Painting Furniture: Black Stain vs Black Paint

by Diane Henkler on 10/20/2011

Remember my client’s house that I have been working on?  The one with the blue trimmed windows?  Well, I have been busy helping make it over step by step.  This week I updated two pine tables the homeowner had. When I was assessing what to keep – these two tables made the cut. They are clean lined and classic.  The natural pine finish just had to be changed to be updated to  look  more modern.


Two pine tables with a clear polyurethane finish.

Furniture Before staining with Classic Black Satin Minwax PolyShades Stain

I knew I wanted them to be black, but I wasn’t too hip on painting them black.   I wanted a sleeker look and knew I could achieve that with stain. Yes, stain. Not wood toned stain, but color stain. I particularly like Minwax PolyShades and have been using it for many years.

Black stain vs black paint on furniture -what I like about it:

1. It is thin and sort of sheer looking. It won’t look thick or heavy on your furniture the way paint sometimes does.

2. It is color and polyurethane applied in 1 step – which gives you a truly durable finish.  It does take time to cure  – a few days to a week before the finish is super durable.

3.  It can be applied right over any existing finish.  I usually just take a piece of fine grit sandpaper over the surface quickly to roughen up the surface.

4.  I love the results – smooth and factory finish-like!

The only thing I don’t like is the fact that it is oil based. Needs clean-up with paint thinner.  I don’t let this bother me too much though, because the finish comes out perfect – it is worth having to clean up or just throw out a brush.

If you don’t want to clean up a brush, you can buy a high quality foam brush.  I used one made by Wooster. It is a little more expensive, but you will get a nice even finish with it. I have also used this stain successfully with a Wooster bristle brush made specifically for staining.

Minwax PolyShades Stain and Polyurethane in 1 Step


1. Rub a piece of fine to medium grit sandpaper over the surface of  your piece. All it needs is a quick roughing up.  Clean off debris with a tack cloth.

2.. Make sure you stir the stain well before applying.  Dip tip of brush into can and start from the center of your piece out to the edges using long light strokes. You don’t want to apply it too heavily. 2 or 3 light coats are much better than a heavy coat.  Continue staining until the piece is covered.  Let dry.

How to stain furniture black instead of painting

2.  Since these tables already had a finish on them, you may get this spotting.  If that happens – don’t worry – you haven’t failed.  Let it dry and go over with the fine grit sandpaper again.  Clean the surface with a tack cloth to remove the sanding debris.  Apply another light coat of stain. Let dry.  It will be gone.  Apply another light coat of PolyShades if needed, making sure to use long light strokes.



DIY Decorating TipWhen staining or painting any piece of furniture black or a very dark color make sure you have a few good light sources directed on every side of the piece.  This way you can see if you are covering the surface completely and catch any drips before they dry.



Modern black tables.

How to stain furniture instead of painting it


The long table is going in the dining room.   I will show you the room when it is completed – this is just a sneak peek.

How to stain furniture with Minwax PolyShades in Classic Black Satin

I love the way it looks against the white board and batten walls.

How to stain a table black


Remember the blue trim on the living room windows and the 80′s country look?

Before Decorating Makeover


It is GONE!  The trim and walls have been painted, new wood blinds, furniture, and lamps added.  The black stained side table and rug are the only elements that were existing.

Minwax How to use stain over an old finish on furniture

The decorating transformation is almost complete – now it’s time to add the homeowner’s personality to the rooms. I will show you the “After” when it is completed.

Living Room Makeover


To see more about this house and the before photos click here-  A Client’s House:  Makeover



{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sandra October 20, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Diane that is awesome. I’ve been considering using that for a project but wasn’t sure if it would really hold up over a finished surface. Do you go over the entire thing with clear poly after? And, if it is oil based, if your surface was finished with a water based product, will it adhere? (I guess it depends on how long that finish has cured…?) Great project and thanks for the information. I’m so excited now because I think my plan will work! Yeah!


2 Diane October 21, 2011 at 12:00 am

Hi Sandra-

The PolyShades brand by Minwax has the polyurethane in it already. So no I don’t add a coat of poly after. The label says – Stain and Polyurethane in 1 Step. It goes on very smooth. If you have a water based finish you can lightly sand it, but you don’t have to go to the bare wood at all. It adheres beautifully.


3 Julie October 20, 2011 at 11:38 pm

It’s gorgeous! It’s gotten me thinking about a couple of projects also. I love everything you’ve shared on this blog. You have some wonderful ideas!


4 Rie October 21, 2011 at 6:17 am

I first thought.. eek a black table – but it looks brilliant! Great job!


5 Lisa October 21, 2011 at 6:39 am

Can I do the same using a lighter stain, does it come in white?


