I have gunstock oak flooring and would like to match a piece of pine furniture to it. Any ideas how to achieve this?

I'm open to liquid or gel stains, but would like to avoid veneers as it's pretty large. Where possible, I'd like to avoid buying lots of different stains and mixing them by trial and error.

Related: How can I match a finish on furniture when re-finishing?

  • Reminder: Pine tends to blotch when stained. You'll usually want to apply a layer of sanding sealer (typically dewaxed shellac) before staining, to even out how the wood takes the stain.
    – keshlam
    Nov 18, 2015 at 3:50
  • 1
    Worst case, people have been known to actually paint grain onto wood... but I'd suggest veneer would be a better answer. Wood looks more like wood than paint does... Also, "matching" is optional. A range of wood tones, preferably in roughly the same range but not necessarily, will harmonize with each other Just Fine. I count 11 different wood tones and grains in my living room, and that's counting the many shades in the flooring as one... nothing looks out of place, perhaps precisely because I _haven't _ tried to unify them.
    – keshlam
    Nov 19, 2015 at 4:09

3 Answers 3


As bowlturner said, good luck! There are a number of challenges here.

Where possible, I'd like to avoid buying lots of different stains and mixing them by trial and error.

I'm afraid with this sort of thing generally it's not possible without some experimentation. Even if you were matching a fairly commonplace wood there's no guarantee a product of the right name will give the colour you want. Real-world example here: trying to match some vintage English oak it's clear a commercial English Oak stain is completely the wrong sort of colour (too red), but with a little experimentation it is discovered that an initial coat of Pine followed by two coats of Old Oak, the first wiped off after application, worked perfectly.

So, this kind of thing will usually require buying a few different stains and then trying various combos, along with your final finish; these are called "test boards" or "test strips". As you can see from the image below you must test with the final finish as there can be a significant deepening of tone after the clear finish goes on, and with oil-based varnishes also a slight yellowing, both of which obviously need to be factored in to the final colour.

Or to put it another way, if you got a dead-on colour match with stains alone it would no longer match after applying most finishes (exceptions would be some waterbased polys and a light application of lacquer).

Stain and varnish test strips

There are additional challenges here, trying to match a softwood with hardwoods.

Softwood v. hardwood
Pine is a softwood, so has very characteristic light and dark banding which hardwoods don't have. The lighter parts (the earlywood or springwood) is soft and absorbent, while the darker wood (the latewood or winterwood) is much harder and non-absorbent.

What this means in practical terms is that the light wood gets much darker than the dark wood when a stain goes on, at worst giving an effect called grain reversal, where what was the darker grain ends up lighter.

Pine is a blotch-prone wood, and as such you need to treat the wood prior to stain going on to help achieve a smoother colouring, a process called sizing in the old days.

Blotching and grain reversal on pine

The usual recommended solution for blotching these days is to use a commercial "pre-stain conditioner", but diluted shellac or thinned varnish do the job as well or better for far less money. An additional advantages of using thinned varnish is that you can use the same product that you've already bought to use as your final finish, so no need to buy yet one more thing.

Much more useful information here on Popular Woodworking: Staining Pine - Make this inexpensive wood look like a million bucks.

  • Seconded using thinned shellac for reducing blotching.
    – grfrazee
    Nov 18, 2015 at 14:40
  • A lot of paint stores have pine and oak samples near the stains. Since you're using pine maybe these can help with your initial guess.
    – Jason C
    Nov 18, 2015 at 22:47

Good luck.

However, since pine takes stain fairly well, you can try to match the overall color, but it will still look like stained pine. Your best bet, would be to bring a sample of the color you are trying to match into a store then make it just a little darker. Since Oak tends to start a little darker than pine.

You might also bring in a sample piece of pine with you, so if you have them making the color, you can start light and try a little on a piece of the board, and slowly darken it until you get close. Then you should only have to buy one can of paint. I've done similar things at Ace Hardware (though I was matching something else entirely.)


50:50 Varathane Early American and Colonial Maple. It is almost an exact match on pine. Made a ton of blends and bought a ton of stain. There’s nothing off the shelf that’s a good match

  • 1
    Can you include 1 or 2 images?
    – Volfram K
    Nov 27, 2021 at 9:36

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