I have hundreds of 1/4" x 1/4" strips of wood.

I would like to stain these a rainbow of different colors. Each strip would be stained a single solid color. Then glue the strips together. Literally, making a rainbow from the different strips of wood.

My question is, no matter how tight and smooth I clamp them together, there is going to be minute edges where the different strips join together.

How could I sand them after the stain is on (which I assume is not the right plan of attack)?

Or, how could I clamp them together in such a way so that they are extremely smooth without sanding?

I hope this makes sense.


  • Hi Mark, welcome to SE. This is too many queries in one. Each Question here should be about one major element, with maybe one very related sub-query. Re. the staining option, there is stain and there is stain (because the term has been debased by the finishing industry in recent decades there's no consistency in how the word is used any more). Please edit the Question, specify the exact product(s) you intend to use to colour the wood & remove the unrelated queries — these can be asked as separate Questions, if you can't find the answer after you have tried a search. [contd]
    – Graphus
    Jul 2, 2020 at 12:53
  • Your final query for example, about how to clamp the wood and keep it flat, that most definitely has been covered at least once previously. However, you need to be aware that it will be extremely difficult (read: practically impossible) to prevent the need for some post-glueing smoothing work, no matter what method you use.
    – Graphus
    Jul 2, 2020 at 12:58
  • @Graphus I agree 100%, however, I really read only 2 related questions: 1) How can I sand them after I stain so as to not ruin the staining, 2) Can I glue them up well enough that I won't have to stain. Reasonably well related. The 2nd has been answered (as noted), I addressed the first. He doesn't seem to be asking about kinds of stains or staining methods (though the methodology is what I addressed to answer the qeustion).
    – FreeMan
    Jul 2, 2020 at 13:32
  • Pretty much already answered: woodworking.stackexchange.com/q/3903/5572
    – user5572
    Jul 2, 2020 at 15:57
  • @FreeMan, yes you are probably right. I read the first part about staining as an unspoken question and (erroneously) went from there.
    – Graphus
    Jul 3, 2020 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


I'd presume that you want fairly vibrant colors and you're talking reds and greens and blues, not 17 shades of oak or maple.

You have hundreds, you say, so I'd suggest that you sacrifice a couple for test strips. Cut a few small pieces, and let them soak in a tub of the stain for an hour or two. The goal being to get the stain to deeply penetrate, not just the normal 0.3mm penetration (approximate) that you'd get from a normal brush-on or wipe-on application.

Once they've soaked for a while, pull them out & let them drip dry. Once you've got them dry enough to handle, slice into the strips with a knife or start sanding on an edge to see how much color penetration you've got. That will tell you how much variation you can sand off of your final assembly. This will also be a good test to see how you like the colors and what it'll take to get there.

It'll probably take a couple of days (maybe weeks?) to get the wood back to "dry" lumber that you'll want to work with for your glue-up. You may want to invest in a moisture meter to know when they're back to an acceptable state for wood working.

Sounds like a neat project and I'd love to see the final result.

  • 1
    Thanks @FreeMan. Yes, your presumption is correct, I want reds and greens and blues (not sure on the final colors yet). But, definitely not 17 shades of maple. I am going to take all of your suggestions and do some tests. Thank you!
    – Mark
    Jul 2, 2020 at 13:26
  • 2
    @Mark. Please post the results of your tests as an answer to your question to help others.
    – Ashlar
    Jul 2, 2020 at 21:35
  • 1
    You may want a water based dye. Wood will absorb water more readily then any non water based stains. I have a small scoop, like a sugar scoop, that is multicolored, it appears to be thin 1/16 inch ply's glued together and then turned on a lathe. It looks very cool.
    – Alaska Man
    Jul 3, 2020 at 19:07

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