6 Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions October 21, 2011 at 8:07 am

What a big difference in that room Diane! The molding is just beautiful. The tables came out great! I never would have thought of stain for them; it’s amazing how you changed them from country to modern chic with a new color.


7 Lesley October 21, 2011 at 8:08 am

The tables look amazing. I cannot believe what a HUGE step these homeowners took! Their look was so country and now it is so contemporary! This one must have been a fun one. Huge change.


8 Julie @ Practically Spent October 21, 2011 at 8:19 am

Thanks so much, Diane, for the really great instructions. I’ve never done this before, but I have a table that’s perfect for it!


9 Terri October 21, 2011 at 8:58 am

What a great tutorial…I hope you don’t mind, I just had to “pin it” on Pinterest. I did not know that this type of stain existed…no stripping, ya gotta love that! TFS!


10 Debbie-refreshrestyle October 21, 2011 at 9:10 am

Diane, the tables look great! The room is looking awesome!!!


11 Sheryll & Critters. October 21, 2011 at 9:19 am

Wow, what a total redo that is for her house. I did not know Minwax came in colors too. I guess I just never looked. I stained a brand new door for one of my boyfriends rental houses and it had three rows of window panes…. I did not know how to do this without getting that stain on the glass, so I put Vaseline on the windows. Was that a bad idea? Do you think that the painters tape would have been better/easier?

Also, I did not know to use the sponge brush. I used a piece of a cotton cloth to apply the stain and then wiped it off after a few minutes and then reapplied the stain and wiped again (dark wood stain). I found that my latex or vinyl gloves disintegrated on me.. what a mess. And my ex boy friend is really cheap, so to get a good brush was not an option, but the sponge I will use next time (if ever).

Now if I was rich, I would certainly buy some of those new doors Lowes carries that have the mini blinds enclosed in solid glass. I love those!!!

Thanks for the tip about the sponge brush. I make a lot of mistakes sometimes……..grin.

Sheryll & Critters.


12 Pam October 21, 2011 at 9:20 am

Just beautiful. Sleek and sophisticated. I can’t wait to see the finished room.


13 Kelly B. October 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I have a side table that’s blond wood and it has such a pretty wood grain top but my problem is blond wood is not my style :( It also have a clear finish already on it, so do you think if I stain it with the same stuff in Antique Walnut the wood grain will still show through following your steps? (great post btw!) Ty ahead of time, I’m new to DIY stuff :)


14 Diane October 26, 2011 at 11:53 am

Hi Kelly-

I have only used the black which is opaque when applied. Not sure if the Antique Walnut is or not. It may change the color, but be a bit more transparent. If your piece has darker knots and grain swirls you may still see them. In the Lowes I go to, they have little sample swatches of all the colors on wood so you can see what the stain will look like. You can see the black totally hides the wood and grain. You can use the PolyStain over already finished pieces. The tables I did had a clear finish on them, too. Just go over the surface lightly with fine grit sandpaper first. If you are unsure on proceeding – maybe try it on the back of the table to see if you like it or not.


15 Kelly B. November 2, 2011 at 12:49 am

Thank you so much Diane for taking the time to respond :)


16 bj October 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Gosh, I never thought about using a black stain. wonderful !
Have you used the Ann Sloan Chalk paint yet ?
I’ve sure been hearing good things about it….


17 Diane October 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Hi bj-

I haven’t tried Chalk paint yet, but do have two corner cabinets that I may tackle eventually. I have heard good things also. I like the fact that you can paint right over the existing finish.


18 Denise October 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Wow, what an improvement! Can’t wait to see the rest Diane.


19 laurie October 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Wow… looks better already! :)

xoxo laurie


20 Kelli October 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm

That looks amazing! I never thought to stain something black, but you are totally right about it looking less heavy than regular paint!


21 Jennifer Ferrell October 22, 2011 at 8:32 am

Thank you for sharing this very helpful info! I’ve been wanting to refinish my kithcen table set for years! Now I may just have the courage to tackle it!
Kindest regards,


22 deanna October 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

i love that you are not afraid of change. so many people live in the past and their homes really reflect that. it is important to keep things fresh!


23 Kristen @ My Covered Bridge October 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Those tables look fabulous! I love painting furniture black but I’m going to have to try black stain – it looks great!


24 Diane October 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Hi Kristen-
You will love the difference. The stain goes on so smooth and glass like when you use a good brush. I also like that it has the Poly in it to add durability.


25 Shawn October 23, 2011 at 12:12 am

Hi Diane – another great re-do! Question for you about the stain… Can you can still see the pine grain through the stain? I’m wondering how thick it is.

