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Here is an Imgur album containing info on the oil-based stain instructions for the stain that I am using:

It specifically says:

Do NOT sand between coats.

I'm reading an article on Home Depot's website which states the opposite:

Begin by staining the entire top and sides of the butcher block. Wipe away any excess with a rag. Let dry. If you live in a humid climate, work with air conditioning to keep the humidity away during drying.

When the stain is dry, lightly sand with a piece of brown paper to remove any slight blemishes. Repeat staining and sanding about six times to achieve the depth of color that you desire. If the color is duller than you like, adding a sealer will brighten the finish.

I have a 10' walnut butcher block (which I now know is not really butcher block) counter that I will be staining:

enter image description here

Should I sand between stain coats or not?

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    The Home Depot site says "When the stain is dry, lightly sand with a piece of brown paper to remove any slight blemishes." Paper is not a heavy abrasive. I think they are recommending it to get rid of any residue on the surface before applying the finish.
    – Ashlar
    Feb 3 at 22:26
  • 2
    That will be a nice looking countertop when you're done!
    – gnicko
    Feb 5 at 4:06

1 Answer 1

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No, generally you don't sand after applying this type of stain1.

Soon as I read Home Depot I was ready to criticise the instructions2 but the highlighted portion isn't terrible3. They just shouldn't be calling rubbing with brown paper sanding.

The recommended procedure relies on the very modest abrasive property of brown paper. Brown paper (Kraft paper) is now quite commonly used in finishing to 'de-nib' dried finish surfaces, with minimal or no risk of scratches; I've been using this trick myself for a few years now, since reading about it in something written by Bob Flexner.


1 This is because oil-based stains sit more on the surface of wood than being absorbed, as is the case with dye stains. Even with dye stains, which do genuinely stain the wood in the literal sense (so the colour is IN the wood not ON the wood), if you sand you do so very lightly and cautiously using fairly fine paper.

2 Because, what do they know? They're just a vendor. And, well, they don't even know what butcher block is LOL But more seriously, I would never assume any electrical, building or finishing advice from HD, Lowe's (or any equivalent) could be relied upon. Could be good, could be so-so, could be bad. Always a good idea to cross-check with a reliable, specialist, source just in case.

3 However, there's plenty of meh elsewhere on that page and some outright bad advice. They're not entirely to blame since Minwax's own directions are dreadful (no surprise there) and the majority of experienced finishers would have multiple points of criticism.

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