag. If you opt for a rag, ensure it’s lint-free to avoid leaving any debris on the sanded surface.
Also, ensure you wring out as much water as possible; you don’t want to put water on the wood as it may raise the grain and spoil the smoothness.
After using a damp rag on your sanded wood, please leave it to dry completely before applying the stain on it.
Step 3: Apply the wood stain
You can always use a clean, lint-free rag to apply the stain or stick to a natural-bristled paintbrush. The most important part is not how the stain gets onto the wood but how the excess gets out.
By this, we mean it’s essential to wipe the excess stain before it dries and becomes tacky after applying it.
So, whether you use a paintbrush or rag, saturate the applicator with the stain and rub it evenly across the surface. The objective is to create an even coverage all over the wood surface.
If you want to stain the wood dark, you can leave the stain on for about five minutes or slightly longer before wiping. However, if you are interested in a lighter, more natural look, wipe the excess stain immediately after applying it.
The longer the stain stays on the wood before wiping the excess, the darker the finish. The average wait time is about five to ten minutes, but water-borne stains may dry faster than oil-based options. So, pay attention to the weather and drying behavior of your chosen stain.
More importantly, you can generally apply the stain in any direction. But you must follow the direction of the wood grain when wiping off the excess. How well you follow this final rule will directly influence the quality of your results.
Step 4. Let the stain dry completely
Various stains have different drying times, so you will need to read the product label for the manufacturer’s recommended drying time and follow it.
Allow the wood to dry for the entire time recommended for drying.
In any case, most wood stains will be dry and ready for recoating in 1 to 2 hours. After that time elapses, inspect the surface and see if it will need more color.
Step 5. Add another coat of the stain if necessary, and let it dry
After the stained surface has dried completely, inspect the wood to see if you are happy with the color. If you prefer it darker, apply a second coat the same way you did the first, wiping the excess carefully along the wood grain.
Often, you will need to wait for at least 8 hours before you can apply a top coat of your choice. To be on the safer side, we recommend letting the stain cure for up to 24 hours before sealing it with your top coat of choice.
Step 6: Seal the finished ash wood
Always apply a protective topcoat after staining your ask. You need a durable clear coat to lock in the stain color and protect the surface from wear and tear.
Ask works perfectly will various finishes, including regular nitrocellulose lacquer. However, if you apply wood finishing on ash furniture or kitchen cabinets that require a more durable topcoat for protection, varnish or polyurethane may be more advantageous.
Best Finish for Ash Wood
- Penetrating stain on ash wood – Minwax Oil-Based Wood Stain
- Dark walnut stain on ash wood – Varathane Premium Stain
- Best ash wood finish – Rust-Oleum ultimate stain
- General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain, 1/2 Pint, Java
- Ready Seal 100 Clear, 1-Gallon Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer, 1 gallon (Packaging may vary)
What is the Best Stain for Ash Wood?
Experimenting with multiple ash wood stain samples can give you a feel of the best look to go for. Experimentation can take a long time to identify the best stain colors on ash wood.
So we have done the legwork to help narrow down your research to just a handful of the best ash wood stain options for you. Find them below.
1. Penetrating stain on ash wood – Minwax Oil-Based Wood Stain
- RICH EVEN COLOR – Minwax Wood Finish is a deep penetrating, oil-based wood stain that provides beautiful color and enhances the natural wood grain in one coat. It’s perfect for interior staining projects such as wood furniture, cabinets, doors and more.
- QUICK DRYING – Staining interior wood has never been quicker. The special formula allows it to deeply penetrate wood pores within 5 minutes of application, resists lapping, and dries in two hours, making all your wood projects quick, beautiful and easy.
- EASY TO APPLY – Use a clean cloth or wood stain brush to apply this wood stain in the direction of the grain. Wait 5-15 minutes and wipe away excess stain. The longer you wait, the darker/richer the color. Reapply coats for deeper color.
- DARK WALNUT WOOD STAIN – This dark wood stain provides a beautiful, rich dark walnut color. This classic brown stain looks great on a wide variety of projects.
- A BRAND YOU CAN TRUST – Minwax is America’s leading brand of wood finishing and wood care projects. Since 1904, we have been inspiring consumers to Keep on Finishing. We offer consumers a complete line of products to meet every wood finishing need.
Minwax penetrating wood stain is an excellent way to waterproof your ash. It penetrates deep into the wood, giving it a shade of dark walnut.
More importantly, the stain does an excellent job highlighting the wood’s beautiful grain. If you want the grain to come out elegantly, this penetrating stain from Minwax may be your best choice.
While the stain deepens the wood color with pigment, it doesn’t mask the wood grain. Instead, it distributes the pigment evenly across the entire wood surface.
2. Dark walnut stain on ash wood – Varathane Premium Stain
- Ideal for use on all interior wood projects: furniture, cabinets, doors, trim and paneling
- One-coat coverage, fast-drying oil based formula
- Dries to the touch in just 1 hour and covers up to 70 square feet
- High performance stain system enhanced with nano pigment particles
- Highlights natural wood grain to reveal wood's beauty
If you want your stain drying quickly, Verathane may have you covered with their fast-drying dark walnut stain.
The product is ideal for use on all interior wood projects, including ash wood cabinets, furniture, doors, paneling, and trim.