I have a golden oak finish cabinet that I would love if it something other than golden oak. (I would love it even more if it wasn’t oak at all.) I’d like to save the cabinet but need to do something to make it more aesthetically pleasing…



26 Diane October 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Hi Shawn-

No you cannot see any of the pine grain or color through the stain. It is totally opaque. It is thin which is why I prefer using it over paint. It create a more pro finish. Another reader asked if it came in white and it does, but I have never used it. I plan on trying it out soon.
If you want your cabinets dark then you could do this to them. It is thin so I would suggest you remove all the cabinet doors and lay them flat – less drips. I painted my oak cabinets white about 10 years ago using Glidden gripping primer and latex paint. They have held up beautifully. I just read in House Beaufiful magazine last night that Glidden has a new no drip paint. Might be worth looking into. You can see how I painted my cabinets in this post –


27 Teresa October 23, 2011 at 9:59 am

I had so much country blue in my house in the 80′s and some of the 90′s that I think I ruined the color blue for my daughter. :)

I love the tables. Great idea.


28 Diane October 24, 2011 at 8:27 am

Hi Teresa-

I think I did something similar to my daughters, but with floral fabric :)


29 Lisa @ A Room with A View October 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Such a huge transformation and thank you, as always, for sharing such detailed tips on painting furniture.


30 Kim @ Sand & Sisal October 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm

They look great! I’ve been wanting to redo my kitchen table black but didn’t want the heavy look of paint either (done that already). Thanks for telling us about the polyshade! (stumbled this today btw) :)


31 Gloria October 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm

I just discovered your site and I LOVE it! I am your newest Follower. You do so many great things! I will come back and look at all of your great projects on your sidebar. The black tables are great!


32 Leslie October 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Great tip! I think I know just the piece I could use this on. I need to cover some gold accents on a table I can’t bear to paint. thanks!


33 gail October 27, 2011 at 10:21 am

diane! great tips! I love the way the tables look! thanks for linking up!
catching you this week


34 Holly November 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Hi Diane- I love you site. I check it out frequently and loved this post. I have one quick question. Can you use this type of stain over a painted surface? I have some chairs that are part stained pine and part painted white rails. Would this work on both surfaces or would I need to paint over the paint?


35 Diane November 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

Hi Holly-

I know I answered your question via email that you can use the Stain/Poly over paint successfully, but I asked my friend who did it over a two toned painted green and stained oak dresser. She told me her hubby sanded the painted areas on the dresser a lot before she put the poly/stain on. So I would just do a test area where you have sanded the painted surface a bit. If after it dries and you can scratch it off – you may have to sand to roughen up the painted surface more. Every painted surface is different – latex, oil, flat, glossy, etc. Test first and then proceed.


36 cheri December 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Wow! We did it, thanks to your inspiration. My college-aged son now approves of his old This End Up furniture. And now my older son is planning to do the same with his pine furniture.


37 Diane December 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Hi Cheri-

That is so nice to hear. I remember when This End Up was “Cool”. I bet they look great stained black – timeless! Thanks for sharing your success.


38 Cindy October 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I would LOVE to see the This End Up furniture! I’m trying to figure out what to do at our beach place with it. Black sounds cool…..driftwood is a possibility. Any input? Suggestions?


39 Tanya March 27, 2012 at 10:43 pm


Thank you so much for this post.! I just purchased a set of bookshelves that came out of an elementary school library. They have some sort of finish on them already, but I want them to be black. They also have a little bit of a funny smell to them. They are taken apart and are all flat surfaces. I like the new finish being thin enough not to interfere with re-assembling them. I had intended to paint them, but I worry that the painted surface will take a long time to really be safe for me to put my beloved books on. Sometimes painted surfaces stay “tacky” for a while. How long do you think this product would take after application to be ready for use? Thank you!



40 Diane March 28, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Hi Tanya-
It dries to the touch in a few hours, but I would let it be for at least a day or two – just to make sure. If you live in a dry climate – less time. After that it should be fine. Just remember before staining to rough up the surface on all the pieces with sandpaper before applying the stain. If you are still uncertain, test a small area and see how long it takes to dry. You will be happy with the thinness of the stain once applied. I wish it came in lots of colors.


41 Sue April 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

Can you distress the furniture after it is stained? Will is look like a piece that is painted then distressed? Or is the wood stained permanently? I love the idea of doing this. I was going to paint my kitchen table/chairs until I came across this site. Now I’m staining them.


42 Diane April 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Hi Sue – I haven’t done it myself, but I think it would distress beautifully. I would experiment by buying a small can of the stain and apply it on a scrap piece of wood to see.


43 Chris April 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I have two walnut dressers that are stained black–they are over 50 years old–and I was going to paint them black, but after seeing your results, I think I’ll restain them! I was worried that paint was going to be SO thick that the drawers wouldn’t close… now I’m excited to start the project!



44 Diane April 24, 2012 at 11:29 am

Hi Chris – the black stain is perfect for furniture that you don’t want to add the thickness of paint. You will love the finish. Just remember to give the dressers a light going over with sandpaper before using the black stain, especially if the pieces have a poly finish on them and are shiny. I would love to see them when they are done.


45 Furniture Importers May 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

It really looks great after painting… Perfect black is shinning in the sun.


46 Lesley June 8, 2012 at 9:34 am

I just bought a round table and 4 chairs. It is a very light shade of oak wood. It has already been stained a “blonde” color and sealed. I don’t like the color at all, so what can I do or buy to make it darker without actually buying like behr paint? It is a dining room table. I don’t want to strip the seal because I heard that is a lot of work and bad for your skin. I liked what you did to the black tables, but I don’t know if my table will work like that because it already has so much light stain and sealer on it. I just bought it yesterday from craigslist so I didn’t know it was going to be so light. Please let me know! Thanks! :)


47 Diane June 9, 2012 at 11:14 am

Hi Lesley -

The tables I applied the stain had a sealer on them. It wasn’t super shiny, but they had a protective coat. You have to rough up the surface first so the stain has something to stick to. I used medium grit sandpaper over all the surface, then cleaned it with a tack cloth. If you still see any shiny areas – go over them again. Then you can apply the stain. Try it first on a hidden area of the table to see if you like it and it stays on. The only other option is to paint it. You would still need to sand it a bit first to remove or at least rough up the glossy surface. After sanding you should add 2 light coats of a gripping primer. Glidden makes one and so does Ben Moore. After that is dry, apply your paint. If you are going to paint it black, make sure to have the primer tinted to black to help get better coverage. If the primer goes on white – you will need more coats of black to cover it.

I hope this helps. Let me know how it turns out.


48 Erin July 15, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I’m so excited I found this. I recently decided I wanted to take an old bedroom suit and paint it black. It’s about 30 years old with a cherry finish that is coming off in places from being moved several times. Do you think this stain would work for that? Thanks!


49 Diane July 16, 2012 at 9:53 am

Hi Erin-

I think it would work just fine. A friend of mine did it on her bedroom furniture and it worked great. Her furniture didn’t have a shiny surface, so she just cleaned the furniture, let it dry, and applied the stain. If your furniture has a shiny cherry finish you will have to sand it – to rough it up just a bit so the stain has something to hold onto. For the tables I did, I went over the shiny finish a few times with by hand with sandpaper.
Recently I was at a blog conference called Haven. Minwax had a booth set up. They have a product that I never used before, but want to try. It is called Minwax Express Color and comes in a tube. It is like a gel and won’t run or drip at all. I want to try it to see if it will be even better than the traditional stain. The piece will have to be sanded to rough up the surface still, but I think may go on really well to give the piece a more factory finish painted look, not a brushed on painted look.


50 Mime August 1, 2012 at 2:35 am

I have a plant box (table tall) with four legs. It was built for me, and has been used on the porch where it has been fairly well protected, but, it has some stains from watering, and some of the wood has grayed. Is it all right to use this technique with the raw wood? I really need to get something on it to protect it. Thank you for your video. The finished products were amazing.


51 shonda August 1, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Diane, that looks so nice! I just bought a maple table from a yard sale and want to try to redo it myself, but to bombay mahogany color. I have no clue what i amd doing and its gonna be a project for me and a money saver,lol.. Anyway you can provide me with some helpful tips. Its currently a maple oak color with a gloss. Im not sure how far to sand it to, i bought sand paper of 120, due to 220 grit really didnt seem to do to much. I do have minwax 2 in 1, but really been hearing alot of bad reviews on it, so now i am skeptical about it, also i have a 2inch stain brush and hear not good things on a brush.. so i am so confused on what to use or how do it. Can you please help me out? Ty


52 Elisabetta August 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I just bought an old library desk with dark walnut stain. I sanded it down. I have both the polyshade in classic black and a black paint. I am so confused as which one to use. I prefer a smoother non-grain look. Help! I love your blog by the way!


53 Diane August 6, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Hi Elisabetta – Try each one on the underside of the desk to experiment with both to see which one you like better. I think I would go with the black stain. It will give you a richer color and smoother finish.


54 Jon October 2, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I stumbled on your blog and this is exactly what I am wanting to do to my entire bedroom set this weekend. I was going to paint but this sounds so much nicer and easier. Only question is you mentioned 2 or 3 light coats. Do you do them at once or let it dry and then recoat? If so how much drying time?
Also my furniture has a lot of routed grooves in it which would be very difficult to sand so I am considering using a product called “sander/deglosser instead of actually sanding. You wipe in on with a cloth.