Just a single coat of this Varathane ash wood stain will transform the wood completely into a dramatic shade of dark walnut. This means you can spend less money on your staining project.
The fast-drying oil-based formula saves you time, ensuring the surface is dry to the touch in just 1 hour. This is another stain that does a great job of highlighting the wood’s natural grain to reveal its beauty.
3. Best ash wood finish – Rust-Oleum ultimate stain
- High performance stain enhances wood grain on interior surfaces such as cabinets, doors, furniture, floors and more
- Fast drying, oil based formula provides maximum durability and color in one coat
- Dries to the touch in 1 hour and covers up to 70 sq. ft. per half pint
- Top coat with polyurethane in 1 hour for long lasting protection
- Durable, rich finish provides deep, even color without the need for wood conditioner
This wood stain from Rust-Oleum is our best pick because of its exceptional quality. Its superior oil-based formula is fast drying and durable.
In addition, it’s a high-performance stain designed to enhance wood grain on interior ash wood surfaces, including cabinets, furniture, doors, and floors.
We find it particularly ideal for ash wood floors, where it provides maximum durability and color in just a single coat. So you don’t have to spend more money to get your desired depth of color.
The fast-drying formula allows you to topcoat it with polyurethane in just 1 hour for long-lasting protection.
Best Stain for Ash Wood
Does Ash Require a Wood Conditioner before Staining?
There’s no need to apply wood conditioner or grain filler on ash before staining it. The wood is one of the easiest to stain, thanks to its large open pores that allow the stain to penetrate easily and spread to distribute the pigment stain evenly across the surface.
Ash is practically blotch-free, so you can always stain it without worrying about a pre-stain wood conditioner.
Staining Ash Cabinets: Tips and Tricks
When it comes to getting ash cabinets stained, a few best practices will help you get the desired results.
1. Practice with your chosen stain and finish on sample boards before your project
Ash wood works well with many stains and nearly every sealant or topcoat. While this gives you some limitless options to pick from, you can be spoilt for choice.
So, have some pieces of scrap wood resembling your project and try out the stains you are considering on these pieces. Since ash wood is easy to stain, you should aim for the best possible outcome.
By practicing with a few options, you can see the look that best represents your desired finish, then goes for it.
2. Use a more durable clear coat to lock in the stain
Cabinets take quite a bit of abuse in their service life, so you need to shield them in a durable coat to stand up to the challenge.
Especially if these are kitchen cabinets, they are likely to be constantly in use. While you could use a regular top coat such as nitrocellulose lacquer, it may hold up less than fine. A more robust sealant such as varnish or polyurethane should be a better choice.
After applying the wood stain, follow through with a coat of durable sealer to lock in the color and protect your stained wood.
3. Don’t sand too fine if you prefer a darker color
Ash absorbs stain well due to its large open pores. If you want to stain it dark, you will keep those pores as open as possible.
Using fine-grit sandpaper will close the wood’s pores, reducing their ability to absorb the stain. As a result, only a small amount of the pigment will penetrate.
On the other hand, you don’t want to go too coarse as such sandpaper will create undesirable scratches on the wood surface. The best sandpaper for the job is a medium 220-grit.
You can begin coarser, like 150 or 180-grit, if the wood has pronounced surface inconsistencies or previous finish that you want to remove first. But always finish with 220-grit sandpaper to achieve the dramatic and remarkable look you want.
How to Care for Ash Furniture
Ash wood has a beautiful, light color that you may want to preserve. To care for this wood, ensure you keep the furniture in a dry area and wipe and dust it regularly to avoid dust and dirt buildup.
Additionally, ensure you apply a hard-wearing, protective finish such as varnish, lacquer, or polyurethane even if you stain the wood. These film-forming topcoats will waterproof the wood and protect it from scratches and discoloration.
Ultimately, it’s best to steer clear of commercial cleaners and polishes; they can damage the finish or make the surface sticky. A sticky surface is a dust and dirt trap that you don’t want.
What does ash wood look like stained?
Ash wood has a hint of beige to light brown with beautiful, straight wood grain. When stained, it tends to look much like oak. And you can pick any stain product that matches its color or go for a more dramatic look with darker shades.
What are the disadvantages of ash wood?
Ash is considered a perishable, non-durable wood. It’s prone to rotting when damp or in contact with the ground. The wood is also typically susceptible to attack by fungus and beetles such as the emerald ash borer.
Does ash wood turn yellow?
Yes, white ash tends to yellow over time. Staining ash wood is typically a viable workaround if you do not like the yellow tint of aging ash.
How to get a dark stain on ash?
To stain ask dark, avoid sanding it with fine-grit sandpaper. Instead, use 220 grit sandpaper and let the stain stay on the wood for five to ten minutes before wiping the excess during application. You may also apply two coats instead of one when staining ash dark.
Ash Wood Finishes Summary
Ash wood is aesthetically pleasing in its natural color, but it can be even more spectacular if you stain it in a color that matches your décor better. Does ash stain well? It does indeed.
If you have a woodworking project involving ash staining coming up, feel free to use this article to guide you through it. We hope you find the information in this article useful. Please leave a comment in the comments section, if any.
Also, check our woodworking tips on staining pine doors.