55 Diane October 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Hi Jon -
Let each coat dry before applying the next coat. It will take an hour or two to dry depending on the weather conditions. I am not sure how the deglosser will effect the adhesion. Maybe try it on a small area first. It will probably be fine since it is meant to help adhesion, but since I didn’t use it, I am not sure.


56 Jon October 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Thanks Diane,
In my research I have found a lot of mixed reviews on the polyshades but I have found everyone that has used a chemical stripper has had great results. I will report back on how it goes.


57 Becca October 6, 2012 at 3:35 am

This is perfect! I love the tips, and I love how they turned out! I found you via a Google search, and your post was just what I was looking for. I’m going to go “stalk” the rest of your website now… :) Thanks again!


58 Elaine October 9, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Hi Diane-

First of all-beautiful job on the pine pieces! Well…I finally convinced my husband to let me paint our solid oak table and chairs black. I have to make sure we don’t live to regret this. Some suggest that oak is difficult to stain or paint because of its grooves and wood grain. Do you have experience with either painting or staining oak. I would like to get started ASAP. What do you think is the best method for transforming my light oak to black? I look forward to your response.

Thank you,


59 Brittany October 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

The black stain looks great. Its just what i want to do to my hutch and kitchen table. Do you have any suggestions on making it looked destressed after it has been stained.


60 Diane October 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Hi Brittany – If you want to have a distressed look you may want to use Chalk paint. It distresses beautifully. I haven’t tried distressing the stain, but if you want to try – runs a piece of medium grit sandpaper along a few of the edges. To find out more about Chalk paint you can see my post – here -

I also have a few other posts showing pieces I painted and distressed.


61 Marissa October 30, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I found your website and I was so happy! I have been trying to find something to help me either restain or paint my nursery furniture. They are all a light oak color and I wont them a dark either walnut or expresso type color. Do you think the minwax is safe for a crib? would I just apply it the same way with all the rails? or am I dumb for thinking I can make it look different. Thanks so much! I am also thinking of doing my cabinets and I love your makeover!


62 Vickie November 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I have a large kitchen table with 7 chairs. Some have the original stain on them and some have white paint that I recently applied, but do not want it to be white anymore. I would like to paint it black but am wondering if I can use the minwax stain such a big project?
Thank you,


63 Madison November 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Ok, so I have a quick question. I found this post a little too late. We are currently in the process of painting the coffee, sofa, and two end tables (all oak…not much of a finish left because they are the tables that were in my childhood home) black. We have the sofa and one end table taken apart, sanded, primed with Kilz, and one coat of black(ish) paint on the tops. Turns out the guy mixing the paint put a little too much green in, and they have a green tint. What can I do to those table tops to get THIS kind of finsh on them, at this point. I would LOVE to do this much faster step for the other two tables, but I want all 4 to match, obviously. If you could email me with suggestions that would amazingly awesome, and I would be forever grateful!

Thank you SO much, in advance, for any information you can get me!


64 Diane Henkler November 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Hi Madison -

Black is very hard to get the blackest black finish. I am not sure you should stain over the paint right away since I assume the black paint is latex? The oil stain applied on top of a newly painted surface may make the finish crackle. Water and oil don’t mix kind of reaction. You may want to let the paint cure for a few days before testing the stain on top of it. I would test it in an inconspicuous place. If it goes on smooth and you like it after letting it dry – 24 hours -then you are good to go and can do the rest of the pieces to match.

If it doesn’t work, the best thing to do if you want everything to match is to go back to the paint store and tell them you want the blackest black formula. Keep having them add more black pigment. Put some on a piece of paper and let it dry. Take it out into natural light and then decide if it is black enough. If not – go back into the store and have them tweak it again. Once you like the color -re-coat the pieces that have the green tint and then use the good black on the rest of the pieces.


65 Carla November 11, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Be careful using the Minwax Stain & Poly in one. I recommend you doing some research about the product online (as there are a HOST of problems with this product). It looks like this product worked in this situation, but when I tried to replicate, it failed horribly. The complaints online are the same that I had — after four coats, still patches of shiny and dull, ultimately resulting in having to put a poly on top of all of it anyways. I have since started using General Finishes Gel Stain and their Gel Poly (which, by the way, I was able to apply in a bedroom instead of in the garage with the Minwax which definitely had a strong odor). Read the reviews on the GF line of products and you may end up changing your mind!


66 Diane Henkler November 12, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Hi Carla – It is always good to know of other products on the market. I have never used General Finishes but will try one the next time I use stain and or poly.


67 Sonal December 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Beautiful! Did you use Black satin or black gloss Polyshades? Also, did you have an issue evenly applying the stain in the nooks and crannies?


68 Melanie February 7, 2013 at 8:42 am

Could you do this with Ikea furniture? It looks great! I have a long table that is sitting in the basement collecting dust. I would like to try this on that table.


69 Diane Henkler February 7, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Hi Melanie -
I used the stain on two different surfaces – polyed pine and over gloss white paint on chairs. It worked on both. On IKEA furniture if it is shiny melamine, I would use a fine to medium grit of sandpaper to rough up the surface first, then try the stain on a small section. Let it cure for a few days and then do a scratch test to see if you can remove it with a fingernail. If you can – then I would not use the stain, if you can’t scratch it off – then you are good to go. If you can scratch it off after letting it cure for a few days, I would suggest you use a gripping primer – Glidden sells one that I have used called, Gripper or a primer made especially for painting melamine. Once that is on you can paint the piece black. Use a roller and the best quality brush you can afford to get the best finish.


70 Carol April 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Diane, I was so pleased when I read your instructions for using Minwax Polyshades in black. I was planning to paint an unfinished pine chest but liked the sound of using the stain instead. I first used the Minwax prep for soft wood and then applied three coats of the Polyshade. I am very disappointed with the finish. It looks very streaky. I stirred the stain often while applying it, lightly sanded between coats, and used a new natural bristle brush that I bought especially for the project. Any suggestions about what I might have done wrong and what I should do to make it look better? I would appreciate any help you could give me.
Thanks, Carol


71 Diane Henkler April 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

Hi Carol
Many factors could have contributed to the streakiness. Wood quality, a veneer with an uneven grain, to the the air temperature when applied. Since you said you stirred the stain well, and used the right brush – The only other thing that I know of that may have happened is the stain was applied with uneven pressure. Without seeing the piece, this is my first thought. The other thing that might have occurred is there may have been unevenness on the surface before you stained. To try to fix it, I would go over the entire stained surface with very fine sandpaper. Clean it off with water and a clean cloth, let it dry. Then add another coat of stain applied with long even strokes. Add another coat after it is dry if needed.


72 Carol April 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Thanks Diane, Your advice was very similar to that I got from the people at Minwax. Carol


73 Heather April 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I love your square ottoman. Where did you get it? I have been looking for that exact piece.


74 Diane Henkler April 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Hi Heather – It was for a client. We found it at a local furniture store: Raymour and Flanigan. They have a website where you might be able to find it. raymour and


75 AY June 21, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Hello Diane

Such impressive results. Not sure if I have the courage to try it on my dining table.

My question though, Does it matter what type of wood you apply the stain on? Pine vs Oak vs cherry wood?

My other question, you used sandpaper to roughen the surface but not all the way to the wood. How would you know that you reached to a good rough surface?

Regards and thanks


76 Diane Henkler June 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm

It should work the same on any wood. The smoother the surface (no grain) the better it will look. I rough up the wood surface until I don’t see a shine on the surface anymore. It will look dull even after wiping the sanding dust away with a rag. You need to provide some “tooth” for the stain to stick to. After staining – the curing process may take up to a week or longer for the stain to dry and cure to the lasting durable finish.

If you are hesitant – try it on the underside of a chair or the table. Usually some of the finish is on the outer edges of the underside. That is where I would experiment to see if you like how it will look.


77 Francesco Spicuzza July 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

Thanks, this was just what I wanted. Best part was your pix and list of items needed.


78 Tamara July 7, 2013 at 7:17 am

Awesome. Thanks for the help. I stubbled across your site when i had sanded two chairs and a table and was over it. I read this and just did the rest over the top with Japanese black and it looks amazing. Your a legend for sharing. :)


79 JM July 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

For this project, did you end up having to use a paint thinner? I see where you mentioned it early in your blog for this project. Just wondering if you used it and if so, how did you apply it.



80 Diane Henkler July 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Hi JM – I did not thin the stain. I only mentioned paint thinner in the post since the stain is oil-based. You would need it to clean your brushes when you are done painting.


81 Abby July 18, 2013 at 8:48 am

Hey Diane –
I bought off white Pottery Barn furniture many years ago to match my current bedroom, but I am moving out in a few months and I am looking to paint or stain this furniture black. Would this stain work for Pottery Barn furniture, or does it only work for wood surfaces?


82 Diane Henkler July 18, 2013 at 10:25 am

Hi Abby – Is it a laminate? I have only used it over polyurethaned and painted wood pieces. It works on these. Without knowing exactly what the finish is I can’t be sure. The stain is sold in small cans for under $5 – you can test it out to see. It does have to cure for a few days to a week, so let it sit awhile before doing a scratch test to determine if it will stick to the surface.


83 Bruce Johnson July 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Great tutorial on using Minwax Polyshades. The pieces look great!


84 Diane Henkler July 24, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Thanks Bruce – that means a lot to me coming from you :)


85 Nancy Hawkins August 9, 2013 at 11:58 am

Your projects are gorgeous. I would love any suggestions for houses like mine – a 1951 “rambler” (ranch, sort of) with a long narrow living room and puny little 8-foot ceilings. My house has lots of windows, and I like that very much, but it does make furniture placement tricky. The living room also has a fireplace and I’m probably going to get our TV our of the spare bedroom and put it in the living room. Tacky, I suppose, but I’d like to watch football and be in front of the fireplace at the same time.
Again, your projects are the prettiest I have seen on the net, and your directions are very clear. Great blog.


86 Tanya August 12, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I just used polyshades to refinish a kitchen table top and got that same spotting. The second coat looks better but still has it. What did I do wrong?


87 Diane Henkler August 13, 2013 at 9:55 am

Hi Tayna – You probably didn’t do anything wrong. The weather, temps and every surface will act differently. That spotting is called – cratering or pinholing. Depending on how deep it is, you may need to sand a bit harder to smooth it out. The next coat should fill the holes and create a smooth surface. Since you have applied two coats already – sand again and then make sure the stain is mixed really well. Apply it slowly so less air is pushed into each stroke. Let it dry and see how it looks. Sand gently again, but with very fine sandpaper (high number like 400 – 600 grit) Clean off then reapply stain if necessary.


88 Andrea August 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

I bought a beautiful dining room table and chairs from craigslist for $80 (pottery barn brand). I sanded it all the way down then stained it ebony. I did not like to see the grain so i investigated and found classic black poly shade glossy. I painted my table with a brush, looks great. A little too shiny but it is what i wanted. I applied 2 coats whch i think i only needed 1 but wanted it to be durable. My question is, how durable is it? Im going to let it cure for a week before using table. Ive read online that it will eventually peel and easily gets nicks. Is that true? If it does eventually peel, is poly shade easy product to sand and redo? Do or should i use coasters for water condensation? Thank you!!


89 jackie September 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I can’t wait to try the black minwax stain. I have been agonizing for weeks trying to decide how to pain my furniture black…… I sure hope mine comes out as nice as yours!


90 Diane Henkler September 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Hi Jackie – If you give the surface a good overall sanding to rough up the surface a bit and then apply the stain in light even layers – you will love how it comes out. Super smooth and thin, no paint built up look. I wish it came in more colors :)


91 Cricket October 18, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I am about to embark on a project as such . A coffee table, with stain and shine on it. I would call it danish modern. I can see it in black and it has a lip edge so I can add glass on top with black and white photos under that.
I can see it looking so modern using the black stain. Wish me luck as I’m just beginning to lightly sand.
I wish there was a way to share the end results as I get to that point.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience using the min wax polyshades. I will at least let you know my results. Thanks again, Cricket


92 Jackie October 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Well, I finally got around to starting my chair. I have one coat on now and it is absolutely beautiful! I can still see the grain which I expected with one coat…so I’ll do another one in a couple days…I came down with a cold and can’t paint and sneeze at the same time, lol…I am soooo glad I found this site! I’m going to do more pieces black when I finish the chair…


93 michelle October 21, 2013 at 10:35 pm

question…I am doing the exact same thing with 2 end tables that I bought from craigslist
however…the top of mine does not look good. I sanded then did the polyshades black. it looked streaky especially when the light hit it. so I lightly sanded and did the second coat…still the same problem! I lightly sanded and did a 3rd coat on top…the same result!! What am I doing wrong? or is it just because the light is hitting it directly so it is noticeable?


94 Diane Henkler October 22, 2013 at 8:01 am

Hi Michelle – The only thing I can think of is that the Polyshades may need to be stirred more and stirred throughout the application process. It could also be the brush. Many factors – temp in room, etc. It should not look streaky, but an even smooth coat of color. I have heard from another reader that they thought it could be a bad batch of Polyshades. I am not sure. I have used it two times so far and have not had the streaking problem.I even had the pieces out in the sun and the color was even. I think what you have done, sanding and reapplying is exactly what I would tell you to do. My next step would be to try a different brush and stir the can frequently.


95 michelle October 22, 2013 at 11:38 am

thanks for taking the time to answer me so quickly. I just tried it again and got the same results. I think maybe I sanded the original table too much to begin with and I am seeing the “scratches” from the sandpaper. Live and learn!!! Next time I will just rub the really fine sandpaper very lightly.


96 Stephanie October 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm

The table I want to stain has a small spot on it about the size of s 50 cent piece that my son scratched with a fork. What should I do to this area before using this product on the table?


97 Diane Henkler October 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Hi Stephanie – To smooth out the scratch, just run a hand sanding block with medium grit -100 grit sandpaper over the surface. It will smooth out the fork marks. Once it is smooth – continue to rough up the rest of the surface so the paint has something to adhere to. If the fork marks are very deep, you can fill them with wood filler putty first. It is sold in the paint and stain aisle. Put the putty in the marks, let dry and then sand smooth then sand the rest of the table before staining.


98 Matt November 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm

hello, I just purchased a house with, dark brown knotty pine cabinets. i would like to stain/ paint then a dark grey/ black, what would u recommend, i have a have grey (barn board coloured hard wood floors in mind) and stainless appliances.


99 Diane Henkler November 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Hi Matt – Do the Knotty Pine cabinets have polyurethane on them?


100 Matt November 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm

they appear to be stained a walnut colour and then varathane. i would like the grain/ knots to appear darker


101 Cricket November 11, 2013 at 11:31 am

Ok, just finished the sanding on my danish modern coffee table yesterday.
Did the clean up and started the first coat of min wax polyshades/black.
This is working great for me. I might have gotten a little thick on the top
as it nearly looks like finished product. I will lightly sand in a day or two and do just one more coat. Thanks Diane for this awesome idea.


102 Melissa January 30, 2014 at 11:17 am

I am planning on refinishing a dresser I had purchased at a garage sale and had a few questions for you. I plan on lightly sanding the top to get an even finish, as well as the drawer fronts, but would i also need to sand in the corners and small areas of the dresser design or could i just stain right over it without sanding first?

Also, I saw that you can also buy the polyshade classic black satin in a spray form – have you tried that before and if so how does it compare to the painting technique? I cant decide if I want to spray paint it or brush it.



103 Diane Henkler January 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hi Melissa -

I have never used the spray version, but think it would work just as well. Use long strokes as you spray, don’t hold the nozzle too close or in any one spot for a long time. This will help you get a smooth even finish. Follow what ever the label says about how long you should wait to re-coat. I would sand over every part of the dresser. It is needed so the stain has something to adhere to. You don’t have to get it down to the bare wood, but just enough to rough the surface up. If the corners are ornate or decorated, cut up the sandpaper into smaller pieces and fold it so you can get into any grooves.

If you are hesitant – try it on a small area or least seen area of the dresser first to see if you like it.


104 Wendy February 17, 2014 at 7:14 am

Hi Diane

I am planning to do my bedroom furniture black. I was going to paint til I came across your blog. The top surfaces of the furniture however are VERY slick and may be laminate not positive. My question is…is there anyway for the stain to work on this? My plan is to have the whole piece black except for the drawer facings… which I am leaving wood color. I will be making the wood a little darker, right now the wood is lighter than I would like. I wasn’t sure if the stain would work on the tops of the bedroom set. If I just the stain I may have to leave them as tbey are or decide to do paint to cover it all.


105 Diane Henkler February 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Hi Wendy – I have only used the black stain over wood. I am not sure how it would adhere to slick laminate even with sanding. You would have to do a test and wait a few days to see if it adheres or not. Most laminate surfaces need to be roughed up and primed with a gripping type primer before painting. You may have to do this with the black stain also and then that would take away the reason to use it in the first place (thinner coat – no paint build up) I think I would go with gripping primer and paint over the laminate areas.


106 Wendy February 18, 2014 at 10:53 am

Thanks Diane

Do you think that its going to look okay with using the gripping primer and paint and stain the wood areas? Or are you suggesting paint all of the furniture or did you mean use the gripping primmer and the stain. Sorry for all the questions.


107 Diane Henkler February 18, 2014 at 11:32 am

Hi Wendy – I think it will look great – a two toned look. The top, sides and front could be primer and black paint and the drawers fronts can be stained. With some interesting pulls or knobs, it will look very chic.


108 Wendy February 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I tried to email you…hoped it worked! :-)


109 YaYa February 23, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I love this idea! I am creating a nursery for my sister and I was wondering if this stain would be okay in a nursery and if so does it need to be completed a certain amount of time before it can be put into the nursery?


110 Holly February 24, 2014 at 4:15 pm

This looks easy and fantastic! I read where the MinWax was only supposed to be applied to “naked furniture”. I’ve got an old buffet that I want to make a little more “with it” looking – I think I’m going to try this. Thanks!


111 Nay Doud March 1, 2014 at 11:17 am

I used wood paint stains over laminated surfaces. What is the best method to treat or remove the stains layer to avoid staining other contacting surfaces or leaving prints on clothes


112 Diane Henkler March 1, 2014 at 11:22 am

Hi Nay – I am not exactly sure what you are asking. I would use Painter’s tape to mask off any areas you don’t want stain to get on. After placing the tape on, seal the edge of the tape by running a finger nail or the edge of a credit card over it. Then add or remove the stain.


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